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The Ball Game: When Willie Mays played in Indy

When Willie Mays played baseball in Indy

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The passing of baseball legend Willie Mays at the age of 93 triggered a memory for Daybreak anchor Scott Sander, one that may also be remembered by other Hoosiers who got a glimpse of one of the greatest players of all time.

In the early 1980s, Indianapolis leaders briefly flirted with the idea of luring a Major League Baseball team to the city, with the then-new Hoosier Dome to serve as a home ballpark.  Though a big league team would not end up calling Indy home, the Hoosier Dome still hosted a baseball game weeks before the first game of the newly-relocated Indianapolis Colts.

According to news accounts at the time, the “Old-Timers Indiana Dream Game” on July 27, 1984, was the last of a four-game tour featuring more than 30 retired baseball legends.  Willie Mays was there, five years after his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, along with a roster that included fellow Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Brooks Robinson and Bob Feller.  

Scott Sander, then 13 years old, was one of the roughly 18,000 fans who attended the game.  He also found WISH-TV video from the game on a Beta videotape in our archives.  Among the highlights on that video, likely not seen in 40 years — an RBI single from Mays in the first inning, followed by a two-run homer from Aaron, at the time baseball’s career home run king.  

The video also shows home runs from Minnesota Twins great Tony Oliva and from Larry Doby, who became the American League’s first Black player when he signed with Cleveland in 1947. 

You can also see Feller — nicknamed “Rapid Robert” for his famous fastball — on the mound, as well as Don Newcombe, who helped the Dodgers win their only World Series while the team was in Brooklyn in 1955.

Also on the mound that day was Anderson’s native Carl Erskine, who pitched alongside Newcombe on the “Boys of Summer” Brooklyn teams of the 1950s. Erskine died in April at age 97.

The National League team, led by Mays and Aaron, would beat the American League in the game 13-12.