Willie Mays: The Life, the Legend

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Considered to be “as monumental—and enigmatic—a legend as American sport has ever seen” ( Sports Illustrated ), Willie Mays is arguably the greatest player in baseball history, still revered for the joy and passion he brought to the game. Mays began as a teenage phenom in the Negro Leagues, became a cult hero in New York, and was the headliner in Major League Baseball’s bold expansion to California. With 3,383 hits, 660 home runs, and 338 stolen bases, he was a blend of power, speed, and stylistic bravado that ...

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Overview

Considered to be “as monumental—and enigmatic—a legend as American sport has ever seen” ( Sports Illustrated ), Willie Mays is arguably the greatest player in baseball history, still revered for the joy and passion he brought to the game. Mays began as a teenage phenom in the Negro Leagues, became a cult hero in New York, and was the headliner in Major League Baseball’s bold expansion to California. With 3,383 hits, 660 home runs, and 338 stolen bases, he was a blend of power, speed, and stylistic bravado that fans had never seen before. Now, in the first biography authorized by and written with the cooperation of Willie Mays, James Hirsch reveals the man behind the player..

Willie is perhaps best known for “The Catch”—his breathtaking over-the-shoulder grab in the 1954 World Series. It is a classic visual that represents a transcendent figure who ushered in a new era of baseball, received standing ovations around the globe, and—during the turbulent civil rights era—advocated understanding and reconciliation. However, the years of racial attacks, the stress of celebrity, and the mental and physical demands of the game also took a toll. Meticulously researched and drawing on lengthy interviews with Mays, as well as with close friends, family, and teammates, Hirsch presents a complex portrait of one of America’s most significant cultural icons..

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  • Willie Mays: The Life, the Legend
    Willie Mays: The Life, the Legend  

