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an illustration of willie mays on the front of a baseball card

Willie Mays,“The Say Hey Kid”

By Kristina Schulz

National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee, two-time MVP and 24-time All-Star Willie Mays was an outstanding athlete. Born in Alabama, Mays got his start in baseball at 16, playing for the Birmingham Black Barons in the Negro American League in 1948. His talent brought him to the attention of the New York Giants, who signed him in 1950. Mays was one of the first African Americans to play in the Major Leagues. 

As a rookie, Mays earned the nickname “the Say Hey Kid” in 1951. “Mays would regularly say, ‘Say who, say what, say where, say hey.’” Sportswriter Barney Kremenko from the New York Journal noted this and started referring to Mays as “the Say Hey kid.” In 1954, the R&B group the Treniers even recorded a song about the center fielder titled “Say Hey (The Willie Mays Song),” with Mays himself voicing the spoken part of the song. 

Though Mays never made a personal visit to the University of Dayton, he is represented in the University’s archival collections. The late Miriam Jacobs, a baseball memorabilia collector who referred to her collection as “baseballiana,” spent decades building a collection of baseball cards, sports memorabilia, autographs and baseball books. Thanks to Jacobs’ generosity, University Archives has 28 Willie Mays baseball cards and an autographed baseball from 1959, when Mays played for the Giants.

— Kristina Schulz is the University archivist. 

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