Willie's Boys: The 1948 Birmingham Black Barons, The Last Negro League World Series, and the Making of a Baseball Legend

Overview

The story of Willie Mays's rookie year with the Negro American League's Birmingham Black Barons, the Last Negro World Series, and the making of a baseball legend

Baseball Hall of Famer Willie Mays is one of baseball's endearing greats, a tremendously talented and charismatic center fielder who hit 660 career homeruns, collected 3,283 hits, knocked in 1,903 runs, won 12 Gold Glove Awards and appeared in 24 All-Star games. But before Mays was the "Say Hey Kid", he was just a boy. ...

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Overview

The story of Willie Mays's rookie year with the Negro American League's Birmingham Black Barons, the Last Negro World Series, and the making of a baseball legend

Baseball Hall of Famer Willie Mays is one of baseball's endearing greats, a tremendously talented and charismatic center fielder who hit 660 career homeruns, collected 3,283 hits, knocked in 1,903 runs, won 12 Gold Glove Awards and appeared in 24 All-Star games. But before Mays was the "Say Hey Kid", he was just a boy. Willie's Boys is the story of his remarkable 1948 rookie season with the Negro American League's Birmingham Black Barons, who took a risk on a raw but gifted 16-year-old and gave him the experience, confidence, and connections to escape Birmingham's segregation, navigate baseball's institutional racism, and sign with the New York Giants. Willie's Boys offers a character-rich narrative of the apprenticeship Mays had at the hands of a diverse group of savvy veterans who taught him the ways of the game and the world.

  • Sheds new light on the virtually unknown beginnings of a baseball great, not available in other books
  • Captures the first incredible steps of a baseball superstar in his first season with the Negro League's Birmingham Black Barons
  • Introduces the veteran group of Negro League players, including Piper Davis, who gave Mays an incredible apprenticeship season
  • Illuminates the Negro League's last days, drawing on in-depth research and interviews with remaining players
  • Explores the heated rivalry between Mays's Black Barons and Buck O'Neil's Kansas City Monarchs , culminating in the last Negro League World Series
  • Breaks new historical ground on what led the New York Giants to acquire Mays, and why he didn't sign with the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Yankees, or Boston Red Sox

Packed with stories and insights, Willie's Boys takes you inside an important part of baseball history and the development of one of the all-time greats ever to play the game.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
* Willie's Boys adds to baseball lore by recounting Willie Mays's service with the 1948 Birmingham Black Barons, which led to the Black Barons' participation in black baseball's final World Series. Baseball writer Klima (Pitched Battle: 35 of Baseball's Greatest Duels from the Mound) repeatedly delivers quotes from Black Barons, their adversaries, scouts, and other baseball figures regarding Mays's preternatural skills, particularly in the field and on the base paths. The hitting prowess, for both average and distance, came a bit later, but the raw talent and the drive were immediately present. Mays's personality, somewhat surprisingly, does not come through as clearly, unlike that of the other star of Klima's story, Willie's teammate, mentor, and first professional manager, Piper Davis. Even more than Mays's story, those of Davis and players such as the great third baseman Ray Dandridge demonstrate the strengths and weaknesses of black baseball, along with the hurdles even brilliant players had to overcome to enter organized baseball. Klima refutes long-standing notions regarding the supposed refusal of teams like the Yankees and Red Sox to sign black players, as both sought to sign Mays. Verdict Recommended for all interested readers.
—Robert C. Cottrell, California State Univ., Chico (Library Journal, December 2009)
Library Journal
Willie's Boys adds to baseball lore by recounting Willie Mays's service with the 1948 Birmingham Black Barons, which led to the Black Barons' participation in black baseball's final World Series. Baseball writer Klima (Pitched Battle: 35 of Baseball's Greatest Duels from the Mound) repeatedly delivers quotes from Black Barons, their adversaries, scouts, and other baseball figures regarding Mays's preternatural skills, particularly in the field and on the base paths. The hitting prowess, for both average and distance, came a bit later, but the raw talent and the drive were immediately present. Mays's personality, somewhat surprisingly, does not come through as clearly, unlike that of the other star of Klima's story, Willie's teammate, mentor, and first professional manager, Piper Davis. Even more than Mays's story, those of Davis and players such as the great third baseman Ray Dandridge demonstrate the strengths and weaknesses of black baseball, along with the hurdles even brilliant players had to overcome to enter organized baseball. Klima refutes long-standing notions regarding the supposed refusal of teams like the Yankees and Red Sox to sign black players, as both sought to sign Mays. VERDICT Recommended for all interested readers.—Robert C. Cottrell, California State Univ., Chico
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780470400135
  • Publisher: Turner Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 8/31/2009
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 398,339
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

John Klima, an award-winning baseball writer, has written for the New York Times, Yahoo! Sports, and Los Angeles Times. His story "Deal of the Century" was selected by David Maraniss to be included in the 2007 edition of Best American Sports Writing. In 2007, he was honored by the Associated Press Sports Editors for column writing. He is a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America and the Society for American Baseball Research. Visit his Web sites at www.klimaink.com. and www.baseballbeginnings.com.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments.

Prologue “The Best Baseball Player I’ve Ever Seen”.

1 Trapped in the Hot Box.

2 Negro Avenue.

3 A Piper Kind of Team.

4 The Defenders of Rickwood Field.

5 “The Best Little Boy Anybody Ever Seen".

6 Readin’ the Hops.

7 Whammy Alabama.

8 “A Player Who Shouldn’t Have Been There”.

9 “A Horseshit Scout”.

10 “Come On, Willie!”

11 “Josh Gibson Is Dead and We Still Can’t Beat These Guys”.

12 Somebody Is Always Watching.

13 The Goose Shooter.

14 “Wait until You See Mays”.

15 The Boston Gold Sox.

16 Miracle in Harlem.

17 Take That Glove to the Big Leagues.

Epilogue “He Was Thirteen Again”.

Notes.

Index.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2009

    A truly great book!

    I absolutely loved this book! It is well researched, but it is not bogged down and boring. The author did a wonderful job of making sure that he did his homework, but put it all in a narrative form, so that it reads easily, quickly and enjoyable.

    You really will feel like you are on the bus with Willie Mays and his team, through the South in the 1940s, and the discrimination and difficulties that accompanied it. You learn the rich language that the men of the Negro Leagues used and created. You will understand aspects of what it was like to live in that era. You will also learn never before known parts of Willie Mays's career, and how he actually got to the New York Giants instead of the numerous other teams that knew about him. You get to know the wonderful cast of characters who helped and taught Willie Mays when he was so young. (Piper Davis, Willie's player-manager is truly a great character!) You will see rivalries and discrimination and triumph over them. Willie's Boys offers great insight into the humble beginnings of a true baseball great.

    So, if you like and are interested in baseball, Willie Mays, history, culture, orstories of struggle and discrimination, this is the book for you. It really does have something for almost everyone. I can not recommend this book more highly!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2012

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