Skip to content

Willie Mays was a total jerk to Hank Aaron

May 6, 2010, 8:59 AM EDT

Aaron Mays.jpgAnyone who knows a bit about Willie Mays and Hank Aaron knows that they are totally different, temperamentally-speaking.  Mays is city, Aaron country. Mays has always been a larger than life personality, Aaron a still-waters-run-deep kind of guy.  It extended to their playing styles and, though time and age have softened the distinctions between them in the eyes of the public, still persists to this day.

But until Howard Bryant’s soon-to-be-published Hank Aaron book was written — and excerpted by Allen Barra in the Village Voice — we had no idea just how acrimonious their relationship really was, and likely still is:

Bryant cites a first-hand account from 1957, a United Press/Movietone
News reporter named Reese Schoenfeld, that Mays ragged on Aaron from the
sidelines while Henry was being interviewed in front of a TV camera:
“How much they paying you, Hank? They ain’t payin’ you at all, Hank?
Don’t you know we all get paid for this? You ruin it for the rest of us,
Hank! You just fall off the turnip truck?”

While Aaron became more and more agitated, Mays laid it on thick: “You
showin’ ’em how you swing? We get paid three to four hundred dollars for
this. You one dumb ni—-!”

According to Bryant, “Henry’s reaction for the next fifty years — to
diffuse, while not forgetting, the original offense — would be
consistent with the shrewd but stern way Henry Aaron dealt with
uncomfortable issues. The world did not need to know Henry’s feelings
towards Mays, but Henry was not fooled by his adversary. Mays committed
one of the great offenses against a person as proud as Henry: he
insulted him, embarrassed him in front of other people, and did not
treat him with respect.”

And it wasn’t just that incident. According to Bryant, Mays was frequently dismissive of Aaron and his accomplishments, was obviously resentful that it was Hank — and not Mays — who beat the Babe, and since then has acted as though the two of them were close when, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

Mays is often referred to as the best all-around baseball player in baseball history.  He may be.  But if what Bryant says is true about the manner in which he treated Aaron (and presumably everyone else he considered a rival for the spotlight) he is also one of baseball’s biggest all-around jerks.

Bryant’s Aaron book will be released next week. Sounds like one I’m definitely going to want to read.

  1. Hank - May 6, 2010 at 1:13 PM

    well said

  2. Old Gator - May 6, 2010 at 1:33 PM

    Well, that explains the “Church” part of your handle. I was Class of ’75 for my BA and ’77 for my first MA. Greatest five years of my life.
    Great school, great profs (although I confess to a steady-state anxiety that someone might light a cigarette too close to an exhaling Jeb and blow us all to Kingdome Come, which of course we had been assured that it would). If we got tired of the scene on campus, we could stroll over to the zoo.
    I think the question of the vernacular applications of the N word might have more to do with urban/rural than with the time line. One of the things I noticed early on studying the history of jazz and Black literature in the US was that historians of urban Black experience and historians of, say, the Mississippi delta region or other rural southern areas took very different approaches – ie, contrast Gates Jr.’s urban history with Houston Baker’s rural studies, and then both sides merely conflated the two very different experiences the way they would eventually conflate “blues” and “jazz.” I read very little about the social adjustments occurring when Black people left the country to go to the city, but you can find scads of material on Black music being transformed when it made a similar move – as if the evolution of the music obeyed a separate set of rules from the consciousness of the people who played it. At most, you’d get some background on how Louis Armstrong began running around on his wife when he got to Chicago and then New York, as if that were some kind of template for the entire socialization process. Weird.

  3. big bad al - May 6, 2010 at 1:53 PM

    i grew up a giants fan i saw willie play many years… no one could shine willies shoes and that incluldes hank aaron…hank aaron is jelious of willie …. willie mays could do it all could hank…..

