That proposal came shortly after an idea to permanently rename a two-block section of Memorial Boulevard as Willie Mays Way suffered a similar demise.
Mayor William M. Breichner said last month he believed race was a factor in the public response that led to the end of the first proposal, and a black candidate in the upcoming city elections said she believes not honoring Mays reflects poorly on the community.
Council members contacted Thursday said they believed there is some current of racism, albeit a small one, running through the city.
National media outlets began running stories soon after The (Baltimore) Sun ran its first story on the issue in late April.
"City does U-Turn on Willie Mays Way" was the headline for a short item on April 23 in the Chicago Tribune.
"Breichner says lingering racism killed it; the vets say Breichner is exploiting the issue to court black voters, ..." a story the same day in the San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News said.
The lead paragraph in a Thursday story in The Sun said, in part: "Efforts to honor him (Mays) today are straining relationships in the old-fashioned, working-class community in Western Maryland."
Alesia Parson, a Democrat running her first campaign for City Council, earlier this week weighed in on the Mays issue, saying she believed that the city should honor him in some way.
Parson, who is black, said she believes there are racial tensions in town, specifically because two letters sent to friends of hers were physically threatening to her. She has retained the services of a bodyguard.
Parson is among several who have received hate and threat letters in Hagerstown in recent months. Republican write-in mayoral candidate Robert E. Bruchey II received a physically threatening letter; Councilwoman Penny M. Nigh, who is running for re-election, received what she called a hate letter.
Neither Bruchey nor Nigh's letters were racial in content, they said, and neither is black. While Bruchey's appeared to be connected to the election, Nigh said hers did not. Those letters and others have been turned over to police, who are investigating the source of the mailings.
Republican mayoral candidate Richard F. Trump said he didn't believe the press the city received on the Mays issue showed the city's true intentions.
"Bill Breichner treated Willie Mays like a king and went out of his way every moment that Willie Mays was here, and things get twisted. ... All Bill was trying to do was a good thing."
"Everybody has to work together to fight off this garbage that everyone wants to throw on us," Trump said.
Parson said she thinks the temperament and culture of Hagerstown as far as racial equality goes, is "better than it was 20 years ago, but I also see it as having a long way to go to become that multicultural place we believe it can be."
Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire, who is running for re-election in the May 17 general election, said he doesn't think the city, at least this administration, needs to do anything to counteract a bad reputation, but everyone can help to counteract racism.
"I got a couple weeks left in office, it's budget time, and I think it would serve this council best if it focuses all of its energy at making appropriate decisions on that budget. ... It's every human being's obligation to, you know, ensure or promote equality," Aleshire said.
Nigh said she doesn't believe any efforts need to be made to address the city's image. She said the need to honor veterans trumped the need to honor Mays.
"I think every living individual living in the United States (should know) that this country is saved because of our veterans who fought and who have lost their lives," Nigh said.
Metzner first questioned the proposal to rename Memorial Boulevard, then received support from fellow council members on the plan to name the field, then withdrew that plan this week.
He said Thursday he has yet to find anyone outside City Hall who is in support of the plan.
"If I had not backed down, my attempt to do something right for this community would have hurt this community more than it could have helped it," Metzner said. "I tried to stop the bleeding now. We bled a lot in the national media; we would have bled more if we would have continued."