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When Willie Mays Played in Fresno, the Fans Watched 'From Trees and Telephone Poles'
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By David Taub, Senior Reporter
Published 1 month ago on
June 19, 2024

The San Francisco Chronicle covered Willie Mays 1960 exhibition game in Fresno. (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)

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Willie Mays drew what was then the largest baseball crowd in Fresno history, when 6,532 fans packed John Euless Park to watch the Giants and Dodgers play an exhibition game on April 10, 1960.

As legendary San Francisco Chronicle writer Bob Stevens described it, “Fans overflowed onto the field, jammed roof tops back of the fences, hung from the trees and telephone poles and squatted precariously atop the surrounding walls.”

Mays, delivered, hitting a two-run homer in the first, batting 2-for-4, as the Giants won 13-10.

Fresno landed that game and several other major-league exhibitions in the 1960s because the city hosted San Francisco’s California League affiliate at Euless Park, now known as Fresno City College Baseball Park.

With a park capacity of about 3,000, the “Little Giants” management placed rows of chairs in front of the outfield wall and designated standing-room-only zones to accommodate more spectators.

During those days and continuing through the 1980s, Fresno was a pipeline to San Francisco, as future Giants such as Jim Ray Hart, “Downtown” Ollie Brown, Jack Clark, and Will Clark played here in town.

The 1960 game was one of several appearances Mays made in Fresno during his lifetime.

The all-time baseball great died Tuesday at the age of 93.

Willie Mays throws out the first pitch during a June 24, 2002, game at was then known as Grizzlies Stadium. At right is Gus Zernial, of Fresno, who was the 1951 American League home run and RBI leader. (Fresno Grizzlies)

Mays and the Grizzlies

Mays made two appearances with the Fresno Grizzlies.

The team shared pictures of Mays appearances on June 24, 2002 — more than seven weeks after the team’s new downtown stadium known today as Chukchansi Park opened — and June 7, 2009.

“The Grizzlies will be honored to welcome the world’s greatest living ballplayer to Chukchansi Park on Willie Mays Tribute Day. The Giants’ Hall of Famer will be in attendance as the organization honors his career throughout Sunday’s matinee contest. While Mays will not be signing autographs for the general public, fans can visit FresnoGrizzlies.com to learn about the only ways they can be selected to win a private meet-and-greet with the ‘Say Hey Kid,” a team news release said for the 2009 event.

GV Wire research also found that Mays made at least one appearance at an unknown date at baseball hot stove events hosted by Al Radka.

Willie Mays signs a baseball at Chukchansi Park in 2009 (above). He then caught some of the game. (below). (Fresno Grizzlies)

 

The Fresno Grizzlies paid tribute to Mays with a moment of silence prior to Tuesday’s game vs. Stockton.

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David Taub,
Senior Reporter
Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email

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