After hanging up his glove in 1973, Willie Mays remained for a time with the Mets organization, before becoming a public relations executive with Bally's Resorts and Colgate-Palmolive.
On January 23, 1979, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. It was his first year of eligibility and he had appeared on 409 of the 432 ballots cast (roughly 95%). In 1986, Willie Mays returned to the San Francisco Giants organization, where he still serves as special assistant to the president of the club. In 1993 the Giants made this a lifetime appointment.
In 1997, Mays was standing on a stage with a look of amazement belying his 66 years when San Francisco Giant President Peter Magowan announced that the address of Pacific Bell Park would be Willie Mays Plaza. And just short of his 69th birthday, he was amazed by the lifelike detail of the statue erected in his honor in the plaza named for him, with his No. 24 looking down from the clock tower above Willie Mays Gate.
Willie Mays Statue in front of Pac Bell Park
These days, Willie Mays gets to do what he likes to do. He greets his public when he feels like it, and often makes an appearance at Major League All-Star Games and has a special event planned at his own restaurant “Willie Mays Skybox Lounge” in Emeryville, CA, in connection with The 500 Home Run Club®, LLC at the 2007 All-Star Game in San Francisco. Most of his personal appearances are in support of The Say Hey Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit foundation he founded in 2000 to promote academic study for underprivileged children and provide opportunities for life success through the pursuits of education, athleticism, and individual as well as community enrichment.
According to Mays, his foundation’s primary focus is to form partnership strategies with schools, churches, and organizations that promote the advancement of underprivileged youth and to provide educational funding to young people who would otherwise find themselves excluded. “Children who are unable to develop their potential because of inadequate resources cannot hope for the same successes as those whose circumstances allow an education as an inherent right,” Mays says. “The advancement of humanity rests with the next generation and relies heavily on the involvement of our communities.”
Just like playing baseball, being a philanthropist came naturally to Mays, who often made personal visits to assist ailing or underprivileged children by providing tuition, paying for schoolbooks or by just giving them a pair of shoes. Willie believes that he owes a debt of gratitude to the teachers, coaches, mentors and friends who took the time to help him. He recognizes what it means to a kid when someone extends a helping hand. To repay this debt, he has tried to reciprocate at every opportunity. Sometimes that meant offering an encouraging word, while at other times it meant providing financial assistance. As he has said many times, “No one does it alone.”
One of the most recognizable and beloved figures in America, Mays was sought after by entertainment producers and appeared on countless non-sports related TV shows, including:
- The Colgate Comedy Hour
- Tonight! - The Steve Allen Show
- The NBC Comedy Hour
- Toast of the Town
- Home Run Derby - Hodges vs. Mays
- What's My Line?
- The Donna Reed Show
- The Hollywood Palace
- The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
- The ABC Saturday Superstar Movie “Willie Mays and the Say-Hey Kid”
- The Way It Was
- My Two Dads
- Mr. Belvedere