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The legendary outfielder remains an idol in this starstruck authorized biography. Journalist Hirsch (Hurricane: The Miraculous Journey of Rubin Carter) makes Mays “the savior” of the floundering Giants franchise, celebrates his “supernatural” power, speed, and fielding chops and his godlike physique; toasts his “innocence and joy,” abstemious lifestyle, and kindness to children; and credits him with stopping a San Francisco race riot with a public service announcement. Hirsch is more restrained about his subject’s darker side, his financial difficulties and his often cold and prickly personality. He barely mentions Mays’s use of amphetamines, which he does not connect to the athlete’s frenetic on-field demeanor and recurrent collapses and hospitalizations for “exhaustion.” Hirsch is more incisive on the racial tensions roiling a fast-integrating baseball during Mays’s career, and on the shift to a faster, more aggressive style of play that Mays helped inaugurate. The author is at his best probing the strategy and mechanics behind Mays’s feats of fielding and baserunning; his detailed exegeses of individual plays, including an epic account of the over-the-shoulder catch in the 1954 World Series, reveal just how much art and science went into being Willie Mays. In Hirsch’s admiring portrait, Mays is certainly awe inspiring, but also remote and a bit impersonal. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Although this is an authorized biography, Hirsch (former reporter, New York Times; Hurricane: The Miraculous Journey of Rubin Carter) performs his task admirably, producing a strong, even important work. Hirsch portrays Mays as a baseball genius and an artist, albeit with imperfections making him capable of mistakes on the diamond and missteps in his personal relationships. Hirsch deftly interweaves biography and baseball tales with historical context, showing changes in the national scene, particularly involving race. Hyperbole only occasionally mars his judgement of Mays, whose feats were truly remarkable. The graceful centerfielder was certainly among the game's most brilliant players, even after nearly two years of military service, returning to the New York Giants for their World Series championship run in 1954. Hirsch's analysis of Mays is astute, with repeated references to startling defensive plays—"The Catch" in the 1954 series being simply the most famous example—and heads-up running on the base paths, and, of course, masterstrokes at the plate. VERDICT Hirsch's biography deserves a place alongside the work by top chroniclers Roger Angell, Bill James, Roger Kahn, and Robert Creamer. Highly recommended for all baseball fans.—R.C. Cottrell, California State Univ., Chico
Kirkus Reviews
An admiring-at times even worshipful-portrait of one of baseball's greatest players, whose on-field exploits were astonishing but whose inner life remains largely hidden. On the first page, former New York Times and Wall Street Journal reporter Hirsch (Cheating Destiny: Living with Diabetes, America's Biggest Epidemic, 2006, etc.)-who wrote a bestselling biography of boxer Rubin Carter (Hurricane, 2000)-compares the body of Willie Mays to "Michelangelo's finest work" and notes later that his "best catches seemed to be guided by some divine spirit." Fans of Mays will no doubt applaud such effusions, but they signal that celebration is higher on the author's agenda than critical analysis. Mays's Hall of Fame career was indeed marvelous. Born in Birmingham, Ala., in 1931, he endured the Jim Crow South, thrived on the baseball field and then left for greener outfields. Hirsch discusses how he learned baseball's fundamentals from his father, mastered his unique "basket catch" (in the Army), got the nickname "Say Hey Kid," rocketed through the minors, debuted with the New York Giants in 1951 and quickly became baseball's dominant star and its most exciting player-for decades (he played into his 40s, ending his career with the Mets). The author attends well to those most celebrated Willie moments: "The Throw," "The Catch," the four-homer day, the bare-handed catches, the daring base running, the dramatic hits, the peacemaking during base-brawls. But he also portrays a man who had difficulty with personal relationships and with intimacy-a failed first marriage, a need for pampering managers. Other black athletes-most notably Jackie Robinson-chided Mays for lassitude during thecivil-rights movement, and others wondered why he did not support Curt Flood's lawsuit. But Hirsch remains an apologist, and Mays's 40 years of retirement are relegated to a 30-page epilogue. Well-researched and fluid, but tendentious and tunnel-visioned. Author tour to Birmingham, Ala., Boston, Los Angeles, Phoenix area, New York, San Francisco, St. Louis. Agent: Todd Shuster/Zachary Shuster Harmsworth Literary Agency
Library Journal
Hirsch's second sports biography, following the New York Times best seller Hurricane (2000), tells the life story of baseball legend Willie Mays (b. 1931), who fully authorized this account and participates with an opening interview. From Mays's introduction to the game as a toddler to his iconic status in Giants lore, Hirsch paints Mays as a humble, sometimes aloof, and natural athlete whose deflection of overt off-the-field statements casts him as the social antithesis of Jackie Robinson. He does an especially fine job of addressing the racial injustices that Mays faced in his day. Actor Michael Boatman intersperses his authoritative narration with character voices that remain consistent and believable throughout. An engaging listen recommended for all baseball fans. [The New York Times best-selling Scribner hc also received a starred review, LJ 1/10.—Ed.]—Chris Rager, Pasadena, CA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416547907
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publication date: 2/9/2010
  • Pages: 640
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.80 (d)

Meet the Author

James S. Hirsch is former reporter for The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. He is the author of four nonfiction books, including the New York Times bestseller. Hurricane: The Miraculous Journey of Rubin Carter, which was the basis for the film of the same name starring Denzel Washington. Hirsch is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and has a master’s degree from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas. He lives in the Boston area with his wife, Sheryl, and their children, Amanda and Garrett. Born and raised in St. Louis, he remains a diehard Cardinal fan.

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Read an Excerpt

PROLOGUE

On May 24, 1951, a young center fielder who had dazzled crowds in the minor leagues left Sioux City, Iowa, traveling light: a change of clothes and some toiletries, his glove, his spikes, and his two favorite thirty-four-ounce Adirondack bats. The twenty-year-old Alabaman was driven to the airport in Omaha, Nebraska, where he bought a ticket from United Airlines for an all-night journey, landing in New York early the following day. He had been there once before, three years earlier, to play in the Polo Grounds with the Birmingham Black Barons. On that team the veterans had protected him, instructing the youngster on how to dress, act, and play ball; on how to represent his team, his city, and his race. But now, on a sunny morning at La Guardia Airport, Willie Mays slid into the back seat of a taxi and pressed his face against the window, alone. He had never seen so many people walk so fast in his life.

Mays was driven to the midtown offices of his employer, the New York Giants, and promptly escorted inside. At 5-foot-11 and 160 pounds, he did not yet have the sculpted body that would later evoke comparisons to Michelangelo's finest work. He was taut and fluid, but not physically imposing. Only his rippling forearms and massive hands, each one large enough to grip four baseballs, hinted at his crushing strength.