  4. FJRinLA - May 6, 2010 at 2:03 PM

    I am an African-American baseball fan with a decent understanding of the history of the game; and your post went wrong from the first analogy:
    “Mays is city, Aaron country.”
    Mays is from Westfield, Alabama which is a suburb of Birmingham and much smaller than Aaron’s hometown of Mobile.
    But that they both grew up as same-state country boys should alert you to the fact that they clearly have more in common than your post would indicate…. and in fact, their shared history pre-dates this incident.
    BTW, I totally believe this account to be true, but taken in context of their history and black cultural jargon you can see it for the light-hearted ribbing that it is. Would it be hurtful to Aaron, yes for a lot of reasons maybe misunderstood by you and the book’s author. They’re both old-school AA in different ways….Aaron is the kind of AA that believes we should keep disagreements in-house, don’t air our dirty laundry in front of white people, whereas Mays was an open book, so beloved by whites for his extroverted play and personality that he saw nothing to fear from being himself around everyone…Mays was too trusting like Mantle and was swindled out of a lot of his fortune… Aaron was more educated (not much more)but also less open which partially explains why he has done better professionally in retirement.
    They were also the same like Chris Rock jokes that old black men are the most racist people because they’re lived with direct objective experience of so much hate and that would definitely go for these two.
    Mays was 3 years older than Aaron and it was Aaron coming up in the Negro Leagues in Alabama who always had to be compared to Mays. Because Mays’ father had been a Negro Leaguer, you could think of him as Tiger of 1950s baseball because he had that type of impact on the game. Aaron looked up to Mays as all Negro players did because Mays’ talent clearly eclipsed Jackie Robinson while both played in NYC.
    Behind this story I have to believe that Mays was instrumental in getting the Giants to offer a contract to Aaron to join him in NY. It was 1954 and Aaron had two offers….but Mays had already been 1951 Rookie of the Year and catalyst of the Giants surge back against the Dodgers to win the pennant that year. He was in the on-deck circle when Bobby Thompson hit his shot and definitely can take some credit for it… (he has that in common with his Godson also who should get some of Jeff Kent’s money.)
    The Giants lost that World Series to the DiMaggio/Mantle Yankees; but the Giants made history by starting an all-black outfield.
    Right after his Rookier ofthe Year season, Mays missed most of 1952-53 because he was in the Army and fought in Korea (with my dad) in an all-Black (segregated) regiment. Meanwhile Aaron, who missed out on WWII, Korea and Vietnam, was having a brilliant minor league career. However, Aaron’s rookie year in 1954 was also Mays’ FIRST FULL SEASON, so you have to agree with Mays that his military service and late career injuries, more so than the difference in ballparks, etc., is the reason Mays never got to 700 homeruns.
    In 1954, the Giants offered Aaron a minor league contract to join Mays in their already historic outfield, but according to Aaron, he signed his other offer with the Boston Braves because they offered him $50/month more. His Wikipedia page says that $50 was the only reason he didn’t become teammates with Mays in 1954. It probably had more to do with Aaron not wanting to be in Mays’ shadow any more.
    So if you believe that fellow Alabamian Mays helped recruit Aaron to the Giants, at a time when not every “Negro” was receiving major league contracts, then maybe Aaron blew off Mays 3 years before this incident.
    Mays returned in 1954 to see his team be rejected by Aaron in the offseason; then he only went on to win the NL MVP and lead the Giants to and over the Cleveland Indians in the 1954 World Series during which he made that famous catch.
    I guess my point Craig is that people are “unique and complex” as my wife likes to say; and life defies these simple “good son/bad son” labels and Cain/Abel parables.
    These comments attributed to Mays should be seen more as Negro League dirty dozens to a younger ballplayer that Mays saw no problem reverting back to at the MLB level in front of white writers. At the end day, I believe these comments would have hurt Aaron in much the same way that the Babe’s comments often hurt Gehrig… nothing malicious, just incidental contact between two great, different personalities…. no harm, no foul really except maybe in the heart and mind of the “brooder” who just 3 years earlier had made a professional decision to avoid being in the same outfield as Mays.
    I like the Ruth/Gehrig analogy because you would not compare Ruth to A-Rod or Barry Bonds, so please don’t demonize Willie Mays in that way. They were just different though I seea lot of parallels between Gehrig & Aaron’s batting avg, consistency and integrity, while Mays & Ruth had more drinking/gambling, etc.
    Still in my book, because of the speed, baserunning, and defense, I consider Willie Mays the best of the four of them and I do consider them to be the best 4 baseball players to ever live, better than both Gibsons, Mantle, DiMaggio and Williams because they hit for power and average with record-setting TBs and OBP for sustained periods of time. Mays, whose career average is probably the lowest, again more than made up for that with athleticism that no other black player has matched since with the possible exception of Bo’ Jackson (combined with Rickey Henderson, maybe). He was truly the first Michael Jordan of team sports, but with a much more jovial, trusting personality…. so he doesn’t deserve anything less than the full truth being reported about him.
    I’d just recommend you delete the hokey, city/country inaccuracy, strike any blasphemous comparisons to Bonds, A-Rod or any contemporary player unless they’ve also risked their life in an all-black Army regiment fighting for America, and lighten up on your overall negative characterizations of Mr. Willie Mays, Craig…please. – Joe.

