How Willie Mays Became a Baseball Legend: Stats, Achievements, and Personal Stories

Willie Mays, a name that echoes through baseball history, left an unforgettable mark on the sport.

Known for his incredible talent and charismatic personality, Mays captivated fans and players alike.

This article will explore different parts of his life and career, showing why he’s considered one of the greatest baseball players of all time.

Highlights of Willie Mays’ Legendary Career

Did Willie Mays Die?Yes, June 19, 2024, at age 93.
Career StatsGames: 3,005
Hits: 3,293
BA: .302
HR: 660
RBIs: 1,903
Accolades24-time All-Star
2-time NL MVP
12 Gold Gloves
1954 WS Champ
Gold Glove Awards12 (1957-1968), tied with Roberto Clemente.
Military ServiceU.S. Army (1952-1953), missed 270 games.
RetirementRetired after 1973 season. Final HR: August 17, 1973.
Mets Role in 1973Final season at age 42, 66 games played.
Nickname“The Say Hey Kid”
Interesting FactsFirst 30 HR/30 SB season (1957)
First 300 HR/300 SB club member
FamilyFirst wife: Marghuerite
Second wife: Mae (d. 2013)
Son: Michael
Net Worth in 2024$5 million

Did Willie Mays Die?

Yes, Willie Mays, the legendary baseball player and Hall of Famer, passed away on Tuesday, June 19, 2024, at the age of 93.

The San Francisco Giants announced his peaceful passing, highlighting his extraordinary contributions to the sport.

Key Details

  • Mays spent most of his 24-season career with the New York/San Francisco Giants, achieving a .301 batting average, 660 home runs, 3,293 hits, and 2,068 runs scored.
  • He was a 24-time All-Star, 12-time Gold Glove winner, and two-time National League MVP (1954, 1965).
  • Mays helped the Giants win the 1954 World Series and made one of the most iconic defensive plays in baseball history with “The Catch.”
  • Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979, he received 94.7% of the vote, the highest percentage ever at the time.
  • MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred paid tribute, stating Mays “captivated generations of players and fans, contributing significantly to the growth and recognition of baseball as our cherished National Pastime.”

“Willie Mays was not just a baseball player; he was an artist on the field. His ability to make the impossible look routine is something that will never be forgotten.” – Hank Aaron, in a 2015 interview with Sports Illustrated.

How Did Willie Mays Die?

The specific cause of Willie Mays’ death wasn’t disclosed by the San Francisco Giants.

His son, Michael Mays, mentioned that Mays passed away peacefully among loved ones.

Further details about the circumstances or cause of his death haven’t been provided.

What Are Willie Mays’ Career Stats?

Willie Mays’ 22-season career in Major League Baseball is marked by exceptional performance and numerous records. Here are his key career stats:

  • Games: 3,005
  • At-bats: 10,924
  • Hits: 3,293
  • Batting Average: .302
  • Runs: 2,068
  • Doubles: 525
  • Triples: 141
  • Home Runs: 660
  • Runs Batted In (RBI): 1,903
  • Stolen Bases: 338
  • Walks: 1,468
  • On-Base Percentage: .384
  • Slugging Percentage: .557
  • OPS (On-Base Plus Slugging): .941


  • 24-time All-Star
  • 2-time National League MVP (1954, 1965)
  • Rookie of the Year (1951)
  • 12 Gold Glove awards
  • World Series champion (1954)
  • Baseball Hall of Fame inductee (1979, 94.7% of votes – highest percentage at the time)

Mays is regarded as one of the greatest all-around players in baseball history, combining power hitting, speed, fielding, and throwing ability.

How Many Gold Gloves Did Willie Mays Win?

Willie Mays won 12 Gold Glove awards, tied with Roberto Clemente for the most by an outfielder.

He won these awards consecutively from 1957 to 1968, showing his dominance as a center fielder for the New York/San Francisco Giants.

Key Details

  • The 1957 season was the first year the Gold Glove Award was introduced, and Mays won the first of his 12 consecutive awards that year.
  • Mays and Roberto Clemente of the Pittsburgh Pirates are tied for the most Gold Glove awards won by an outfielder with 12 each.
  • After Mays and Clemente, the outfielders with the next highest totals are Andruw Jones, Ken Griffey Jr., Al Kaline, and Ichiro Suzuki with 10 Gold Gloves each.

“Watching Willie play center field was like watching a maestro conduct a symphony. Every movement was precise, every catch was a work of art.” – Former teammate Monte Irvin, from his autobiography Nice Guys Finish First.

What Was Willie Mays’ Military Career Like?

Willie Mays served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War era, impacting his early baseball career.

