Regarded by many as the best all-around player in baseball history, Willie Mays returned to San Francisco in 1986 and now enters his 35th season in the Giants’ front office. In 1993, in one of his first public statements after assuming ownership of the team, former Giants President and Managing General Partner Peter Magowan announced that the franchise was signing Mays to a lifetime contract.
Magowan also announced in 1997 that the front entrance of the club’s new ballpark would feature a world-class statue of Mays and the official address of the park would be 24 Willie Mays Plaza. The 89-year-old Mays serves as a Giant emissary. He visits the Giants’ minor league teams, as well as Spring Training camp and attends nearly every single Giants home game during the season. The Westfield, AL native also makes appearances on behalf of the club at a variety of civic and charitable events throughout the Bay Area for the Giants Community Fund. He has also made generous contributions to needy children throughout the country through his own Say Hey Foundation charity.
During his 22-year Major League playing career, Mays was named Most Valuable Player twice, 11 years apart, first as a New York Giant and then as a San Francisco Giant. He holds the all-time record for putouts by an outfielder, with a career total of 7,095. He compiled 3,283 hits, won 12 Gold Gloves and appeared in 24 All-Star games. He was third on the all-time home run list with 660 until 2003 when his godson, Barry Bonds, passed him. His career batting average was .302 and for eight consecutive years, he drove in more than 100 runs a season. The “Say Hey Kid” was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1979, the first year of his eligibility (the ninth player to make it on his first try). Mays’ uniform number, 24, has been retired by the Giants, as he remains the franchise leader in games played (2,857), at-bats (10,477), runs (2,011), hits (3,187), doubles (504), home runs (646), total bases (5,907) and extra base hits (1,289). He was named team captain of the Giants prior to the 1961 season by manager Alvin Dark.
Mays was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2015. He joined fellow Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Yogi Berra and Stan Musial as the only baseball players who have been awarded the Medal of Freedom. Mays has also received numerous honors as one of the premier athletes of the past 100 years. The Sporting News ranked him second only to Babe Ruth among the 100 greatest baseball players of the 20th century. ESPN listed him as eighth in their ranking of the top 50 athletes of the century. In 2003, former Governor Gray Davis appointed Willie Mays to the State Board of Directors of the California African American Museum. He spent part of his 85th birthday aboard cable car No. 24, which was dedicated to him.
He is the spokesperson for The Institute on Aging in San Francisco as well as the President and CEO of the Say Hey Foundation, supporting underprivileged youth. He is also a member of the Concordia Club and re-signed with The Topps Company, Inc., an association that began in 1952, that publishes baseball cards. Mays has received honorary degrees from Dartmouth, Miles College, Ohio State University, San Francisco State and Yale University.
Mays makes his home in Atherton.