Mays entered the office of Horace C. Stoneham, the Giants' shy but personable owner, who was rarely seen in the clubhouse or interviewed by reporters. He had thinning hair, a ruddy complexion, and thick-framed glasses, and while his counterpart at the Brooklyn Dodgers — Walter O'Malley — had the aura of a corporate chieftain, Stoneham more closely resembled a rumpled bank manager who preferred the intimacy of his office to the bustle of the lobby. Alcohol was his most notorious vice, but undue loyalty wasn't far behind. He liked to hire family members and fellow Irishmen and hated to trade or cut Giants who had lost their usefulness. But give him his due: he cared deeply about his players, about their finances, their family, and their well-being, and he would help them as he would his own children.

He also needed good players, and he never needed one more than he needed Willie Mays.

The Giants were a family business, and Stoneham was only thirty-two when he inherited the team after his father's death in 1936. At the time, the Giants were the National League's preeminent franchise, having won eleven pennants and four World Series since the turn of the century. They captured consecutive pennants in Horace's first two years at the helm — clubs essentially assembled by his father — but the team grew stale, fan interest declined, and championships became a memory.

In 1951, after a dismal start, the Giants risked, not just a losing season, but irrelevance or even ruin. The franchise had lost money in each of the last three years and had been eclipsed by New York's other baseball teams. Their blood rival, the Brooklyn Dodgers, had won three pennants in the last decade, with Ebbets Field featuring social history as well as fierce competition. Since 1947, the Dodgers had been led by Jackie Robinson, whose breaking of the color barrier, combined with electrifying play, made for riveting theater. Yankee Stadium, meanwhile, was its own showcase of dominance and glamour: five World Series championships in the past decade, one deity in center field. Joe DiMaggio would turn thirty-seven in 1951, his final season, after which the landscape would be ready for a new hero. But the Yankees had already found their next wunderkind in the zinc mines of Oklahoma. The rookie Mickey Mantle — his brawn and speed exhaustively chronicled in spring training, his alliterative name tripping off the tongues of wide-eyed reporters, his blond crew cut and blue eyes capturing the hearts of young fans — was poised to be Gotham's next baseball god.

Who needed the Giants?

"Glad you could make it so soon," Stoneham told Mays as the rookie entered his office. "But they aren't glad where you came from."

Mays, confused, said nothing.

"The Minneapolis fans," Stoneham said. "They're upset." Mays had begun the season with the Minneapolis Millers, a Giants' farm club. In thirty-five games, he had hit .477; one searing drive, in Milwaukee, punctured a hole in the fence. Stoneham told Mays that the Giants were putting an ad in a Minneapolis newspaper to apologize for taking the local team's prodigy. "We're going to tell them," Stoneham said, "that you're the answer to what the Giants have got to have."

Mays remained silent.

"It's unusual, I know," Stoneham said, "but — is something the matter?"

Mays finally found his voice, high-pitched and earnest: "Mr. Stoneham, I know it's unusual, but what if — "

"What if what?"

"What if I don't make it?"

Stoneham pointed to a folder on his desk, stuffed with papers. Mays saw his name on the cover.

"You think we just picked your name out of a hat?" Stoneham demanded. "You think we brought you up because somebody saw your name in a headline one day in Louisville or Columbus or Milwaukee or Kansas City? You think nobody's been watching you? You think managers haven't been up nights doing progress reports, that our own scouts haven't checked you out time and again? You think all of this is something somebody dreamed up in the middle of the night two days ago?"

Mays stood there, unsettled by the barrage.

The owner pushed a buzzer beneath his desk and spoke into the intercom: "Ask Frank to come in here." He looked at Mays. "Got luggage?"

"No, sir. It's still back in Minneapolis. They're sending it on."

Stoneham nodded and pushed the buzzer again. "Ask Brannick to save out seventy, eighty dollars," he said, referring to the team's dapper traveling secretary, Eddie Brannick. Then to Mays: "Buy yourself a couple things — underwear, shirts, socks — until your stuff gets here."

The door opened, and Frank Forbes, a black fight promoter hired by the Giants to be Mays's chaperone, walked through. "Here he is," Stoneham said. "Take him with you." He extended his hand. "Good luck, Willie."