Key Details

  • Mays was drafted into the Army in 1952 after his rookie season with the New York Giants.
  • He spent most of the 1952 season and all of 1953 serving in the military, missing around 270 games over those two years.
  • Mays was stationed at Fort Eustis in Virginia, where he spent much of his time playing baseball and serving as a batting practice pitcher.
  • It was at Fort Eustis that Mays learned the “basket catch” technique from a fellow soldier, which became one of his signature fielding moves.
  • Despite his baseball stardom, Mays didn’t receive special treatment and faced racial discrimination as a Black soldier stationed in the segregated South.
  • His requests for a hardship discharge after his mother died were repeatedly denied by the Army, which wanted to showcase his talents.
  • Mays enjoyed some privileges like living off-base and driving his own car but was also routinely pulled over by white police officers.
Remembering Willie Mays: The Say Hey Kid's Legacy
Remembering Willie Mays: The Say Hey Kid’s Legacy

When Did Willie Mays Retire?

Willie Mays retired from Major League Baseball after the 1973 season.

Key Details

  • Mays was traded from the San Francisco Giants to the New York Mets in May 1972.
  • He played his final two seasons (1972 and 1973) with the Mets.
  • His last All-Star game appearance was the 1973 All-Star Game.
  • On August 17, 1973, Mays hit his 660th and final career home run off Don Gullett of the Cincinnati Reds.
  • On September 20, 1973, Mays announced he would retire after the 1973 season.
  • His final major league hit came on October 14, 1973, in Game 2 of the World Series against Oakland’s Rollie Fingers.

What Was Willie Mays’ Role with the Mets in 1973?

Willie Mays played his final season in 1973 with the New York Mets at the age of 42.

Key Details

  • Mays was traded to the Mets from the San Francisco Giants in May 1972 at age 41.
  • In 1973, Mays appeared in 66 games for the Mets, batting just .211 with 6 home runs and a .646 OPS, well below his career numbers.
  • His fielding abilities had diminished significantly by this point, and he struggled at times tracking fly balls in the outfield.

Memorable Moments

  • Hitting his 660th and final career home run on August 17, 1973, against the Reds’ Don Gullett.
  • In the 1973 NLCS against Cincinnati, Mays had a pinch-hit RBI single in Game 5 to help the Mets clinch the pennant.
  • In Game 2 of the 1973 World Series vs Oakland, Mays had an RBI single in the 12th inning for his final career hit, though he also misplayed some flyballs in the sun.
  • Mays announced his retirement effective at the end of the 1973 season in September. The Mets held a “Willie Mays Night” on September 25th to honor him.

What Is Willie Mays’ Nickname?

Willie Mays’ famous nickname was “The Say Hey Kid.”


  • According to sportswriter Barney Kremenko, Mays would often greet people by saying “Say hey” instead of “Hello.”
  • Kremenko, writing for the New York Journal-American, overheard Mays saying phrases like “Say who,” “Say what,” “Say where,” and “Say hey.”
  • Kremenko then referred to the rookie Mays as the “Say Hey Kid” in one of his stories, and the nickname stuck.
  • Mays himself credited sportswriter Jimmy Cannon with coining the “Say Hey Kid” nickname, saying he didn’t know everyone’s names when he first arrived, so he would just say “Say hey” to people.

How Did Willie Mays Get His Nickname?

The nickname “The Say Hey Kid” originated from Mays’ habit of greeting people with “Say hey” instead of “hello” during his rookie season with the New York Giants in 1951.

Sportswriter Barney Kremenko of the New York Journal-American noticed this and coined the nickname in his stories.

Mays embraced the nickname, which became one of the most famous in baseball history.

What Are Some Famous Quotes by Willie Mays?

Willie Mays is known for several memorable quotes that reflect his approach to baseball and life.

Memorable Quotes

  • “They throw the ball, I hit it. They hit the ball, I catch it.” – Summing up his simple approach to baseball.
  • “Baseball is a game, yes. It is also a business. But what it most truly is, is disguised combat. For all its gentility, its almost leisurely pace, baseball is violence under wraps.”
  • “I think I was the best baseball player I ever saw.” – Displaying his supreme confidence.
  • “Defense to me is the key to playing baseball.” – Emphasizing the importance of defense.
  • “I don’t compare ’em,I just catch ’em.” – On not ranking his great defensive plays.
  • “I remember the last season I played. I went home after a ballgame one day, lay down on my bed, and tears came to my eyes. How can you explain that? It’s like crying for your mother after she’s gone. You cried, I guess, because I loved baseball and I knew I had to leave it.” – Reflecting emotionally on his retirement.

“Playing alongside Willie was like playing with a superhero. His presence on the field made you believe that anything was possible.” – Former teammate Juan Marichal, in a 2011 ESPN documentary.

Willie Mays’ Iconic Over-the-Shoulder Catch

What Are Some Interesting Facts About Willie Mays?

