Willie Mays said yesterday he left the Cracker Jack Old Timers Classic Monday night because "I was teed off and tired of getting the runaround," and denied earlier reports that he departed because he did not start.
In a telephone interview, Mays, who received a standing ovation from the 31,160 fans during the pregame introduction, said two things upset him. First, he was told that he would pinch run if Ralph Kiner reached base in the bottom of the first inning (Kiner didn't). Then, to make the situation worse, Enos Slaughter was told to take Kiner's place in right field in the second inning.
"I said: 'I don't need this aggravation,' " Mays said. "Ralph had just hit. My impression was Ralph was going somewhere and now that they told Slaughter to play, that I wasn't going to be playing. So I went and took a shower."
Just before the game, National League Manager Eddie Sawyer, who managed the Philadelphia Whiz Kids in 1950, told Mays that Kiner would start in right field. Mays asked why.
Mays said Sawyer replied: "Because I was told that's the way it was wanted." Mays said he replied: "Okay."
Then, Mays was told to pinch run if Kiner reached base. "I said: 'Hey, I'm not a fill-in for nobody. I came here to play.'
"I was so embarrassed," Mays continued. "Playing in the game was more important than sitting around. People wanted to see me play. I got the biggest ovation before the game. I came here to please the fans. The game was only five innings."
Dick Cecil, director of the Classic, said: "Basically, Willie was late. We had a clubhouse meeting that took place for half an hour where the lineups were made.
"At that meeting we decided how to make the changes . . . Willie was slated to stay in the game after he pinch ran for Ralph."
Mays claims that no one told him "anything" before the game. "I came all the way from Alaska," he said. "Why didn't they say anything to me at batting practice. I left because they wouldn't let me play."
"He got teed off because he thought he wasn't being used right," said Monte Irvin, a former teammate of Mays on the New York Giants. "He was really hurt."
"I'm sorry things worked out that way, but we didn't know what to think and we weren't sure whether he was going to be here or not," said Tal Smith, a member of the advisory committee to the Classic, and the man in charge of the NL squad.
Mays took batting practice, hitting two balls into the left field stands. He chatted at the batting cage, even encouraging Minnie Minoso to leave the cage so he could get in a few licks.
Smith started Hank Aaron, Irvin and Kiner in the NL outfield. The National League won the game, 5-3.
An official of the Classic tried to talk Mays out of his decision. Mays responded: "I came to play; why can't I play?"
Mays arrived in Washington about 1 a.m. Monday. Last year he was advertised as coming but did not show up, which upset Classic officials.
Cecil, who said that there will be a Cracker Jack game next year, said: "If he had been sure he'd be coming, we would have promoted him."