Mayor, council belatedly agree to rename stadium

April 28, 2005

Finally, Hagerstown's Mayor and Council have gotten it right, saying on Tuesday that they want to rename Municipal Stadium in honor of baseball great Willie Mays.

Anyone planning to oppose this should consider that doing so will only hurt Hagerstown, by reinforcing the image some have of the city as mean and intolerant.

Why would anyone oppose the name change at this point? Surely not because of a sentimental attachment to the name "Municipal Stadium."

To those who say that Willie Mays never did anything for Hagerstown, we say this:

He began his professional baseball career here in 1950. On what should have been a happy occasion, he faced racial taunts and was not allowed to stay at a hotel with his white teammates.


Last summer, he was good enough to forgive the city for the hurt he endured as a 19-year-old.

Yes, we are aware that none of today's city residents had nothing to do with what happened so long ago, but there is an important reason to remember that it did happen.

All of this is part of the nation's history - how the U.S. went from a Jim Crow nation to move closer to a time when, in the words to the Rev. Martin Luther King, all men will be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

To refuse to put Mays' name on the stadium, which could be renovated to include an exhibit on his career, would draw national media attention of the worst kind.

It would provide an opportunity for TV and newspapers from across the nation to give a platform to people who might ordinarily have trouble getting more than a small circle of cronies to listen to their arguments.

Is that what Hagerstown and its citizens want? We say no. The council should vote on this change at its next meeting and begin marketing the site to tourists on Interstates 70 and 81.

This matter has been poorly handled up to now. We do not believe that those who objected to Memorial Boulevard being renamed for Mays were racists.

We do believe that if there is any objection to renaming the stadium for Mays, that's the way Hagerstown will look to the entire nation. The council should preempt any possible protest and make the change as soon as possible.

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