* 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)