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Willie Mays Day – February 4, 2024

Celebrate the legendary “Say Hey Kid” on Willie Mays Day taking place on February 4 and that was inspired by a mathematical wonder. Fans of the iconic baseball star Willie Mays will no doubt recognize the significance of the date February 4, 2024, or 2/4/24. Mays first wore the revered number 24 jersey in his rookie year with the New York Giants in 1951, popularizing it over the course of two decades. 

Adam Swig, founder and executive director of the California nonprofit Value Culture and a friend of Mays, was struck by how momentous the date was. In collaboration with the San Francisco Giants, the mayor’s office, and many others, plans were set in motion to declare February 4 as Willie Mays Day. The first celebration took place in San Francisco in 2024 to honor Mays, who’s regarded as one of the greatest players in Major League Baseball history.

History of Willie Mays Day

We don’t need an excuse to celebrate the life and impressive achievements of the former Major League Baseball captain and center fielder Willie Mays, but the stars aligned to give us another reason to do so. Thanks to a mathematical marvel, February 4, 2024, otherwise written as 2/4/24, was the first-ever celebration of Willie Mays Day. 

Mays began his professional career in 1948 when he joined the Negro American League’s Birmingham Black Barons, however, he found success with the New York Giants (who became the San Francisco Giants after the team relocated in 1957). He was renowned for his incredible speed and strength and during his illustrious career, he achieved many accolades. He was selected to play in the All-Star Game 20 times, won the Rookie of the Year Award in 1951, demonstrating his exceptional skill, the National League MVP award twice, he received 12 Gold Glove Awards, hit 660 home runs, helped lead the New York Giants to a World Series championship in 1954, and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979, to name a few of his achievements. 

Mays wore the number 24 for 22 years and it’s the most revered in the San Francisco Giants’ franchise history. Willie Mays Day is the creation of Mays’ friend, Adam Swig, who recognized the significance of the date, and who jumped at the chance to honor the American sporting hero. Swig, founder and executive director of the California nonprofit Value Culture, reached out to the Giants CEO Larry Baer, who contacted San Francisco’s mayor, London Breed. With them working in collaboration, the city of San Francisco proclaimed that 2/4/24 would be Willie Mays Day. On the day, City Hall was lit up in the Giants’ colors — orange and black — and various other landmarks such as 24 Willie Mays Plaza and Oracle Park’s scoreboard were decorated accordingly to celebrate. 

Additionally, the day tied in with numerous activities, including the announcement of the Willie Mays Scholars program during Black History Month.

Willie Mays Day timeline

1948
The Negro American League

Willie Mays starts his professional career when he joins the Birmingham Black Barons.

1950
The National League

After graduating from high school, Mays is signed by the New York Giants.

1951
An Impressive Start

He hits 20 home runs, helping the New York Giants win their first pennant in over a decade, and wins the Rookie of the Year Award.

1954
The NL MVP Award

He leads the New York Giants to their last World Series title and wins the National League’s Most Valuable Player award.

1965
Another MVP Award

The New York Giants relocate to San Francisco, becoming the San Francisco Giants, and Mays wins the award for a second time.

1972
Where it All Began

He is traded to the New York Mets and returns to New York.

1973
He Retires from Baseball

On August 17, Mays hits his final home run in the World Series against Don Gullett and retires shortly after.

2024
The First Celebration

To honor Mays, February 4 is declared Willie Mays Day and the first celebration takes place.

Willie Mays Day FAQs

What was Willie Mays most known for?

In Game 1 of the 1954  World Series, he pulled off one of the greatest defensive plays in Major League Baseball history with an over-the-shoulder grab. It was dubbed “The Catch,” and he’s still remembered for it to this day.

Why is Willie Mays called Say Hey Kid?

He was given the nickname by “New York Journal” sportswriter Barney Kremenko who referred to him as the “Say Hey Kid” after Mays blurted, “Say who,” “Say what,” “Say where,” and “Say hey” when he received $6,000 for signing with the New York Giants.

Who did Willie Mays end his career with?

He ended his career with the New York Mets after he was traded to them in 1972.

How to Celebrate Willie Mays Day

  1. Wear the number 24 jersey

    In the words of Adam Swig, Mays’ friend, “Willie Mays made 24 cool.” There’s no better way to honor him than by wearing the jersey number he was so well-known for.

  2. Join the festivities in San Francisco

    If you’re able to, visit the city for the celebrations. It’s a wonderful way to be part of a historic moment that honors a sporting inspiration.

  3. Host a viewing party

    Gather friends, family, and fellow baseball enthusiasts for a viewing party featuring classic games or highlight reels of Mays' career. You can create a festive atmosphere with baseball-themed decorations, snacks, and memorabilia.

5 Fascinating Facts About Willie Mays

  1. An impressive record

    Mays wore number 24 for 22 years, which is longer than any other big leaguer.

  2. His dad played baseball

    Willie Mays Sr. played in an industrial baseball team league in Birmingham, Alabama.

  3. His mom didn’t raise him

    Mays’ mother, Annie Satterwhite, left his father after Willie was born — he was raised by his dad and two aunts.

  4. The first black captain

    In 1964, he became the first African-American captain in the major leagues.

  5. He received the highest civilian award

    For his services in sport, President Barack Obama presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015.

Why We Love Willie Mays Day

  1. It honors a baseball legend

    Willie Mays is widely regarded as one of the greatest baseball players of all time. Celebrating Willie Mays Day allows us to honor his extraordinary talent, achievements, and contributions to the sport.

  2. It inspires others

    Mays epitomizes sporting excellence and he serves as a symbol of perseverance and integrity to many. By celebrating, we recognize and inspire these qualities in others.

  3. The historical significance

    Mays played a pivotal role in the history of baseball. He broke barriers and left an indelible mark on the sport. His achievements, both on and off the field, have helped shape the landscape of professional baseball and inspire positive change.

Willie Mays Day dates

YearDateDay
2024February 4Sunday
2025February 4Tuesday
2026February 4Wednesday
2027February 4Thursday
2028February 4Friday

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