It's Willie Mays Day! Icon honored by San Francisco on 2/4/24

February 4th, 2024

SAN FRANCISCO -- Have a day, Willie Mays.

The Giants and the city of San Francisco teamed up to pay tribute to the Say Hey Kid on Sunday, with Mayor London Breed proclaiming Feb. 4, 2024 -- otherwise known as 2/4/24 -- as “Willie Mays Day.”

“Once every century, 2/4/24 comes around, and this is a great opportunity for us to take a moment and pause and really honor this iconic individual who has done so much for San Francisco, especially for our young people,” Breed said. “We love Willie Mays in San Francisco, but we know that people all over the world still reference him when they talk about legends and the great people in baseball history. So that’s why we are here today. We want to honor and recognize everything that he has done to be a real inspiration and champion to people all over the world.”

Mays, 92, wore No. 24 throughout his legendary career with the Giants, making the number synonymous with the organization and the city of San Francisco. The Giants also hung a celebratory banner from the 24 palm trees in front of Oracle Park (located at 24 Willie Mays Plaza) to mark the occasion.

“I am honored by Mayor Breed’s proclamation, and would like to thank the City of San Francisco and the Giants for this day,” Mays said in a statement. “The game of baseball has been great to me, and not only was I given the opportunity to play, but I was also given the opportunity to help kids all around the world. To me, this day means I am loved. This is as much my day as it is for everyone who loves the Game.”

Breed was joined by Mays’ godson, fellow San Francisco legend Barry Bonds, and Giants president and CEO Larry Baer, both of whom were on hand for the official proclamation at San Francisco City Hall, which was lit up in orange and black as part of the festivities.

“Say hey, Willie,” Bonds said. “No one deserves it better than you. I want to thank my dad up there for choosing you to be my godfather. Say hey, 2/4/24. I love you with all my heart. Congratulations.”

2024 is shaping up to be a celebratory year for Mays, the oldest living Hall of Famer who mesmerized fans in New York and San Francisco over his iconic 23-year career in the Majors. He will also be honored on June 20, when the Giants face off against the Cardinals at Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Ala., the former home of the Negro Leagues' Birmingham Black Barons, where Mays played as a teenager.

“Our National Pastime always welcomes the opportunity to celebrate the game’s greatest living player, Willie Mays,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. “Major League Baseball applauds the San Francisco Giants and the City of San Francisco for honoring the best number 24 of all in grand fashion. To this day, Willie remains an inspiration to sports fans and baseball players everywhere. We look forward to highlighting Willie’s legacy at the MLB at Rickwood Field Game in his hometown of Birmingham this June 20th.”

“I happened to visit Willie a couple of weeks ago, and he’s super excited about this year,” Baer said. “It’s going to be a year of celebration and tribute to the person we all love.”

While his playing career ended in 1973, Mays remains a revered figure throughout the Giants organization and beyond. New manager Bob Melvin, who grew up in Menlo Park, Calif., has fond memories of watching Mays play for the Giants and vividly remembers being in the stands when the star center fielder collected his 3,000th hit against the Expos at Candlestick Park on July 18, 1970.

“I’m biased because I grew up here watching him and have the ticket for his 3,000th hit and grew up in an area where he lived too,” Melvin said at the Giants’ FanFest Tour stop in Napa on Saturday. “When you talk baseball to me, Willie Mays is at the top of the list. But I think everybody in the area and everybody in baseball knows that this is arguably all around the best player that’s ever played.”

When Melvin walked into the Giants clubhouse for the first time after being acquired from the Tigers ahead of the 1986 season, he found his locker between those still reserved for Mays and Willie McCovey.

“It took a while to get used to that and even have the courage to go up and say hi to him,” Melvin recalled. “I remember asking him, ‘You hit 660 home runs in Candlestick Park. The wind blew in from left quite a bit. How’d you do that?’ And he goes, ‘Well, when the wind blows in from left, I hit them out to right.’ And he showed you the perfect inside-out swing. In today’s age, you can explain it, but I think he’s a guy that just did it. He knew the feeling. It was all instinct, it was all feel. I just remember him showing me that. It was the perfect swing to hit the ball to right field. That’s how he did it.”