  5. Church of the Perpetually Outraged - May 6, 2010 at 2:04 PM

    Class of ’75! I feel lied to! You need to change your handle to not-so-old gator now :) Also, does that mean you were there for the filming of The Exorcist? It was a big discussion point for people in my class since we were there for the filming of A Beautiful Mind, but of course none of us knew what exactly was being filmed there.
    The Church handle is from a slate article regarding Manny Ramirez. It highlighted the hypocrisy of our outrage and used the cliche’ [today’s sermon] Won’t someone think of the children.
    Interesting thought on the rural/urban idea. I’ll have to read more into it after I finish some other works I’ve put off. Maybe Ralph Wiley’s [RIP] work Why Black People Tend to Shout goes into it, but it’s another book I’ve been meaning to read.

  6. Chris W - May 6, 2010 at 2:06 PM

    Fair enough. I’ll check it out, but it sounds like a lot more of “Willie Mays was a little bit prickly and something of a phony” image I already had. But I will check it out to see if it’s warranted to claim this makes him one of the all time jerks of the game.

  7. okn - May 6, 2010 at 2:17 PM

    Tell me this book isn’t about the rivalry only? Tell me some writer didn’t produce a book dedicated to showing everyone how much of an ass or nice guy Mays and Aaron were, respectively.
    And, let’s be clear, one man’s teasing is another man’s insult. There are many players of all kinds of games that mock and tease without meaning any serious offense. (That doesn’t mean someone’s feels don’t get hurt, but that might not have been the intent, either.
    Some folks are also inclinded to take offense when none is meant. That first quote, in it’s content could be a simple razzing without the intent to insult, totally belittle, or disrespect a person. I’ve heard much worse from Charles Barkely teasing fellow players regularly on some interview or commentary. But, he’s just messing around. He doesn’t mean anything by it.
    So, What is the point here? A book on Aaron that focuses on what an ass Willie Mays was? Are you sure this book is about Aaron?

  8. uncle mike - May 6, 2010 at 3:18 PM

    Willie Mays has always been disrepectful of Hank Aaron because Hank would not back-up Barry Bonds on all his shenanigans. Mr. Aaron is by the book and old school. So I can see Willie being more bothered by Hank because Bonds is his loving godson. Is that why Barry is always idolizing Mays, and not Mr. Aaron

  9. oldgunslingwefan - May 6, 2010 at 3:29 PM

    Thank you for being so articulate and for dispelling these falsehoods. Everything you said in your post is truly accurate except Willie shunned alcohol so the alcohol/gambling analogy with Ruth isn’t entirely correct. Willie was the greatest baseball player and perhaps the greatest athelete who ever lived. I have met him and he is a true gentleman. His tireless devotion to kids and fans in general made him so popular among whites that when the Giants moved from N.Y. it was like the city had lost a national treasure. His relationship with Leo Durocher was like a father/son more than a mgr/player. The majority of posters here no little about Willie and can be excused because of their ages. You and I have been around a bit and understand what type of man Willie is and also remember his brilliance and love of the game. People, please do some research before being so judgemental. Once again thank you for your inciteful remarks.

