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2013 History Maker Willie Mays

Every year, the San Mateo County Historical Association hosts a History Makers Dinner that highlights an individual and/or family of San Mateo County who has made significant contributions to California history and beyond.

Most know about Willie Mays’ incredible baseball legacy, but few know about his activities as a concerned citizen of San Mateo County. His Say Hey Foundation is dedicated to fulfilling his dream of giving every child a chance, by offering underprivileged youth positive opportunities and safer communities.
The foundation has assisted schools, homeless programs, little league teams, college baseball teams, scholarship programs, diabetes disease research, children’s hospitals, churches, violence prevention programs, police and fire departments and boys and girls clubs across the nation. Moreover, he volunteers his time liberally to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Department, visiting and inspiring prisoners within the jail.

Willie Mays was born in Westfield, Alabama, May 6, 1931. His father worked in a steel mill and played semi-pro baseball. His mother had been a high school track and basketball star. Almost from the time he could walk, his family encouraged his athletic abilities. He attended games with his father, sitting in the dugout and serving as batboy for the steel mill team. By the time he was 14, he was playing semi-pro baseball. He quickly established himself in the game and was recruited to play with the Birmingham Black Barons in the Negro League. He completed high school while playing professional baseball on weekends and the summer months. In May 1951, when he was 20 years old, he became the starting center fielder for the New York Giants and was later named “Rookie of the Year.” Mays’ major league career was interrupted in 1952 when he was drafted into the U.S. Army. His return to baseball in 1954 was extraordinary. He led the league with a batting average of .345, hit 41 home runs, won the Most Valuable Player Award, and led the team to the World Series. In 1958 the New York Giants moved to San Francisco where Willie continued to astound fans as he flourished at Candlestick Park. In San Francisco, he played in his third World Series and was named captain of the team. After a successful and exciting career in San Francisco, where he played from 1958 to 1972, Willie Mays returned to New York to join the Mets. He retired in 1973.

Willie Mays is considered to be one of the greatest baseball players ever. During his 22 season career, “The Say Hey Kid” set a new standard for all-around excellence and versatility. He was named Most Valuable Player twice, 11 years apart. He holds the all-time record for putouts by an outfielder with a career total of 7,095. He had 3,283 hits, 12 Gold Gloves and appeared in 24 All-Star games. His career batting average was .302. For eight consecutive years, he drove in more than 100 runs a season. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1979; the first year of eligibility.
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