The Tragedy Of Willie Mays Explained

Willie Mays was temporarily banned from baseball in 1979, just three months after he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. MLB commissioner Bowie Kuhn made the decision after the player left his position as Mets batting instructor for a promotional job at Bally’s Casino in Atlantic City. At the time, The New York Times said an “upset and unhappy” Mays spoke to Kuhn and chose to continue working for the casino hotel, effectively leaving the Mets.

Before the ban, Mays’ last game with the MLB was in 1973. Speaking to the CBS, Miranda Ayim, former captain of Canada’s women’s basketball team, said many retired athletes struggle with an “unraveling of that identity,” to say nothing of money management issues. After leaving the sport, Mays did public relations for Bally’s Park Place. A new commissioner, Peter Ueberroth, was elected to succeed Kuhn in 1984, and he reinstated the star the following year.

Despite initial reports, it seems that Mays was ultimately content with how things played out. “I don’t think I did anything wrong to leave baseball,” he said, per The New York Times. “It was just a matter of somebody doing something that wasn’t right. It’s a good feeling to know I can still make a living and go back to baseball.” He also said he ”didn’t give it a thought” and didn’t have time to focus on the sport. “And I wasn’t embarrassed by it. If I’d gone to jail, then come back, I would’ve been embarrassed to have kids see me play. But I didn’t do anything wrong.”

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