  10. Oldtimer - May 6, 2010 at 3:47 PM

    Isn’t this a telling story. What it tells is that back in the 50’s and 60’s we judged a player on how good he was on the field, not how many times he threw up in a bar. I remember both of those players well from that time and know that each had a major impact on the game. Willie could do everything, not well, but great. Hank had the most compact swing anyone has ever seen. It produced a lot of dingers and excitement. What possible good does it do now to bring this stuff up? They were the heroes of my youth and I, for one, would like to remember them that way.

  11. mak - May 6, 2010 at 3:59 PM

    Until we acutally hear from Hank (and i think he is to classy to react) then we dont know. And lets everyone remember, as far as willie being upset that hank got to the record first. Hank had 2500 more at bats then ruth. As far as willie being the best ever, Ruth was also a great pitcher. so who is to say. Maris broke the record, just like hank broke the record.
    Barry, Mark, roger etc should all go to the Hall. As you have yet to see how many pitchers were on the juice. yeah mark it made you stronger, but folks dont forget strenght does not equate to hand eys.
    Oh and as far as Barry, guess what look at him in his pittsburg days, then fast forward a few yrs, he got hugh, how many homers did he hit on the juice.
    we cant wipe out the era, its engrained, if barry gets in, they all have to get in.

  12. Ron - May 6, 2010 at 4:25 PM

    Just as a matter of curiosty, what unit were your father and Willie Mays in while in Korea? The reason I ask is that, after Harry desegregated the military in ’47, it was against federal law and military law to have segregated units.
    Just from my time in the Army, and in Korea, and studying history, I’m not aware of any segregated units in Korea. I’m not saying there weren’t, I’m just curious about it since it was a complete violation of law.
    Keeping in mind that a predominately black unit is not necessarily a segregated one.

  13. FJRinLA - May 6, 2010 at 4:52 PM

    And Thank You for calling me out on the “drinking” reference, I really had no factual support for that and was more describing Ruth than Mays in furthering my analogy.
    So I actually learned something new today to hear that he was non-alcoholic, which actually isn’t surprising.
    Since I’m posting again, I’d like to address a couple other comments/posts/references here that require clarification… one accused Mays of using Performance-enhancing drugs or PEDs like other modern-day athletes.
    I can only assume this person was referring to “greenies” or amphetamines that were passed out by team officials and trainers in the clubhouse and were so prevalent that it could hardly be argued that they gave anyone a clear advantage on the field… it was more intended to keep everyone awake. Being a non-drinker, I doubt this allegation is true. But then again, being the go-along to get-along type among white players that Aaron was critical of, Mays probably would succumb to the peer pressure and be more likely to take the pills more to not single out less-gifted players than for any perceived need for an advantage….. this is particularly the case since he didn’t drink and since he has always believed he was the best and that no one else was close.
    I also want readers to look at his chiding Aaron about what the Braves were paying him in that 1957-context of a small but growing cadre of deep-south ex-Negro Leaguers beginning to populate big league teams. Owners definitely paid according to scale and would reference what other owners were paying high profile players to get all players, black or white, to accept less. Since Aaron was 3 years removed from rejecting an offer from Mays’ Giants, maybe Mays, at worse, is still ribbing him to see how that $50/month more feels like now…. maybe Mays knew the Giants were more likely to pay Aaron for performance better than the Braves… maybe his audience is not just Aaron but the reporters and the owners to help report that Aaron and other Negro players weren’t being paid fairly or just to isolate the Braves then as getting Aaron for a steal.
    And finally someone compared it to Ali’s making fun of Joe Frazier which I also think is a stretch and entirely inappropriate.T
    Though that reader mistakenly referred to Joe “Louis” instead, I assume he saw the same boxing documentary from Joe Frazier’s perspective that I did. I had known some of that backstory but that documentary definitely influenced my view of Ali and knocked down SEVERAL pegs in my eyes. He was clearly and purposefully demeaning to Joe Frazier in a way that this post seeks to attribute to Mays…. but nothing could be further from the truth…..
    …. first of all, Mays was more like Frazier who was from South Carolina, before Philly…. apolitical and more likely to be made out to be apathetic and somewhat of a “white folks’ N’-word” by the more socially-conscious athletes like Ali, Jim Brown and Aaron who were more active in the civil rights movement. Joe Louis and Jackie Robinson were their favorite targets in the 60’s because those two fought in WWII and Mays followed in their tradition.
    Mays’ comments here are not in any way malicious and personally degrading like Ali calling Frazier an ugly gorilla. Black people affectionately call their friends the N-word every day… calling one an ugly ape would trigger a heavyweight fight in any context.
    And let’s not the title of Richard Pryor’s 1970s album, “That ‘N-word’s Crazy” was not referring to his mental capacity, but rather was meant to convey his boldness and irreverence. Likewise, Mays’ comments to Aaron were definitely more Negro-League, barnstorming, batting-cage ribbing of a younger player than anything else. They just had more of an edgy feel for the use of the N-word and the content about wages with its labor market implications…maybe Mays just wanted to remind Aaron he would have been making more if Aaron had accepted the Giants contract to join him in NY.

