HOUSTON — Celebrating a baseball legend’s birthday. On Friday, Willie Mays turns 91. But he’ll never forget his 37th birthday.
There’s nothing like a surprise birthday party, but this one for the great Willie Mays surely takes the cake.
It’s May 6, 1968, and the San Francisco Giants are in Houston to play the Astros.
It’s also Willie Mays’ birthday.
Before the game, Astros owner Roy Hofheinz celebrates Willie turning 37... with a surprise gigantic cake in the shape of Willie’s uniform number 24 weighing 569 pounds
Why 569 pounds? It’s one pound for each HR Willie’s hit in the big leagues.
What’s it take to bake a cake that big?
3,800 eggs, 150 pounds of butter, 150 pounds of sugar, 300 pounds of flour and 100 pounds of almonds.
Oh, it was also decorated with Christmas tree lights.
The cake becomes big news, appearing in nearly every newspaper in the country.
And while we’ve told this story before, there’s now a new layer.
Meet Roland Lanz, the man who baked it.
“I just liked to bake cakes, you know?” he said.
Now 88, he was the founder of Roland’s Swiss Pastry & Bakery in Houston, famous for its Hansel and Gretel houses. He was also an Astrodome vendor
His daughter contacted us after watching our initial piece. The size of the cake still amazes her.
“You know, the transportation for something like that. I'm sure he had to finish it in the dome,” she said.
Roland says he was paid $2,000 for his efforts. Today? That’s more than $16,000!
An astronomical cake for Willie Mays’ 37th birthday, it’s a strange but true Houston sports story.