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Mays tribute put on hold

next council may revive it

May 05, 2005

Faced with the possibility that an attempt to honor baseball great Willie Mays by naming the field at Municipal Stadium for him would turn into an insult instead, the Hagerstown Mayor and Council wisely put the idea on hold for now.

Perhaps the next administration can convince the nay-sayers that the tribute would be a good idea.

Some have asked what Willie Mays ever did for Hagerstown. The real question to consider, however, is what he could do for the city in the future.

For starters, he could lend his name - and perhaps some of his memorabilia - to an effort to bring more tourists to Hagerstown and more visitors to the Hagerstown Suns' games.

If you're a baseball fan driving on Interstates 70 or 81 and you see a sign that says, "Willie Mays Museum," might you be tempted to stop, especially if it's time for a meal anyway?

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And, might you be persuaded to eat that meal in downtown Hagerstown and patronize some of the businesses there?

Both are possibilities that begin with giving visitors a chance to see something unique, including a place where history was made, where a future Hall of Famer played his first professional game.

In Tuesday's council meeting, Councilman Lewis Metzner took responsibility for the proposal to rename Memorial Boulevard in Mays' honor - an action which upset local veterans - and the plan to rename the field as well.

For that, he drew praise from Mayor William Breichner, who said, "It's about time somebody took a hit for something besides me."

Was the effort to provide a tribute to Mays handled as well as it could have been? No, but given the possibilities for tourism and marketing, the lack of vocal support from the agencies concerned with such things was disappointing.

As a result, we will not be surprised if the next city administration's members are more timid about what they propose.

Just as the continuing problems with the Hagerstown Ice & Sports Complex have stopped some from advancing other public works proposals, the failure of this tribute to win any significant support may keep the next council from offering anything that might possibly arouse someone's ire.

It is ironic that the ice rink proposal, which has cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, was not nearly as controversial when proposed as this idea, which would have cost little and potentially yielded a great deal.

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