  14. FJRinLA - May 6, 2010 at 5:02 PM

    Hi Ron,
    I will have to ask my dad… but he probably doesn’t even remember. But I grew up in NYC where my dad was an Executive Chauffeur in the 60’s & 70’s; and I do remember some of his war buddies and how they still kidded each other derisively and often with the “N-Word”.
    Your post made me google something that may be useful to you… it appears that Truman’s Executive Order was treated like the XIII Amendment to the Constitution which technically set Blacks free and gave them all the Constitutional rights they were still marching on Washington for 100 years later. Here is an excerpt from that book:
    [“No changes.” The first question, of course, is why all-black units like the 24th Regiment still existed in 1951–three years after President Truman issued an executive order ending discrimination in the military. Lt. Gen. Julius Becton (Ret.), a veteran of combat in both Korea and Vietnam, provides one answer. He recalls doing summer training as a young black reserve lieutenant at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland in 1948. “The post commander assembled all officers in the theater and he read Executive Order 9981 [Truman’s anti-discrimination order], and then he said: `Now, gentlemen, as long as I am in command, there will be no changes. There’ll be Officers Club No. 1 and Officers Club No. 2; NCO Club No. 1 and No. 2; swimming pool No. 1 and No. 2.’ That was stated by a colonel carrying out the orders, as he interpreted them, of the president of the United States. Now what does that do to the blacks sitting in that audience?”]

  15. peter - May 6, 2010 at 6:04 PM

    Just a side comment on how both Mays ( who might have ) and Aaron ( who did ) pass the babe in total home runs-what most people forget to add is that they both had a significant number of at-bats -more than Ruth had! Didn’t Aaron have like 3-4000 more at bats? Also Ruth played a number of years as a pitcher and also they played a 154 game schedule back then, not the 162 like at present. When you come down to it, nobody did it better than the babe!

  16. Ron - May 6, 2010 at 6:10 PM

    Thanks. Interesting. I wasn’t aware of this. I’m sure they got around it by stating it wasn’t a segregated unit, and then only filling it with black soldiers. I can see that happening. Jim Crow was also in effect then.

  17. Old Gator - May 6, 2010 at 7:24 PM

    Trust me, the handle sticks. I was an older undergrad – I went to flight school first in 1968, then to Fordham in 1972, transferring a few distributed credits to knock off the equivalent of a semester, so you don’t have to waste any fingers counting wrong and scratching loose any dandruff. I don’t think they were filming The Exorcist but Margaret Mead and Marshall McLuhan were visiting professors, and Vaughan Deering, who was so old he may already have been dead but didn’t know it, was a drama professor. He had been Bela Lugosi’s voice coach when Lugosi was playing Dracula on Broadway prior to his immortalization (such as vampires are immortalized) by Hollywood. I have an awesome Lugosi story from Deering but I don’t think Craig would appreciate it as much as my old Mantle story. Craig would have to ask me for it first and then be willing to take the consequences.
    Incidentally, a former associate dean who was long gone to Bellarmine College in Louisville when you were there, Jay McGowan, was an old pal of mine. Matter of fact to celebrate my MA and thank him for putting up with me all those years – it will come as no surprise to you that I was a colossal pain in the ass back then – I got a couple of tickets to see the Borg in the World Series and took him to the game. Which game? Heh, Game 6, 1977, of course. Reggie! Reggie! Reggie!
    I don’t know the book you referred to but will toddle over to Amazon and have a look at it. I’m knitting together a bunch of articles written over the last thirty years or so (dear Buddha!) into a cohesive study on the influence of jazz on the styles of some major fiction writers, and since Ellison, Morrison, Ishmael Reed, Baraka/Jones, Baldwin and Wright are all covered herein I want to make sure I’m not playing too far back to field a bunt or two.
    Still have trouble thinking ill of Willie, though. He was such a joy to watch out there.

