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Say Hagerstown: Mays to visit

June 26, 2004|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Baseball Hall of Famer Willie Mays is returning to Hagerstown, the city in which he broke into professional baseball - and faced racial wrath - 54 years ago.

The Hagerstown Suns, a Class A minor league affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, announced Friday that Mays will visit Hagerstown Aug. 9.

That Mays, a 24-time Major League all-star, started his professional career as a visiting player in Hagerstown in 1950 "is something we're very proud of," Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner said.

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In his autobiography "Say Hey," Mays wrote about hearing a racial epithet when he walked on the field in Hagerstown and having to stay in an all-black hotel, away from his teammates.

Kurt Landes, the Suns' general manager, who arranged the August visit, said Mays, 73, turned down at least one previous invitation to come back.

Now, the city and the Suns can show Mays that Hagerstown is "first class," Landes said.

Mays' first professional game was June 24, 1950, as a member of the Trenton (N.J.) Giants. He played center field against the hometown Hagerstown Braves.

The Trenton Giants were an affiliate of the New York Giants, who moved to San Francisco in 1958.

Mays - whose lifetime total of 660 home runs is fourth best in Major League history - is a special assistant with the San Francisco Giants.

Three messages left for Mays Friday through the San Francisco Giants were not returned.

Mays will appear at the Clarion Hotel & Conference Center Antietam Creek on Dual Highway for a welcome reception from 5 to 6:30 p.m.

Tickets cost $50. A $500 package includes 10 tickets to the reception, an autographed baseball and a listing in a program.

Mays also will hold a private "Meet-n-greet" session for people who pay either $750 or $1,000.

The $1,000 package includes 10 tickets to the reception, a ticket to the "Meet-n-greet," an autographed baseball and a quarter-page ad in a program.

The Suns will start selling tickets Monday at 10 a.m.

The Suns play at Municipal Stadium at 7:05 p.m. that day, but Mays is not expected to attend, Landes said.

Breichner said the City of Hagerstown is contributing $5,000 to the cost of bringing Mays.

The main expense is paying Mays' appearance fee, Landes said. He would not disclose the amount.

At its Web site, All American Speakers, which represents Mays, listed his appearance fee range at between $30,001 and $50,000.

Representatives from Fujicolor and Antietam Cable Television, which also are sponsoring Mays' appearance, joined Breichner and Landes at a press conference at Hagerstown City Hall.

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