"Thank you, Mr. Stoneham. I hope I can get into a few games, get a few chances to help. I hope you won't be sorry."

"I won't be sorry." Stoneham turned away, then suddenly turned back. "Get in a few games? Get a few chances to help? Don't you know you're starting tonight?"

Mays's mouth went dry. "Starting? Where?"

Stoneham glared at him, then laughed. "Center field!" he barked. "Where else?" He looked at Forbes. "Get him out of here, Frank."

The Giants were already in Philadelphia, where they would begin a three-game series that night at Shibe Park. Forbes and Mays hustled to Pennsylvania Station, boarded a train, and sat in a Pullman parlor car. Mays had seen the opulent coaches in the movies, the ubiquitous Negro porter fawning over white passengers. But now Mays was the passenger, and the swivel armchairs were layered with meaning. His father, Willie Howard Mays, Sr., had been a Pullman porter, making beds in the sleeping cars chugging out of Birmingham. The train's quiet rhythm lulled the white passengers to sleep, and the elder Mays, wearing a white jacket, would listen to the sound of the whistle at night, signaling which engineer was driving the train. "He'd lay his hand on that rope," he said, "and it was like an autograph."

Now his son sat in a Pullman car, heading south on an eighty-five-mile trip that the young man could not have envisioned even a month earlier, with the clicking of the wheels saying to Willie: You're a Giant. You're a Giant. You're a Giant. You're a Giant....

Willie Mays began his major league career poorly — he went 1-for-26 — but he slowly found his way. He blasted home runs over the lights at the Polo Grounds, chased down fly balls in the cavernous outfield, unleashed deadly throws to the plate, and ran the bases with daring glee. But what mesmerized his teammates, what captivated the crowds, was his incandescent personality, bringing, his manager said, "a contagious happiness that gets everybody on the club" and moving Branch Rickey to observe that the rookie's greatest attribute "was the frivolity in his bloodstream [that] doubled his strength with laughter."

Newspapers promptly hailed the "Negro slugger" as "the Amazing Mays" and "the Wondrous Willie," a unique blend of speed and power who performed with childlike exuberance. But the most prescient account appeared on June 24 in the New York Post — one month after his debut — which chronicled a stunning baserunning feat as "part of the legend" of this new marvel.

Long before his Rookie of the Year Award, long before his two Most Valuable Player awards and his one batting title and his 12 Gold Gloves, long before his 24 All-Star Games and his 3,283 hits and his 660 home runs, and long before "the Catch," Willie Mays was a legend. And by the time he retired, he was an American icon whose athletic brilliance and stylistic bravado contributed to the assimilation of blacks during the turbulent civil rights era, a distinctive figure of ambition, sacrifice, and triumph who became a lasting cultural touchstone for a nation in search of heroes.

Mays represented the quintessential American dream. He was the poor Depression-era black kid from the segregated South who overcame insuperable odds to reach the pinnacle of society, and he succeeded by hewing to the country's most cherished values — hard work, clean living, and perseverance. He also benefited from great timing. Had he been born fifteen or even ten years earlier, he would have played most if not all of his career in the Negro Leagues, probably remembered, along with Josh Gibson, Oscar Charleston, and Cool Papa Bell, as a mythic but ill-defined figure who was victimized by America's racial hypocrisy. Had he been born ten years later, he would never have been part of perhaps the most celebrated era in sports history — New York in the 1950s — when baseball dominated the sports culture, integrated teams stole the march on civil rights, ballparks sponsored miracles, and legends were born.

Mays was the youngest black player to reach the major leagues, and his ascension in 1951 coincided with other powerful social and economic forces. Television, for one, was emerging as a transformative medium in sports. Fans across the country could now watch baseball in real time, the grainy black-and-white images turning an anonymous player into a national hero (Bobby Thomson, following his "Shot Heard 'Round the World," being the most conspicuous example). Several decades would pass before baseball highlights became daily fare, but television still contributed to Mays's popularity by broadening access to his spellbinding performances: the spinning catches followed by laser throws; the churning legs rounding second base, his feet barely brushing the dirt, his cap sailing off like a flimsy derby in a windstorm; the giddy smile that bespoke his love for the game. Mays was a completely new archetype, the first five-tool player before anyone else had even opened the shed.* But he always saw himself as an entertainer first, and television gave him a national stage.

