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Willie wobbles

Mays bobblehead a hit at suns game

Mays bobblehead a hit at suns game

July 18, 2005|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

HAGERSTOWN

gregs@herald-mail.com

Alex Angliss took one look inside the box and hooted with glee. He'd just received a bobblehead doll to add to his collection, and its likeness was of baseball great Willie Mays.

Even though Alex, 9, of Greencastle, Pa., shook his head when asked if he knew who Mays was, he only needed one word to describe his new prize.

"Saaaa-weet!"

There were 1,000 dolls available Sunday at the Hagerstown Suns' game, and the line that formed as the gate opened was long.

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Mays' name might carry a little more weight in Hagerstown than in other cities its size.

Aside from Mays' being one of the most prolific players in baseball history, Hagerstown Municipal Stadium is credited with being the first place Mays played professionally, with a minor league affiliate of the New York Giants.

The historic accomplishment didn't came without difficulty. Mays, 74, recalled in later interviews hearing racial jeers as he took the field here in 1950. He also was forced to stay in a separate hotel from his white teammates.

Mays returned to the city for the first time since 1950 in August 2004. In the goodwill trip, he accepted an apology from then-Mayor William M. Breichner for his treatment more than 50 years ago.

An effort this spring spearheaded by Breichner to rename a part of Memorial Boulevard - which runs in front of the stadium - was halted after veterans and other residents rallied against the name change.

Despite this spring's controversy, people were happy to wait in line for Mays' likeness.

Anita Washington, 39, of Martinsburg, W.Va., said she had come to the game for the collectible because, in her mind, Mays is "the best."

Washington, who grew up in Hagerstown, said she was a little worried the line might be too long, making her miss her chance to get the doll, but luck prevailed. Once she got to the front of the line, she squealed with happiness as a ballpark assistant handed her the doll.

"I got it! I got it!" Washington cried.

Washington had no complaints about the doll, but one comment.

"He's not dark enough," Washington said. Washington said the doll's skin tone was more like her own, a light brown. "He should be darker than that."

Another noticeable difference was that Mays' likeness was in a New York Mets uniform. He was wearing his traditional number 24.

Mays played with the New York Giants, and later in San Francisco when the team moved there, for most of his major league career. But he played two seasons with the New York Mets before retiring.

The uniform choice is not a coincidence. The Suns are a Mets affiliate.

Washington, however, didn't mind that he was in the Mets uniform.

"I like New York. He's just fine. ... You can't just walk into a store and buy these," she said.

Noel Williams, 49, of Falling Waters, W.Va., was among the first people in line Sunday afternoon to get the cartoonish likeness of Willie Mays.

He said he'd heard about the controversy over renaming a street after Mays. He said the bobblehead doll will suffice for now.

"It's a good thing. But hopefully in the future they'll be able to do something else," Williams said.

The dolls were popular enough that a few customers were trying to get more than their fair share, Suns General Manager Kurt Landes said. The promotion was that the first 1,000 people to enter would get a doll, although some tried to get extras by holding extra tickets.

One reason for some struggle is that the street value might be worth something, Landes said. In "five, 10 days on e-Bay, you'll find out what the market value is" for the dolls.

Children seemed to not worry about the cash value, though. Shanice Washington, 10, of Hagerstown, was with her cousin, Anita Washington.

Shanice stared at her doll, eyes wide. Why?

"'Cause I really didn't know him that much, and it's exciting!" Shanice said.

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