Happy 93rd Birthday to the “Say Hey!” Kid, Willie Mays

Mark Ibañez
Mark Ibañez
Happy 93rd Birthday to the "Say Hey!" Kid, Willie Mays


How’s it going, everybody? This is Mark Ibañez with another edition of Mark’s Remarks. A true American hero was born 93 years ago this week. May 6th to be exact. I’m talking about the “Say hey!” kid. {Singing: “Say hey! Say who? Say Willie. Say, hey! Say Willie, swinging at the plate?” }

Someone once said, it’s impossible to speak the name Willie Mays and not have a smile on your face. And that is exactly what happens to me every time I think of my childhood hero. And it’s comforting to know there are so many out there just like me. Kids, that he inspired to play baseball, to dream, and to even sing about him. {Singing: “Catch & throw. Hit & score. There goes number 24. He’ll beat you in so many ways… the legend, Willie Mays.”}

You know, I didn’t grow up in a sports oriented household. In fact, I’d never been to a Giants game until one Friday night in June of 1967. See, I won free tickets through my paper route, walking through the double doors that led to the seats at Candlestick Park, little did I know, my life was about to change.

And I was there maybe about 20 minutes when I nudged my fellow paper boy sitting next to me, pointed out towards center field and said, “Hey! Who’s that guy?”

My buddy squealed, “That’s Willie Mays, you idiot!” I mean I was captured the way he ran. Gracefully. Effortlessly tossed that baseball. And viciously swung the bat. Like getting hit by a thunderbolt, it was for me. I became that nerd kid overnight. Listening to every game on my transistor radio. Reading everything I could get my hands on about Willie Mays and the game I grew to love.

{Singing: “And even though I was just a kid, I knew all the things he did. I used to dream I’d make the play … just like Willie Mays. … Just like Willie Mays.” }

They say, beware of meeting your heroes. It’s bound to disappoint. But not for me. Years after he retired, through my job as a sportscaster, I was able to not only meet Willie Mays, but to become friends with him.

Once, when we were alone together, I told him what a great influence he had been on me as a kid. I had read that Willie didn’t drink, smoke or carouse. It made a huge impression on me as a kid growing up in Marin County in the 60s. He kind of teared up, patted me on my knee and said quietly, “Mark, you never told me that before.”

So many wonderful things. I could still tell Willie Mays about him, but for right now, happy birthday, Willie Mays! And thank you for all those childhood memories.

{Signing: “Ah, Say Hey Willie Mays…”} Those are Mark’s Remarks. And I’m Mark Ibañez. This Mark’s Remarks brought to you by our friends at Decor Shower Doors and Glass. The Napa Valley’s window and shower door professionals.

Credits: “Say Hey (The Willie Mays Song)” by The Treniers; “Willie Mays” by Adam Stengel.