Willie Mays, the legendary Hall of Fame center fielder regarded as the greatest all-around baseball player of all time, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 93, as announced by the San Francisco Giants.

Nicknamed “The Say Hey Kid,” Mays had a professional baseball career that spanned four decades. He began in the Negro Leagues in the late 1940s and concluded with the New York Mets in 1972, spending 21 years with the New York Giants, who later became the San Francisco Giants.

Born on May 6, 1931, in Westfield, Alabama, Mays was named Willie, not William. Both of his parents were talented athletes, but it was his father, Cat Mays, a semi-pro player on several local Black teams, who introduced him to baseball. By age 10, Willie was already sitting in the dugout with his father, having learned the fundamentals years earlier.

In high school, Mays excelled in several sports. His professional baseball career began in 1948 with the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro Leagues before he had even finished high school. After graduating in 1950, he signed with the Giants and earned his call-up to the majors in May 1951 after barely a year in the minors.

Mays was a true five-tool player, excelling in speed, throwing, fielding, hitting for average, and hitting for power. His career triple-slash line was .301/.384/.557, with 660 home runs, 525 doubles, and 338 stolen bases. He led the National League in stolen bases four times and in home runs four times. Remarkably, over his 24 seasons in the majors, he grounded into just 45 double plays.

Mays made an immediate impact in his career, though his early statistics weren’t overwhelming. Debuting on May 25, 1951, he hit his first home run in his fourth major league game against the Boston Braves and went on to win Rookie of the Year, the first of many accolades.

His nickname, “The Say Hey Kid,” was earned during his rookie year. Either his manager, Leo Durocher, or writer Barney Kremenko of the New York Journal American gave it to him because the shy rookie would often say “Say who,” “Say what,” “Say where,” and “Say hey.” Kremenko wrote, “In my paper, I tabbed him the ‘Say Hey Kid.’ It stuck.”

In 1954, Mays recorded “Say Hey (The Willie Mays Song)” with the Treniers, featuring music legend Quincy Jones conducting the orchestra.

Mays’s promising MLB debut was interrupted by his service in the Army during the Korean War, from the majority of 1952 through 1953. During his military service, he played on military baseball teams with other MLB players, entertaining the troops.

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