AC casinos once got Willie Mays banned from baseball

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Baseball legend Willie Mays passed away on June 18th. The memories from famous sports figures, media and fans alike shared memories of arguable the best ever to ever roam the centerfield pastures of a baseball field. The man made his entry on the road to greatness in 1948 as a member of the Birmingham Black Barons of the famed Negro Leagues. Interestingly, after Jackie Robinson had broken the color-barrier in Major League baseball a year earlier in 1947, Willie "The Say Hey Kid" Mays would first suit up wearing number 14 with the New York Giants. He would switch to his legendary #24 beginning in 1952. For the next 22 years, 10,924 at bats and 660 career homes later, Mays carved his place in baseball immortality, finishing up in full-circle manner in 1973 with the old NY logo on his cap as a member of the World Series bound New York Mets.

ALL us kids craved to see this guy play live before his bronze plaque would be unveiled for future generations in the hallowed halls of Cooperstown. I did witness a flubbed basket catch in left' by an aged 42 year old veteran playing out the string. An amazing man, an amazing God-gifted athlete, an absolute good-will ambassador of the game and it's local community is what we witnessed over many decades.

A sure-fire first ballot Hall-Of-Famer after waiting out the mandatory 5-year retirement waiting period, "Say Hey's" greatest disappointment and injustice blew back in his face from Major League Baseball when beginning the next chapter of his post Major League life. In 1979, following his Hall of Fame induction in 1979, Mays signed a contract as a “goodwill ambassador” for Bally’s Park Place in Atlantic City. The part-time job was to show up at meet-and-greets for charitable events on behalf of the resort. He would also meet with the casino’s favored customers for golf and receptions, but had no role in the casino. Meet the Say-Hey Kid, an American sports Icon and treasure and tell your grand kids about it later!" How exciting it would be for this kind man with other-worldly baseball skills and a life of enduring early divide and racism early on. Willie could be revered by us all, up close with a smile and a handshake of with a 9-Iron on the links. He would love it! And we could show him his true value as a human being. It wasn't to be. MLB Commissioner, an out-of-touch, unapologetic, iron-fisted ruler of no compromise, Bowie Kuhn immediately banned Willie Mays from Major League Baseball and any role he would seek to partake. Commissioner Kuhn, however, said MLB’s rules at the time forbid players, coaches and team personnel from being involved with gambling. He banned Mays from having any association with baseball and from the New York Mets, where he served as a hitting instructor. He did not gamble. He had no role in the casino operation itself. Kuhn would suspend another legend, Mickey Mantle four years later when "The Mick" signed a Good-Will Ambassador contract with Atlantic City's Claridge Hotel.

Major League Baseball has kept a iron-grip on it's members and their association with gambling. In 1989, A Bartlett Giamatti, a future Commissioner, would hand down a lifetime ban on baseball's All-time hit leader Pete Rose for allegedly betting against his own team as manager of the Cincinnati Reds in 1985. He designated himself as a player-manager so the nay-sayers had to be convinced he could influence the outcome of a game for the sake of his personal bottom line and the bookies he answered to? Giamati, would pass away In 1984, baseball owners hired Peter Ueberroth, who organized the Los Angeles Olympics, as the next MLB commissioner. The following March, he reinstated Mays and Mantle, saying they were “two of the most beloved and admired athletes in the country today and they belong in baseball.” Rose is still banned but finds his way to card shows and unaffiliated Minor League fields from time to time.

This now leads to the greatest irony. Major League Baseball's direct partnership with on-line sports betting?? I can watch any game live on TV today and see a split-screen of the action with a split screen host educating viewers the over-unders' and probabilities of action to place your bets. I am personally not educated enough to understand the hypocrisy of disciplining employees and field personnel who partake all the while encouraging the public to engage. Politics? Image? It's likely all of the above but between the white lines of a baseball diamond Pete Rose, who earned the nickname "Charlie Hustle" is a FIRST ballot Hall Of Fame player. That's my take on the game I love. R.I.P. Willie.

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