SF Giants announce Sunday, Feb. 4 as ‘Willie Mays Day’

SF Giants announce Sunday, Feb. 4 as ‘Willie Mays Day’

On this Sunday, Feb. 4 — 2/4/24 — the city of San Francisco and the Giants are celebrating Willie Mays.

Any opportunity to celebrate the greatest living ballplayer ever is warranted, but the numerical anomaly of the date that happens once every century makes for an official blowout. According to a press release sent out Thursday by the Giants, San Francisco mayor London Breed will officially proclaim this Sunday, Feb. 4, as “Willie Mays Day,” in honor of the legendary outfielder who wore No. 24.

“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, 92, 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.”

Mays has been dealing with health issues for years, but still made it to the ballpark last year to celebrate his 92nd birthday. He made a surprise visit in 2022 and spent his 90th birthday at the ballpark in 2021.

The festivities on Sunday will include a special banner hanging from the 24 palm trees in front of Oracle Park, the Ferry Building and Salesforce Tower dawned in orange and black lights, and the Oracle Park scoreboard commemorating 2.4.24. Mays’ statue in Willie Mays Plaza will also be illuminated. The Giants have already changed their official Twitter/X account profile photo to a graphic design of “24” with images of Mays.

The San Francisco Chronicle first reported details of the celebration, which will include support from the New York Giants Preservation Society fan organization.

Giants CEO Larry Baer and Breed’s announcement comes on the first day of Black History Month. While Mays was less outspoken as a player than Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier, Mays helped pave the path for other Black stars in baseball. He faced discrimination growing up in Alabama and again in San Francisco, when he was turned away from purchasing a house because of his race.

This year, in honor of the history of the Negro Leagues, the Giants are scheduled to play the Cardinals at Rickwood Field, the oldest professional ballpark in the U.S. Mays played at Rickwood Field for the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro League before the Giants signed him out of high school in 1950.

Mays spent 21 of his 23 MLB seasons as a Giant, first in New York and then in San Francisco. The Hall of Famer helped the Giants win the 1954 World Series, earned two MVP awards, 24 All-Star selections and 12 Gold Gloves. He was also on deck as a rookie for Bobby Thompson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” to beat the Dodgers and send the Giants to the 1951 Series. Mays’ combination of speed, defense, hitting for power and contact, in addition to his intangibles as a standout teammate and person, make him a universally beloved athlete across sports.

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“To sports fans around the globe, Willie’s accomplishments and persona as the “Say Hey Kid” resonate every day,” said Baer. “2.4.24 is one more opportunity to call attention to a man who, in our minds, is the greatest player ever. We are blessed to play our games at 24 Willie Mays Plaza with his image at our front door.”

On Sunday, the Giants Community Fund will open applications for the annual Willie Mays Scholars, a program that started in 2021 to help Black youth in San Francisco afford higher education.

“Our National Pastime always welcomes the opportunity to celebrate the game’s greatest living player, Willie Mays,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said. “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.”