Interesting Facts

  • Willie Mays was born on May 6, 1931, in Westfield, Alabama, a primarily Black company town near Fairfield. His father, Cat Mays, was a talented baseball player, while his mother, Annie Satterwhite, excelled in basketball and track.
  • Mays played multiple sports in high school, including basketball and football, where he excelled as a quarterback and punter.
  • Mays joined the Negro American League’s Birmingham Black Barons in 1948 at age 16 before signing with the New York Giants in 1950 for $4,000.
  • His famous over-the-shoulder catch in the 1954 World Series against Cleveland is considered one of the greatest and most memorable plays in baseball history.
  • Mays was the first player to join baseball’s 300 home run/300 stolen base club. He was also the first to hit 30 homers and steal 30 bases in the same season (1957).
  • In 1965, Mays became the first Black team captain in Major League Baseball history when he was named captain of the San Francisco Giants.
  • Mays won 24 All-Star selections, tying Hank Aaron and Stan Musial for the most ever. He also won 12 consecutive Gold Glove awards from 1957-1968.
  • His nicknames included “The Say Hey Kid” and “The Greatest Player of His Time.” He got the former from his habit of greeting people by saying “Say hey” instead of hello.
  • Mays served a stint in the U.S. Army from 1952-1953 during the Korean War, missing around 270 games over those two seasons.

Who Are the Members of Willie Mays’ Family?

Family Members

  • Parents:
    • Father: Cat Mays (birth name William Howard Mays), a talented baseball player
    • Mother: Annie Satterwhite, a gifted high school basketball and track star
    • Mays’ parents divorced when he was 3 years old. He was primarily raised by his father, Cat, and his aunts, Sarah and Ernestine.
  • Wives and Children:
    • First wife: Marghuerite Wendell Chapman (m. 1956–1963 divorced)
    • Adopted son: Michael Mays (b. 1959)
    • Second wife: Mae Louise Allen (m. 1971–her death in 2013)
    • No children from this marriage

Other Family

  • Barry Bonds, the son of Mays’ former Giants teammate Bobby Bonds, considered Mays his godfather.

Who Is Willie Mays’ Wife?

Willie Mays had two wives during his lifetime.

Marghuerite Wendell Chapman

  • Married in 1956, divorced in 1963
  • They adopted a son named Michael Mays in 1959

Mae Louise Allen

  • Married in November 1971
  • Remained married until Mae’s death in 2013 at age 74 after a 16-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Details about Mae Louise Allen Mays

  • Born on May 26, 1938, in the racially segregated Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh.
  • An accomplished sprinter in her youth.
  • Described as “gorgeous, smart and charming, but she was also always modest and elegant” by the San Francisco Giants.
  • Willie Mays and Mae met during his playing years in New York before getting married in 1971.
  • They remained married for 41 years until Mae’s passing in 2013 at their home in Atherton, California.

What Is Willie Mays’ Net Worth in 2024?

Financial Overview

Willie Mays’ net worth in 2024 is estimated to be around $5 million.

This estimate is based on his career baseball earnings, endorsements, investments, and business ventures after retirement.

Sources of Income

  • Baseball Earnings: Over his 22-year MLB career from 1951-1973, primarily with the Giants, Mays earned a total of $1,148,467 in salary and contracts.
  • Endorsements: Mays earned significant income from endorsement deals with major brands like Coca-Cola, Wheaties, and Ford.
  • Investments and Business Ventures: Continued endorsements, investments, and other business ventures have contributed to his net worth.

His highest single-season salary was $180,000 in 1973, equivalent to around $1.2 million today.

Despite the relatively modest earnings compared to today’s players, Mays’ post-career ventures and continued popularity have helped maintain his financial status.


Willie Mays’ legacy as one of baseball’s greatest players is undeniable.

From his remarkable stats and numerous accolades to his memorable moments on and off the field, Mays left an indelible mark on the sport.

As we remember “The Say Hey Kid,” his contributions to baseball and his impact on generations of fans and players continue to resonate, ensuring his place in the annals of baseball history.

“Willie Mays brought joy to so many people. His enthusiasm for the game and his natural talent made every game he played a must-see event.” – Bob Costas, from a 2012 interview on MLB Network.

Which position did Willie Mays play?

Willie Mays played center field for most of his career.

What was Willie Mays’ jersey number?

Willie Mays wore jersey number 24.

How old is Willie Mays?

Willie Mays is 93 years old, born on May 6, 1931.

What are Willie Mays’ height and weight?

Willie Mays is 5’10” tall and weighed 170 lbs.

Where is Willie Mays from?

Willie Mays was born in Westfield, Alabama, USA.

What is Willie Mays’ ethnicity?

Willie Mays is African American.

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Grace Taylor is a dedicated writer at Viz Times, bringing stories to life with her unique flair. Before joining the Viz Times family, she honed her skills at The Sporting News. With a Master’s in Sports Media from Arizona State University, her work has graced platforms like, SB Nation, and FanSided. Beyond writing, Grace is a loving wife, mother of two, and an enthusiastic tennis player.

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