The Day Willie Mays Played in Dallas

Categories: Sports
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Willie Mays turns 80 years old today. I didn't need ESPN to tell me either. When I was a boy, Mays's birthday was a High Holy Day. He was, and still is, my dad's favorite ball player. He still wears his New York Giants cap; still pines for the Polo Grounds; probably still dreams about The Catch.

What you see at right and after the jump is one of my dad's myriad keepsakes from his childhood days: a program from an April 6, 1956, exhibition at Burnett Field pitting Mays and the New York Giants against the Cleveland Indians. The Dallas Eagles, who played at Burnett, were the Giants' farm team. Willie McCovey got his start here.

I've seen this a few times over the years. But I never asked Dad till today why, amongst all the signatures (hey, Bob Feller!), he never got the Say Hey Kid's autograph.

"I was starstruck," he says. "I was too afraid to go up to him and say, 'Mr. Mays, can I have an autograph?' I was always unhappy I didn't do that. I thought maybe I'd get up my nerve during the game and ask him for it afterward. But I didn't."

He went with his next-door neighbor, Richard Pool, and his dad Joe -- yes, that Joe Pool. They went to a lot of games at Burnett Field, which sat about where I-35 and Colorado meet. But the day Willie Mays came to town, well, that was special. The only one he remembers.

"You gotta remember -- there were only, what, 16 teams back then," Dad says. "And the Giants were always in the paper, and there was always a picture of Willie Mays. And my whole wall was covered in Willie Mays cards. And I liked the uniform -- the colors. On Saturdays we always watched Giants games. Dizzy Dean was the caller: 'He slood into third.' Greatest player of all time. I didn't even follow Mickey Mantle, not till the summer of '62. And I can still see Miss Inez in the shadows, sitting beneath the canopy, playing the organ."

The four-page program's on the other side. Mighty nice of Dad to let me borrow it. Looks like Mays got a hit in the first inning. Hard to tell. Dad was a terrible scorekeeper. "What do you want -- I just turned 12."

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Josh's broken records
Josh's broken records

That's a nice rabbit below the Indians scores...your pops is an artist Bobbo.

PeggyLundy
PeggyLundy

This is wonderful, Robert. Thanks for writing about Willie Mays, a legend. He was my dad's favorite player. When Dad turned 80 in 2001 we surprised him with a big party and an autographed picture of Willie Mays. He always said it was one of the best days of of his life. PeggyLundy

Ed D.
Ed D.

This is insanely great.

Judge_Softy
Judge_Softy

I love that tagline, "Dallas' Most Liberal Pawn Broker."

CapGuy
CapGuy

I was at that game. I was 10 years old......

The Ghost of Pedro Cerrano
The Ghost of Pedro Cerrano

Vic Wertz! Alvin Dark! I also noticed former Fort Worth Cats great Wayne Terwilliger listed on the Giants' roster. Thanks for posting that, Robert.

Dollar Dog
Dollar Dog

Coach Wayne is still with the Cats according to their website : http://tinyurl.com/3lff59m

I saw him coaching at a Cats/AirHogs game a year ago and he was still jogging in and out of the dugout every inning.

I heard someone state that Terwilliger was the real manager of the Texas Rangers when Ted Williams was there. Williams did not want the job but was only working so he could keep his buddy, Joe Camacho, on the payroll to qualify for extra pension according to the statement.

It looks like Mike Bascik will be pitching for the Cats also this year.

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The Dizzy Dean grammar topic was highlighted in the 1952 movie, 'Pride of St. Louis' (a forgotten great baseball movie), where the local schoolmarms were attempting to get him fired from his announcing job because of his ill effect on their kids' use of proper English.

The movie is also famous for a scene with a conference on the mound with Dizzy talking to his catcher about fishing. 'Bull Durham' did a take on this with a scene where the meeting on the mound involves a discussion about what makes the best wedding gifts.

dertymindz
dertymindz

That's very cool. My Mom grew up in San Francisco and had seen him play with me Grandpaps at the Stick.

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