  18. A Different Craig - May 6, 2010 at 7:27 PM

    To publish this kind of stuff on Willie Mays’ 79th birthday is pretty bush league. Were you just gunning for attention? The man is a living legend and probably deserves more respect from a writer of your (lack of) stature.

  19. FJRinLA - May 6, 2010 at 11:04 PM

    In the Babe’s early days they counted Ground-Rule Doubles as homers… i.e., if the ball bounced over or in some cases rolled under or got stuck in the fence/wall were considered homeruns… the batter could just keep running.
    There are really no statistics on this so we don’t know how many of Babe’s homers would have been doubles or even more important, how many more homeruns Mays/Aaron would have had if they could keep running on batted balls that bounced or rolled out of the stadium.
    What we do know is that these balls did not become doubles until 1930, and Ruth played from 1914-1935 with the bulk of his homeruns coming before 1930. So he definitely benefited from this rule…. there is no objective measure that allows you to claim that Ruth should remain the HR king in anyone’s eyes. I think Mays and Aaron were both better all-around players AND better homerun hitters because they were better line drive hitters.

  20. FJRinLA - May 6, 2010 at 11:23 PM

    Not so fast Peter,
    In the Babe’s early days they counted Ground-Rule Doubles as homers… i.e., if the ball bounced over or in some cases rolled under or got stuck in the fence/wall were considered homeruns… the batter could just keep running.
    There are really no statistics on this so we don’t know how many of Babe’s homers would have been doubles or even more important, how many more homeruns Mays/Aaron would have had if they could keep running on batted balls that bounced or rolled out of the stadium.
    What we do know is that these balls did not become doubles until 1930, and Ruth played from 1914-1935 with the bulk of his homeruns coming before 1930. So he definitely benefited from this rule…. there is no objective measure that allows you to claim that Ruth should remain the HR king in anyone’s eyes. I think Mays and Aaron were both better all-around players AND better homerun hitters because they were better line drive hitters.

  21. Michael Rae - May 7, 2010 at 12:37 AM

    Well when you think of the remarks that Aaron has made against Bonds and the fact that Aaron has said that an asterisk should be next to Bonds name for the altime home run lead, add to the fact that Mays is Bonds god son. It should not surpise no one that there is no love between Mays and Aaron. As for Aaron, I have always thought he was a kiss ass and they are the worst to me. yeah he worked hard but i get the feeling he looks down his nose at people who dont kiss ass and quite frankly im glad Barry Bonds broke his career home run record. So for all you Bonds haters out there get over it he hit more balls out of the park than Aaron period.

  22. john - May 7, 2010 at 10:14 AM

    I have met both Aaron & Mays on numerous occasions. Without doubt Willie Mays is a cranky old man. Many fans complain how at autograph signings he will (on purpose) sign items over other peoples signatures. He won’t even look up when asked to have his picture taken. And don’t even think about shaking his hand. I am
    so sorry I ever met him. He went from an idol to an idiot. Never had any problem of any kind with Mr. Aaron. And for all of Bond’s drug fueled homeruns, He, still, will NEVER be in the Hall of Fame, unless they have a wing titled “Better Baseball Through Chemistry”.

