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Photo shows Mays during local stop

August 08, 2004|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

Cynthia Shepard is a Willie Mays fan, mostly because she is a Cloyde "Bud" Snively fan.

Over the years, Shepard has spent her days looking at a picture of Mays - seated at a table with Snively, her stepfather - which has been placed prominently in her Jonathan Street-area home. The 1950 photo at the old Brown's Tavern has that much special meaning.

In its own unassuming way, the treasured heirloom is a missing piece of baseball history, dating to when Mays played his first game for the New York Giants organization with the Trenton Giants, a minor league team playing against the Hagerstown Braves at Municipal Stadium.

But for Shepard, it has been a link, keeping her close to her deceased stepfather.

"That (photo) was his pride and joy," Shepard said. "His face would light up every time he talked about it. And as (Mays') career progressed, it became more special. My stepfather was proud of the picture and would show it to everyone."

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On Monday, the latest person to see Shepard's prized family picture will be Mays himself, who will return here 54 years after making his debut, for a reception at the Clarion Hotel & Conference Center Antietam Creek, and for another look at Municipal Stadium. Shepard asked the Hagerstown Suns to present Mays with the photo and her handwritten note.

"I think he will get more out of it than (I would)," she said. "It goes back to when he started playing and I think he would like to have it."

The picture represents the side of the Willie Mays saga that is known, but is cloudy. Mays came to Hagerstown, a city divided by segregation, and was forced to stay at the all-black Harmon Hotel on Jonathan Street. Many know about the hows and whys of Mays staying there, but little is known about how he passed his spare time.

Part of that comes from the purely chance meeting between Mays and Snively, who sat with two other men at Brown's Tavern.

According to a 1950 Hagerstown City Directory, the tavern appeared to be to the rear of the Harmon Hotel, Washington County Historian John Frye said.

Shepard said the tavern was closer to Franklin Street, sitting on the corner of the alley that runs behind the post office.

"I really don't have any idea of what they talked about," Shepard said. "I just think Willie ended up there to socialize because he didn't want to sit in his room the whole time. My stepfather said he was a soft-spoken person and a real nice fellow. He had to be. He was just like my stepfather."

Shepard cherished the photo because it meant so much to Snively. When he died, Snively passed the photo on to Shepard's mother, who passed it on to Shepard when she died.

And despite the family tie, Shepard believes the photo should belong to Mays now.

"I wondered how I could get it to him," Shepard said. "Then, one day, I picked up the newspaper and saw that he was going to be coming to town. I'm sure he would like to have it."

Shepard says she doesn't want any accolades or recognition for giving the photo to Mays. For Mays, it is part of the pleasant memories of what was a stressful few days that started his legendary baseball career.

Shepard knows that it has a special place in history, but it isn't as strong as the special place it has had in her heart.

"For (Mays), it goes back to the beginning of his career," she said. "I think it meant a lot to me because it meant a lot to my stepdad."

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