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Maury Wills honored by RedHawks as his museum will close after this season

FARGO-Maury Wills sat in his museum Friday afternoon at Newman Outdoor Field, surrounded by pieces of his storied professional baseball career.Each item had a story attached for the former Los Angeles Dodgers great. Wills pointed out the banjo he...

Maury Wills, former Most Valuable Player in Major League Baseball, throws in the first pitch before the RedHawks game Friday, June 23, 2017, at Newman Outdoor Field, Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Maury Wills, former Most Valuable Player in Major League Baseball, throws in the first pitch before the RedHawks game Friday, June 23, 2017, at Newman Outdoor Field, Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
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FARGO-Maury Wills sat in his museum Friday afternoon at Newman Outdoor Field, surrounded by pieces of his storied professional baseball career.

Each item had a story attached for the former Los Angeles Dodgers great. Wills pointed out the banjo he got during his playing days from the co-pilot of the Dodgers team plane.

The Most Valuable Player trophy he won at one of the 1962 All-Star games, playing for the National League in his hometown. That brought back memories of when the security guard wouldn't allow Wills into the stadium prior to the game in Washington, D.C. The guard didn't think Wills was big enough to be a baseball player.

"Knowing that it's been here at Newman Outdoor Field in Fargo, I always felt that I had a treasure somewhere stashed away," Wills said.

That treasure will be getting moved closer to home. The Maury Wills Museum, which opened in 2001, is closing down after this season. Wills was honored at Friday's American Association game between the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks and Gary SouthShore RailCats, throwing out a ceremonial first pitch. Gary earned a 6-2 victory before an announced crowd of 3,792 fans.

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"I'll will always feel connected with Fargo, North Dakota," said Wills, who lives in Sedona, Ariz.

The 84-year-old Wills has been associated with the RedHawks since before the 1997 season, serving as a coach and radio commentator for the team.

"Fargo reached out with open arms and just loved Maury," said Carla Wills, Maury's wife.

This series with Gary is officially Maury's last three games with the RedHawks as a broadcaster. Wills said it's bittersweet to see his museum close in Fargo because "this is like home for me."

"We'll make a nice home for it somewhere closer to the Los Angeles Dodgers," Carla said of the items from the museum.

In recent years, Maury was a part-time commentator on radio broadcasts. In 1998, he started in the radio booth with Jack Michaels in closer to a full-time role. He is also known for his Maury Wills Knothole Gang youth baseball camps.

"He's really taken this as a second home," said Brad Thom, president and chief executive officer for the RedHawks. "He's grown a connection."

Maury thanked the Thoms, including team chairman Bruce Thom, the RedHawks and the Fargo area and region for making him feel welcomed for two decades.

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"The relationships that I've had with all those factions have been wonderful," Maury said.

Wills was recently honored in the 2017 "Hall of Game" class for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum along with Lee Smith, Al Oliver and Tony Perez.

Carla said Maury is in good health with lots of energy and still enjoys golfing. However, she added travel puts some wear on him. That is part of the reason for relocating the items from his museum at Newman.

Maury said he's been sober for 27 years and his two-decade association with Fargo and the RedHawks has helped him stay clean.

"That's very meaningful to me," he said. "I came here years ago when I thought I was at the end of my blessings. ... I was able to turn my life around and it's wonderful today. It has been for a long time."

Maury was a seven-time Major League Baseball All-Star and a three-time World Series champion. He was the National League MVP in 1962, stealing a then-record 104 bases. He played 14 seasons in the Major Leagues primarily with the Dodgers.

"He's amazing," Carla said.

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Related Topics: BASEBALL
Peterson covers college athletics for The Forum, including Concordia College and Minnesota State Moorhead. He also covers the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks independent baseball team and helps out with North Dakota State football coverage. Peterson has been working at the newspaper since 1996.
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