Fans meet Willie Mays

August 10, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

Marco Alvarez was the only person at a reception in Willie Mays' honor Monday in the Clarion's Grand Ballroom who was dressed in a tuxedo for the occasion. That's because Alvarez, 45, of Hagerstown, was Mays' limousine driver for the day.

"He's definitely the most important person I've ever driven," he said.

Alvarez said he saw Mays for only about five minutes Monday afternoon but hoped to talk to him more today during their drive to the airport.

Because of the special occasion, Alvarez brought his son, Marco Alvarez II, 3, along to see the baseball legend.

Kenny Keyes, 44, of Chambersburg, Pa., said he wanted to come out Monday to see and pay homage to Willie Mays, the "greatest of all time."

"I wanted to say 'hey' to the 'say hey kid,'" Keyes said.

Keyes and his buddies stood around a table off to the side of the stage and laughed heartily at jokes told by Willie Mays.


Eric Rollins, 17, of Hagerstown, got a chance to greet Willie Mays on the stage Monday as a member of the Washington County Boys and Girls Club.

Mays razzed Rollins a bit, saying that when the teenager talked to him, he sounded like he was reading from a book. Rollins said he enjoyed Mays joking around with him the way he did with Mayor William Breichner earlier.

"It was exciting," Rollins said. "He was such a great man. He broke down so many barriers."

Melvin Henderson, 56, of Hagerstown, said he wanted to hear what Willie Mays had to say Monday about the negative treatment he received during an earlier visit to Hagerstown.

Henderson, who said he moved to the area in the late 1960s and also endured racism in the area, said he was glad Mays got to see how much Hagerstown has changed for the better.

Eleven-year-old Christian Brockway and his parents appeared ready to run out the door toward the end of Monday's reception for Willie Mays.

Christian, a member of the Maugansville Little League All-Star team, had a game to get to but did not want to miss the event.

"He was a great player. I thought it'd be fun to get to see him," he said.

Bob and Kathy Hartung, of Mercersburg, Pa., were at Monday's reception for Willie Mays because Kathy Hartung bought tickets for her husband as an anniversary gift.

"That's what a good wife buys for her husband for an anniversary," said Kathy Hartung, 60.

Bob Hartung, 64, a former New Jersey resident, said he used to watch Mays and the New York Giants play about six times a year at the Polo Grounds.

"He's always been my hero," Hartung said with tears in his eyes.

Hartung even got to have a brief verbal exchange with Mays, reminding the legend that he was on-deck when Bobby Thompson hit a game-winning home run, dubbed "the shot heard 'round the world," during a 1951 playoff game between the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Hartung said he was at that game. Mays, Thompson and the rest of the Giants moved on to the World Series following the victory at the Polo Grounds.

Justin T. Mayhue, 43, of Hagerstown, said Monday's visit by Willie Mays fit perfectly with two of his main interests, history and baseball.

Mayhue, a captain with the Hagerstown Fire Department, said he did not want to miss out on Mays appearance at Municipal Stadium. He said he missed a visit by Baltimore Orioles pitcher Jim Palmer, who played in Hagerstown during a 1983 rehabilitation assignment, and he wasn't present when President George H. W. Bush took in a game in 1990.

"I can't imagine being anyplace else," Mayhue said. "There'd have to be a pretty major fire to keep me away."

Sean Guy Sr., 44, and his son, Sean Guy II, 16, both of Greencastle, Pa., put their family vacation on hold for a day because Willie Mays was coming to Hagerstown.

The Guys left Municipal Stadium during the first inning of the game because family members had already left for New York.

"Mom wants us there as soon as possible, so we're trying to get going," said Guy II.

Guy Sr., an antique collector and one of four owners of the Beaver Creek Antique Market near Hagerstown, took the opportunity to get Mays to sign a scorecard from his first professional game. He brought other memorabilia to the reception and game including newspaper articles before and after Mays' first game in Hagerstown and the day's official program.

They said it was worth delaying the vacation for a chance to see Mays return to the area.

The Herald-Mail Articles