Mays was an unlikely celebrity, but he flourished in an increasingly intense media culture. He appeared on television variety shows, talk shows, sitcoms, and in documentaries — timid, to be sure, but also handsome, respectful, and self-deprecating. Magazines splashed him on their covers while recording artists celebrated him in song, screenwriters immortalized him in films, and cartoonists grandly etched him in print. He was the game's first true international star, playing before huge crowds from Mexico to Venezuela to Japan in winter league games or exhibitions. He was a worthy antidote to Ralph Ellison's lament that the Negro was the "Invisible Man."

Mays's star power made him the most luminous prize in baseball's great migration westward in 1958, when the Giants and Dodgers moved to California. This shift symbolized the broader demographic tilt of the country and turned the national pastime into a transcontinental enterprise. Mays benefited from baseball's entrance into new markets and new stadiums with new corporate sponsors, all of which helped make him the highest paid player in the league, topping the magical $100,000 figure in 1963. He left the game ten years later, just as the system that had restricted players from the open market was about to collapse. A new era of baseball was about to begin.

Mays's career exquisitely overlapped one of the great social movements in American history — the modern civil rights era. One of the most recognized and admired black people of that period, Mays led by example, yet his role in the movement became the most controversial part of his legacy. In some quarters, he was scorned as a "do-nothing Negro" or an Uncle Tom for refusing to actively support civil rights or even to speak out when he himself was victimized or his hometown of Birmingham was terrorized. But Mays countered racial discrimination on his own terms in ways that he understood — as a role model who never drank or smoked, who avoided scandal, and who gave his time and money to children's causes; as a player who excelled through discipline, preparation, and sacrifice; and as a man who brought Americans together through the force of his personality and his passion for the game. Mays knew his influence, particularly on the bigots. "I changed the hatred to laughter," he said. "That's what I think."

Mays also had his disappointments. His first marriage ended badly, with a painful public divorce and an adopted son with whom he is no longer close. (His second marriage, however, to a beautiful, educated professional has been a source of love and strength for more than thirty-five years.) Financial troubles, caused mostly by overspending, dogged him through his playing days. Bad financial advice cost him as well. He was one of the most durable players in history, but the pressures took an enormous toll, physically and emotionally, causing several hospitalizations during his career. At times gruff and impatient, Mays was not the easiest to approach, and his desire for privacy contributed to flare-ups with reporters, some of whom attacked him in print. The give-and-take of friendships was not his strength. His distrust of others, born of betrayals and affronts, ran deep, and strangers with uncertain motives needed to tread lightly when they entered his space.

Who is Willie Mays? It's a fair question. He has a small circle of loyal friends who love him unconditionally, but even they rarely see his wounds. To his fans, he has long been an enigma who spoons out just enough biographical morsels to nourish their curiosity but not satisfy their appetite.

The pity is that the most appealing parts of Willie Mays have nothing to do with baseball.

But baseball is his rightful legacy, and now, almost sixty years after he nervously asked Horace Stoneham if he was good enough, his accomplishments loom larger than ever. Baseball has never been more popular, but the steroid era — an endless train of congressional hearings, legal maneuverings, and hollow pledges of reform — has tainted records, vindicated cynics, and placed the biggest names under suspicion.

No one ever doubted Willie Mays. He not only played the game as well as anyone who's ever taken the field but he also played it the right way. He is now revered for capturing the joy and innocence of a bygone era, a transcendent figure who is compared to the most important men in American history. In the presidential campaign of 2008, Barack Obama emphasized his biracial appeal by pairing John F. Kennedy with Martin Luther King, Jr.; Abraham Lincoln with Willie Mays.

Heady company indeed, though maybe not a stretch for a man who seemed to embody the impossible. "The first thing to establish about Willie Mays," Jim Murray once wrote, "is that there really is one."

Copyright © 2010 by James S. Hirsch

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 47 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 47 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2010

    A tough read

    isI gave up on this book after 40 pages. To that point it was mainly about the experience of blacks in baseball before the sport became integrated, with a tidbit about Willie Mays added here and there. If you are interested in reading about Willie Mays, good luck wading through these 600 pages.