  23. FJRinLA - May 7, 2010 at 12:18 PM

    Hi Ron,
    Pls see excerpt below from the Truman Library:
    This summarized chronology shows that the military, with many bases in the South, just ignored the President a la Douglass MacArthur and per Gen. Omar Bradley who was Secretary of the Army at the time and said integration will come to the Army after it has come to the rest of society.
    Also pls remember that Jackie Robinson was the first to not give up his seat on a bus…it was an Army bus and he was courtmartialed for it and thrown out of the military during WWII.
    Desegregation of the Armed Forces: Chronology
    1945 | 1946 | 1947 | 1948 | 1949 | 1950 | 1951 | 1953
    September 1945: Secretary of War Robert P. Patterson appoints a board of three general officers to investigate the Army’s policy with respect to African-Americans and to prepare a new policy that would provide for the efficient use of African-Americans in the Army. This board is called the Gillem Board, after its chairman, General Alvan C. Gillem, Jr.
    October 1, 1945: The Gillem Board holds its first meeting. Four months of investigation follow.
    February 1946: African-American World War II veteran Isaac Woodard is attacked and blinded by policemen in Aiken, South Carolina.
    April 1946: The report of the Gillem Board, “Utilization of Negro Manpower in the Postwar Army Policy,” is issued. The report concludes that the Army’s future policy should be to “eliminate, at the earliest practicable moment, any special consideration based on race.” The report, however, does not question that segregation would continue to underlie the Army’s policy toward African-Americans. Secretary of the Army Kenneth Royall later characterized the policy recommended by the Gillem Board as “equality of opportunity on the basis of segregation.”
    July 1946: Two African-American veterans and their wives are taken from their car near Monroe, Georgia, by a white mob and shot to death; their bodies are found to contain 60 bullets.
    July 30, 1946: Attorney General Tom Clark announces that President Truman has instructed the Justice Department to “proceed with all its resources to investigate [the Monroe, Georgia atrocity] and other crimes of oppression so as to ascertain if any Federal statute can be applied.”
    September 12, 1946: In a letter to the National Urban League, President Truman says that the government has “an obligation to see that the civil rights of every citizen are fully and equally protected.”
    December 6, 1946: President Truman appoints the President’s Committee on Civil Rights.
    May 1947: The President’s Advisory Commission on Universal Training gives a report to the President in which it concludes that “nothing could be more tragic for the future attitude of our people, and for the unity of our Nation, than a program [referring to the Truman administration’s proposed Universal Military Training program] in which our Federal Government forced our young manhood to live for a period of time in an atmosphere which emphasized or bred class or racial difference.”
    October 29, 1947: The President\’s Committee on Civil Rights issues its landmark report, To Secure These Rights. The report condemns segregation wherever it exists and criticizes specifically segregation in the armed forces. The report recommends legislation and administrative action “to end immediately all discrimination and segregation based on race, color, creed or national origin in…all branches of the Armed Services.”
    November 1947: Clark Clifford presents a lengthy memorandum to President Truman which argues that the civil rights issue and the African-American vote are important elements in a winning strategy for the 1948 campaign.
    November 1947: A. Philip Randolph and Grant Reynolds organize the Committee Against Jim Crow in Military Service and Training..
    January 1948: President Truman decides to end segregation in the armed forces and the civil service through administrative action (executive order) rather than through legislation.
    February 2, 1948: President Truman announces in a special message to Congress on civil rights issues that he has “instructed the Secretary of Defense to take steps to have the remaining instances of discrimination in the armed services eliminated as rapidly as possible.”
    March 22, 1948: African-American leaders meet with President Truman and urge him to insist on antisegregation amendments in the legislation being considered in Congress that would reinstitute the draft..
    March 27, 1948: Twenty African-American organizations meeting in New York City issue the “Declaration of Negro Voters,” which demands, among other things, “that every vestige of segregation and discrimination in the armed forces be forthwith abolished.”
    March 30, 1948: A. Philip Randolph, representing the Committee Against Jim Crow in Military Service and Training, testifies to the Senate Armed Services Committee that African-Americans would refuse to serve in the armed forces if a proposed new draft law does not forbid segregation.
    April 26, 1948: Sixteen African-American leaders tell Secretary of Defense James V. Forrestal that African-Americans will react strongly unless the armed forces end segregation.
    May 1948: President Truman’s staff considers advising the President to create a committee to oversee the integration of the armed forces.
    June 26, 1948: A. Philip Randolph announces the formation of the League for Non-Violent Civil Disobedience Against Military Segregation. Randolph informed President Truman on June 29, 1948 that unless the President issued an executive order ending segregation in the armed forces, African-American youth would resist the draft law.
    July 13, 1948: The platform committee at the Democratic National Convention rejects a recommendation put forward by Mayor Hubert H. Humphrey of Minneapolis calling for abolition of segregation in the armed forces. President Truman and his advisors support and the platform committee approves a moderate platform plank on civil rights intended to placate the South.
    July 14, 1948: Delegates to the Democratic National Convention vote to overrule the platform committee and the Truman administration in favor of a liberal civil rights plank, one that called for, among other things, the desegregation of the armed forces.
    Immediately following July 14, 1948: While his staff is drafting an executive order that would end segregation in the armed forces, President Truman decides to include in the order the establishment of a presidential committee to implement the order.
    July 26, 1948: President Truman signs Executive Order 9981, which states, “It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin.” The order also establishes the President’s Committee on Equality of Treatment and opportunity in the Armed Services.
    July 26, 1948: Army staff officers state anonymously to the press that Executive Order 9981 does not specifically forbid segregation in the Army.
    July 27, 1948: Army Chief of Staff General Omar N. Bradley states that desegregation will come to the Army only when it becomes a fact in the rest of American society.
    July 29, 1948: President Truman states in a press conference that the intent of Executive Order 9981 is to end segregation in the armed forces.
    August 2, 1948: Democratic National Committee chairman J. Howard McGrath meets with A. Philip Randolph and other leaders representing an organization called the League for Non-violent Civil Disobedience Against Military Segregation and assures them that the President’s Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services would seek to end segregation in the armed forces. A short time after this meeting, Randolph announced that his organization’s civil disobedience campaign had ended.
    August 14, 1948: Secretary of the Army Kenneth Royall is reported in the press to have admitted that “segregation in the Army must go,” but not immediately.

