NEW YORK — Hall of Famers Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle, banned from baseball after taking public relations jobs with gambling casinos, were reinstated today by new Commissioner Peter Ueberroth.
"They are free as of today to be employed by baseball," Ueberroth said. "Any restrictions heretofore placed on them are now removed."
Mays and Mantle, who had been ordered by former Commissioner Bowie Kuhn to disassociate themselves from the game because of their employment as good-will ambassadors for Atlantic City gambling casinos, exulted in the announcement.
'Please to Be Back'
"I'm very pleased to be back in baseball, although I don't think I did anything wrong for baseball," Mays said.
Mantle added: "I know Mr. Kuhn did what he thought had to be done. He warned me that if I took the job I would be gone from baseball. I did it with my eyes wide open and being 21 years old. I know it was a hard thing for Mr. Ueberroth to do, but something he thought had to be done."
Ueberroth said he had no problem with Kuhn's ruling, which had kept Mays out of baseball since 1979 and Mantle out since 1983.
"The world changes, and we are going to look at the situation for very strong broad guidelines to keep baseball and gambling apart," Ueberroth said. "In going through the files, I can find times when baseball teams were owned by people who owned casinos at the same time. We're looking at the whole subject.
'It Wasn't Fair'
"I didn't think that was fair to these two gentlemen. It's also spring training and I wanted them back in baseball."
Mantle works for Del Webb's Claridge Casino Hotel and Mays for Bally's Park Place, mainly socializing and playing golf with the casinos' biggest customers. Both earn about $100,000 a year.
Before Kuhn banned the two legendary outfielders from baseball, Mantle was a spring training batting instructor with the New York Yankees and Mays was a $50,000-a-year coach with the New York Mets.
"This was a tremendous action," said Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. "To arbitrarily ban two of the greatest players in the history of the game because of their association with a legalized activity, while we allow fellows who were convicted of using drugs to play, I don't see the balance. I don't think justice was served. I think justice has been served right now."