    3 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 15, 2010

    Willies Story

    This book has so many stories told by Willie that I have never read anywhere before. I find it very difficult to put the book down. Anyone who has a love of baseball will love this book. I highly recoomend it for your own reading pleasure or as a gift to a sports-oriented friend or relative.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Good summer baseball read

    As an upper-20's baseball fan I found this book to be very detailed and informative. It quenched my thirst to learn more about Mays during his playing days and especially during the social fabric of America at the time.

    Unless you're without a day job, you won't read this book in a week. It's long, but very good, if you don;t mind spending a couple weeks chipping away over your lunch hour and before bedtime.

    SOLID BOOK and RECOMMENDED!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2010

    Living Legend

    Hirsch attention to detail captures Willie's legendary status. His writing style is as fluid and graceful as Willie in his prime. The descriptions of Birmingham in the 40s and 50s was riveting, as was his tracing Willie's ascent through the Negro League and minors--overall a valuable history lesson. Also a great thrill ride through baseball's new golden age into the modern era. Willie's personal story parallels baseball's rise, peak, and the beginning of the decline. Hirsh's description of the end of Willie's playing career is as painful to read as it was to see. Hirsch captures it brilliantly.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 26, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A Truly Great Baseball Book!

    As a true baseball fan and a child of the 60's I loved this book packed with such intricate detail and Willie expressions. The reader gets a great understanding as to Willie the man and why he is so softspoken. Willie's personality somewhat reminded me of how Lou Gerhig was portrayed in Pride of the Yankees.

    Having k...nown practically nothing about Willie's pre-Giant days I really enjoyed tales of how he juggled his high school studies with playing on traveling teams and the Negro Leagues. We learn about Cat Mays who may have been as talented as Willie, but lived in a era where blacks had no opportunity to make the major leagues. Willie's father was away most of his childhood and Willie's mother worked in theaters so Willie was really raised by his aunt.

    In some instances the book literally seems to transport you back in time as you relive events virtually as if they were happening. I feel like I lived through the 51 playoffs and 54 World Series.

    We learn in detail the reason for the Giants move to San Francisco, the big project bust that was Candlestick Park and Joan Payson's crusade to bring Willie back to New York.

    The book is loaded with great tales of such colorful characters as Leo Durocher, Monte Irvin, Juan Marichal and Orlando Cepeda. Willie was not too fond of manager Bill Rigney but seemed to fare better under Alvin Dark. We learn about Willie's tense relationships with people like Yogi Berra and others.

    This book is a "must" for a baseball fan's library and by the time you finish the book you will feel like you grew up and old with Willie personally!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 14, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Hagiography of th Great Willie Mays

    I remember Willie Mays playing baseball. I think he was the best total player of my lifetime.

    The book is a celebration of Willie Mays. I am happy to celebrate Mays with Hirsch. I think Hirsch's style and telling of the book was outstanding. Hirsch captured the times with Mays's transcendance of the troubled race relations. Mays was a great baseball player for some, and for others, he was only a black player.

    Hirsch depicts Mays as a man with a strongh relationship to his mentor father and strong relationships with other mentors as he grew up. Mays became mentor to others players as he neared the end of his career.

    Hirsch drew a contrast between Mays and Jackie Robinson. Mays was stoic and steadfast, Robinson was a complainer. Both had valid perspectives.

    I do not think that Hirsch had much balance when speaking about the caucasion players of Mays's time. It makes me wonder about the accuracy of the rest of his writing.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 12, 2010

    Fantastic Book

    Willie Mays is one of the greatest players in baseball and this is a book that does fair job at reviewing the early years and paying days of the Say Hey Kid. While the author acknowledges that the material is essentially based on interviews and material already in existence, the writer does a great job of weaving the actual events with anecdotes from players, writers and other baseball men. A great baseball read to start the season.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2013

    Bjorn to bw

    Lol thx for the help bw

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2013

    Hi

    Potts yo like cum?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2013

    Riolu

    Nothing...

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  • Posted January 21, 2012

    If you can make it through the first third of the book, it's worth reading...

