Hagerstown mayor offers alternative Mays honor - name field at stadium for him

April 28, 2005|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner is pitching an alternative tribute to Willie Mays, saying he wants to name the field at Municipal Stadium after the baseball great who made his minor league debut there.

Rebuffed in his attempt to rename a city street - Memorial Boulevard - in Mays' honor, the mayor asked the City Council on Tuesday night to consider naming the ball field after the legendary center fielder. Local veterans had angrily opposed changing Memorial Boulevard's name because it is the only tribute to them in town.

Breichner also announced that the blue-collar city in Western Maryland would rededicate Memorial Boulevard and install a plaque in honor of fallen soldiers on Memorial Day.

Both moves were designed to end a weeks-long dispute over Breichner's attempt to make amends to Mays for the racial jeers he experienced as a rookie in 1950. When Mays returned to Hagerstown for the first time last summer, the mayor publicly apologized and promised to name a street in his honor.

Breichner says he still favors renaming Municipal Stadium after Mays but would settle for at least the field.

Mays said in a telephone interview last week that he was not offended that veterans had blocked the street-name change. Mays, who fought in the Korean War - as did the mayor - said he would be honored to have the stadium named after him.

But he said that if the city did not, he would not be upset.

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