When Willie Wasn’t Welcome

S.F. Giants star Willie Mays faced housing discrimination—then turned to Joe Eichler
Willie Mays

The love affair between San Francisco and the Giants, who open their 55th Bay Area season next week, began as soon as the team arrived from New York in 1957. Riding in the first car in the ticker tape parade was Willie Mays, the star of the team, loved by fans for his big talent and good nature.

But would you want him for your next-door neighbor?

When Mays and his wife Marghuerite sought to buy a home in 1957 in the all-white San Francisco neighborhood of Miraloma Park, the welcome mat was pulled. ‘Willie Mays is denied S.F. House – Race Issue,’ the San Francisco Chronicle blared.

What followed was an embarrassment to a city known for free thinking, in a state and a nation that still did not ban racial discrimination in housing.

Thanks to public opprobrium, Willie Mays did get to buy the house—one of several modern homes the stylish ballplayer would come to own.

But the one that got away might have been the nicest—an Eichler home that was designed specially for Mays but never built.

The story conjures up some mysteries—including how Willie Mays first encountered Joe Eichler. For more, here’s a sneak preview of the upcoming spring ’13 issue of CA-Modern magazine—‘Fielder’s Choice.’