1954: The Year Willie Mays and the First Generation of Black Superstars Changed Major League Baseball Forever

1954: The Year Willie Mays and the First Generation of Black Superstars Changed Major League Baseball Forever

by Bill Madden

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1954: Perhaps no single baseball season has so profoundly changed the game forever. In that year—the same in which the US Supreme Court unanimously ruled, in the case of Brown vs. Board of Education, that segregation of the races be outlawed in America's public schools—Larry Doby's Indians won an American League record 111 games, dethroned the five-straight World Series champion Yankees, and went on to play Willie Mays's Giants in the first World Series that featured players of color on both teams.
Seven years after Jackie Robinson had broken the baseball color line, 1954 was a triumphant watershed season for black players—and, in a larger sense, for baseball and the country as a whole. While Doby was the dominant player in the American League, Mays emerged as the preeminent player in the National League, with a flair and boyish innocence that all fans, black and white, quickly came to embrace. Mays was almost instantly beloved in 1954, much of that due to how seemingly easy it was for him to live up to the effusive buildup from his Giants manager, Leo Durocher, a man more widely known for his ferocious "nice guys finish last" attitude.
Award-winning, New York Times bestselling author Bill Madden delivers the first major book to fully examine the 1954 baseball season, drawn largely from exclusive recent interviews with the major players themselves, including Mays and Doby as well as New York baseball legends from that era: Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford of the Yankees, Monte Irvin of the Giants, and Carl Erskine of the Dodgers. 1954 transports readers across the baseball landscape of the time—from the spring training camps in Florida and Arizona to baseball cities including New York, Baltimore, Chicago, and Cleveland—as future superstars such as Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, and others entered the leagues and continued to integrate the sport.

Weaving together the narrative of one of baseball's greatest seasons with the racially charged events of that year, 1954 demonstrates how our national pastime—with the notable exception of the Yankees, who represented "white supremacy" in the game—was actually ahead of the curve in terms of the acceptance of black Americans, while the nation at large continued to struggle with tolerance.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780306823695
Publisher: Hachette Books
Publication date: 03/10/2015
Edition description: First Trade Paper Edition
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 518,104
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Bill Madden is the author of several books about the Yankees, including the New York Times bestseller Steinbrenner: The Last Lion of Baseball. For more than 30 years, he has covered the Yankees and Major League Baseball for the New York Daily News. Madden is also the 2010 recipient of the Baseball Hall of Fame's J.G. Taylor Spink Award. He lives in New Jersey.

Table of Contents

Introduction xi

Prologue 1

Chapter 1 Power to the (Other) People 9

Chapter 2 Bill Veeck Leaves the Stage in the American League's Winds of Change 21

Chapter 3 Waiting for Willie 35

Chapter 4 Dodger Blues 55

Chapter 5 Ernie and Hank 69

Chapter 6 Casey's Spring of Discontent 87

Chapter 7 Leo's Midas Touch 107

Chapter 8 Indian Summer 127

Chapter 9 A Tree Dies (Slowly) in Brooklyn 155

Chapter 10 Twilight of the Gods 187

Chapter 11 Dem Wuz Some Gints 209

Chapter 12 Dusty and "The Catch" 229

Epilogue 253

Acknowledgements 263

Bibliography 267

Credits 269

Index 271

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1954: The Year Willie Mays and the First Generation of Black Superstars Changed Major League Baseball Forever 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
OldWahoo More than 1 year ago
Good read for anyone interesed in MLB history. Well written.
MinTwinsNY More than 1 year ago
As a reader who enjoys books on significant times and events in a particular sport’s history, this book had me very interested. The full title says it best about the year 1954 and the significance it had in baseball history. This book not only looks into the topic of race during this year in Major League Baseball but it also recaps the seasons of the three New York teams and the Cleveland Indians. In that sense of these topics, author Bill Madden does a decent job of taking the reader back to that year and its importance in baseball history. One of the most important items mentioned was that it marked the first time that both World Series teams, the New York Giants and the Cleveland Indians, had black players. Each team had four and all eight played important roles in the success of their teams. There are stories about many black players including Willie Mays, Larry Doby and Henry Aaron interspersed throughout the book. Since the integration of baseball was an important topic of the book, these types of passages were plentiful. They were well written and informative without coming across as judgmental or angry – just telling what happened. The recap of the season was told through the four teams mentioned above, and as a result, it felt that this part was lacking in some aspects. For example, Robin Roberts led the National League in wins that season with 23 and was an all-star but one would not know about his accomplishments except for the fact that he pitched against the Giants. Because of this fact, Roberts was finally mentioned in the book. While it makes sense to write the most about the most successful teams of the season, the lack of information about the other twelve teams in the major leagues was a letdown. The World Series did get a chapter but aside from the famous catch made by Willie Mays that seemed anticlimactic as well. However, that is more likely due to the fact the Giants swept the Indians in four straight games more than anything the author wrote about that series. Overall, the book is an easy read about a watershed year in major league baseball. Readers who are baseball historians will especially enjoy this book on the 1954 season and the advancements made by black players in both leagues.
senated More than 1 year ago
Great nostalgic read for somebody of my "vintage" I'm 68 years old and remember the emerging black super Stars and how they changed the fortunes of certain franchises. The book also offers some interesting theory on why african Americans participation in the major leagues peaked in the 80's and dropped significantly in the 90's and beyond. Reliving that era (50's) was fun.