  24. Rays fan - May 8, 2010 at 12:27 AM

    +2 to Fordham for producing 2 of my favorite frequent contributors–COPO and Old Gator.
    +1 to FJR too, for all the work–thanks.

  25. aliz - May 10, 2010 at 2:24 PM

    Jim Hirsch says:
    As the author of the Willie Mays biography, I welcome all debates about these two great players. The debate appears to be about Aaron’s feelings toward Mays.
    To which I say: Look at the record.
    Aaron has known Mays for 56 years. In that time he’s given thousands of interviews and has written an autobiography (“I Had A Hammer”). I interviewed him for over an hour, and I specifically asked him how he felt about Mays as a player and a person.
    If Aaron has had any problems with how Mays treated him, he’s had ample opportunity to express them. He never has, and that should tell you something.
    I haven’t read Bryant’s book, but there is nothing in Barra’s excerpt that indicates how Aaron felt about Mays. No quotes or paraphrases of quotes or even comments from others speaking on behalf of Aaron. That should tell you something.
    It should be noted as well that there is no record of Mays ever speaking unfavorably about Aaron, either as players or in retirement. (Mays was a notorious bench jockey who razzed opposing players relentlessly, which is evidenced in the 1957 story.)
    Those of us who were at Bob Costas’s HBO interview with Aaron and Mays saw them in the Green Room before the show, sitting side by side for over an hour, laughing together, telling stories, teasing each other, and acting like — dare I even say the word — friends.
    A final comment: Either Bryant or Barra is accusing Mays of resenting Aaron for surpassing him in home runs and breaking Ruth’s record. In fact, as early as 1966, Mays publicly acknowledged that, given his age, he could not break Ruth’s record, and there is nothing in the record that suggests he begrudged Aaron’s success. However, Mays’s friends and fans have long lamented that Mays — but for his time in the army and the ballparks he played in — would have been the first to break 714, and these friends regret that Mays refuses to make the case for himself that he should have been the Home Run King.
    In some quarters, Mays’s reticence has a name. It is humility.

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. G. Stanton (2480)
  2. B. Crawford (2332)
  3. Y. Puig (2298)
  4. G. Springer (2087)
  5. D. Wright (2022)
  1. J. Hamilton (2012)
  2. J. Fernandez (1993)
  3. D. Span (1923)
  4. H. Ramirez (1906)
  5. C. Correa (1873)