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From the Publisher

PublisherFrom the Publisher

I don’t know if the American sports magazine called Sport is still published, but it was being mailed on a monthly basis to a business in Belize City called Hollywood Magazine when I was a child. The owner of Hollywood Magazine, a sister of the late Rudy Castillo, must have gotten used to me harassing her to find out if the monthly issue of Sport had arrived. 

When the magazine did arrive, I would take it home to my dad, who began reading while I waited eagerly and impatiently for him to put it aside so that I could get a chance to read. 

I was born in 1947, and I believe this was the year when Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers and broke the color barrier in major league baseball.

American baseball was more popular in Belize than basketball, say, when I was a child growing up in the 1950s, and most of the Afro-descent Belizeans in the capital city were Dodger fans because of the history-making by Jackie Robinson. 

In the year 1954, thereabouts, however, I became a fan of the New York Giants and the wonderful one named Willie Mays when Arnold Hano wrote a Sport Special about the 1954 World Series, in which the Giants upset the highly rated Cleveland Indians, who had won a record 111 games in the then 154-game American League schedule.

Hano wrote beautifully about the famous play Mays made in center field to run down a bomb hit by the Indians’ Vic Wertz, and then the throw Mays made to hold the runner at second.

I always thought Roger Kahn was Sport’s best writer, but I became a Hano fan, and, to repeat, a total fan of Willie Howard Mays. My hero died this week at the age of 93, and I felt obliged to honor his fabulous memory.

The Giants moved to San Francisco in 1958, I believe, while the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles at the same time. Los Angeles was not the big deal then that it is now. I think the basketball Lakers moved from Minneapolis, Minnesota to L. A. around 1959. Their stars were Elgin Baylor and Jerry West. In those days, I was a Laker fan. I hated the Celtics, even though I greatly respected their center, the late, great Bill Russell.

One of my best friends, Leo “The Lion” Mahler, someone whom some would call a midget, was a heavy fan of the Dodgers, and many a night we stayed up late at his home on South Street listening to Armed Forces Radio when his Dodgers and my Giants clashed. The Dodgers, featuring Koufax and Drysdale, won more often than not during those years in the 1960s, when you could walk home safely at any hour of the night in Belize City.

I think Mays ended up with something like 660 homeruns, but it would have been more had the Giants not been condemned to Candlestick Park when they moved west. This is what I wrote on pages 36 and 37 of Sports, Sin, and Subversion in 2008: “Another problem for the Giants was Candlestick Park, with its jet stream blowing in from left center at night. Three of our four best batters — Mays, Cepeda, and Felipe Alou, were right-handed. The Candlestick gales, I repeat in bitter memory, flattened out some of their best shots. Stretch McCovey, our left-handed slugger, would revenge us from time to time.”  

A Belizean named William Elijah Coffin began a baseball league in Edwards Park around 1957 or so. The man G. Michael Reid grew up around Edwards Park, so he knows about the hard work Coffin, a PUP politician and mayor of Belize City later on, put in. He used to hire kids to retrieve foul balls which flew out of the park. We Belizeans couldn’t afford to lose the balls, because they were so expensive for us.

Coffin and I were political opponents in the late 60s/early 70s, but he was a really nice guy and a very sincere Belizean. In honoring the memory of the incomparable Mays, I want to pay respect to William Elijah. The younger generations of Belizeans know nothing about him, but he was a major part of Belize’s history, beginning with the overthrow of the PUP’s Richardson/Goldson leadership in 1956.

Those were good times in Belize. It’s a pity William Elijah, a humble man, never received the recognition he deserved. For his part, Willie Howard Mays will go down in history. A true legend. An American hero.   

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