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Mayor wants to rename baseball field after Mays

April 27, 2005|BY GREGORY T. SIMMONS

-- Mayor William M. Breichner called for honoring Willie Mays at the city's minor-league ballpark. He also said the city will seek to rededicate Memorial Boulevard to honor veterans.

HAGERSTOWN

One week after the City Council abandoned the idea of renaming a city street after baseball great Willie Mays, Mayor William M. Breichner announced Tuesday that the city will pursue a plan to rename the field at Municipal Stadium after Mays.

In a widely publicized event last August, Mays visited the city for the first time since 1950, when he was forced to stay in a separate hotel from his white teammates.

During the visit, Breichner promised Mays that the city would rename a street after him. Breichner said last week he thought the gesture would be a good way to bring Mays back to the city in the future.

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Although the City Council took up the proposal to permanently rename a portion of Memorial Boulevard after Mays in two different meetings, the idea was rejected.

The proposal was to rename the portion of Memorial Boulevard between Eastern Boulevard and South Potomac Street as Willie Mays Way. Municipal Stadium sits along Memorial Boulevard.

In addition to concerns from some council members about possible moving plans for the stadium and postal address problems for businesses on the stretch of road, some city residents, including a group veterans, balked at the name change.

A group of veterans spoke against the plan at a public meeting in March, saying the road was dedicated to veterans of World War I.

At Tuesday's City Council meeting, Breichner took time before the council's monthly voting session to lay out the city's plan to both address the veterans' concerns and pay homage to Mays.

Breichner said the city will seek to rededicate Memorial Boulevard in honor of war veterans in a ceremony on Memorial Day. He said the city also will seek some sort of permanent memorial to veterans, such as a plaque.

Breichner also called for the honoring of Mays at the city's minor-league ballpark.

"I think it would be appropriate to take the official action to name the field ... to be Willie Mays Field," Breichner said.

After Breichner's announcement, Councilman Lewis C. Metzner, who helped develop the idea, said he thought the plans were "superb."

"The suggestions are superb and solve all the problems and heal all the wounds that need to be healed," Metzner said.

The proposals will be discussed further in a future City Council work session.

Ronald Hovis, a city resident and Korean War veteran, was one of several who spoke against the plans to rename Memorial Boulevard.

Reached at home Tuesday night, he said he has been pursuing an idea to put a memorial along Memorial Boulevard, but he would like to hear more about the city's plan.

"A plaque is not going to cut it," Hovis said.

As far as renaming the city's baseball field after Mays, Hovis said, "I see no reason at all to rename anything after Willie Mays. ... He has done nothing for this city."

Mays, a veteran himself, was quoted this weekend by The (Baltimore) Sun saying that he was not offended that the city did not rename the street after him.

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