Oct 29, 1979: Willie Mays banned
Submitted by BTGrimes on Mon, 10/29/2012 - 7:00am
Willie: "You're Out!"
ATLANTIC CITY, NEW JERSEY - Hall of Fame outfielder Willie Mays began work as a greeter for an Atlantic City Casino on this date in 1979, and Commissioner Bowie Kuhn suspended him from the game. Kuhn had given the former New York and San Francisco Giant an ultimatum; if he took the casino job he'd have to sever all ties with Major League Baseball.
It created a dilemma for the game. On the one hand Mays made a good living during his career, but it didn't set him up to be a retired multi-millionaire like it does today's stars. He needed an income to continue his comfortable lifestyle. On the other hand Major League Baseball had been paranoid (still is) about gambling since long before the Black Sox Scandal of 1919. Baseball players and gamblers liked each others' company in the game's early days, and major league baseball was very uncomfortable about that.
The "Say Hey" kid, however, was a hero to every red-blooded American baseball fan. He had just been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame that summer. Mays was not only one of the best ever, he was fun to watch. Many fans gave him the benefit of the doubt a lesser star wouldn't enjoy. They thought the Commissioner's suspension was heavy-handed. It didn't matter to Kuhn, Mays was unwelcome around pro baseball. His suspension wasn't lifted until 1985 by Commissioner Peter Ueberroth. Today Willie Mays is a special assistant to the San Francisco Giants.
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