    Anyone that knows me knows that I have a passion for baseball. So, I often try to read something baseball related. I also like to read about great people. Recently, I saw that Willie Mays and I shared the same birthday and I saw this book in the bargain bin. Willie Mays definitely had an interesting life. From his time in the Negro Leagues to his debut in the major leagues, Willie's story shows what you can overcome if you work hard, never give up and are surrounded by supporting and loving people. With that being said...you will need to be patient with this version of Mays' story. The first third of the book reads like a newspaper account and lacks the charm, wonder, drama and excitement you would expect. The last two thirds of the book do a much better job of drawing the reader into Mays' life. I learned much about Mays' life (including that Jackie Robinson sounded like a bitter jerk), but I almost quit on this book because of the antiseptic first 200 pages. I'm glad I stuck it out.

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  • Posted January 12, 2011

    a lot of willie

    it is a very good book as far as telling the readers about the negro leagues and his growing up days, the people in this life Leo and the rest make for a very entertaining read and over all a very good book, maybe a little to much about every home run and catch he ever made but being a Mays fan I liked that,

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  • Posted October 22, 2010

    the real Willie Mays. Highly recommend.

    I thought this book gave a great account of this great ball player's life. many people today have forgotten just what a great all around player he really was. many that have met him at shows, autograph events have depicted him as unfriendly or worse, but having read this book, if this is in fact the case, there are many pages of reasons why.

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  • Posted April 18, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    The life of Willie Mays parallels the social upheavals in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s. This book is far more than a biography of the Say Hey Kid; it is a reflection of American life during the two decades after World War II.

    Hirsch is a compelling writer that captivates the essense of the true life of Willie Mays. Mays has been called the most complete baseball player of all time with the five tools that define great ballplayers. What is moving in this book is the way Mays both personified the way southern African-Americans were raised and treated in the South, but also the comparisons and differences of treatment in the North. The unfairness of treatment that black ballplayers received, whether playing in the Negro Leagues or making the breakthrough to the major leagues, is apparent. Baseball is played against the backdrop of the beginnings of the civil rights movement and that theme carries across the decades. Also of significance are the attitudes of the different black players to the response they should or shouldn't give to the movement. Hirsch makes compelling argument to the National League owners as being more receptive to breaking the color barrier than American League owners. Intertwined in the book is the story of the move of both the Dodgers and the Giants from New York to California. And overshadowing the entire book is the relationship between Willie Mays and Giant owner, Horace Stoneham. Willie Mays became a cult hero not only because of his natural ability and great plays, but because of his genuine love of being around kids. Willie enjoyed playing baseball. This is a great book for baseball lovers who remember the players of the 50s and 60s, but it is also a great book for the younger generations to read to try to understand what it was like to be a professional black athlete--- playing in front of thousands of fans---during the time of segregation, unrest, the challenge of the reserve clause and the changes in the game of baseball itself. This book is a gem.

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  • Posted April 12, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Great Biography

    Willie May's is a living legend. This book lays his life open for all to read and see just how great of a life he led. He had a humble childhood and grew up to be a happy and humble baseball player, who was thankful for the opportunity he had to play.

    Mays preferred a private life and doesn't talk much about his past, and to be able to get a glimpse of it here, is a rare opportunity.

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  • Posted March 29, 2010

    Superb Book!

    As much as I enjoy the sports genre, I can think of few over the years that are page turners. Willie Mays, by James Hirsch is a page turner; superbly written and an engaging account of one of America's greatest baseball players.

    The book is a well balanced account of Willie Mays's baseball career, his broader life story and the relevent societal backdrop over many decades that gives context to this story of such an interesting American hero.

    Mr. Hirsch treats his subject with great respect, but neither places him on an unapproachable level nor is he overly critical. This balance was greatly appreciated knowing that I was purchasing an biography authorized by Mr. Mays.

    Highly recommended for baseball fans or those who want to better understand this sport from the historical perspective that spans the Negro leagues to the more recent modern era.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2010

    Great Biography

    Enjoyed reading this book very much it was very deailed. It showed not only the great abilities of Willie Mays but also the hardships he faced as a black player in the 50's and 60's.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    baseball legend

    "willie mays" is a very indepth book and the arthur has done a remarkable job documeting his early childhood years through his many historic years on the field and he shows how this great player was able to accomplish so many of his amazing acomphments.this book shares so many life lessons about this great player it is a great book to find out how he became so great.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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