Willie Mays: The Life, the Legend

Willie Mays: The Life, the Legend

by James S Hirsch
3.6 49


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Willie Mays: The Life, the Legend by James S Hirsch

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..

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781416547907
Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: 02/09/2010
Pages: 640
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.80(d)

About 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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Willie Mays: The Life, the Legend 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 49 reviews.
BlackNGold More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Kataman1 More than 1 year ago
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!
YourBrotherBob More than 1 year ago
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.
ColoRich More than 1 year ago
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.
JimRGill2012 More than 1 year ago
This very well written biography meticulously chronicles many—if not all—of the important events in the life of Willie Mays as both a superstar baseball player and a complex and often inscrutable man. Perhaps the most enlightening aspect of Hirsch’s comprehensive examination of Mays’ life is his ability to clearly contextualize Mays’ achievements and experiences as part of baseball history and American history. Consequently, reading this book is comparable to reading a history of 20th-century America as viewed through the lens of one extraordinary man’s life; as he tells Mays’ story, Hirsch tackles many of the major issues of 20th-century America—namely race and racism, economics, and the growing popularity and cultural significance of sports. Hirsch spends a significant amount of time comparing and contrasting Mays’ role with respect to the civil rights movement with Jackie Robinson’s role. In this context, Mays appears to be a more conciliatory and less confrontational figure—which is true to character for him throughout his personal life and professional career. Whether playing the role of peacemaker in the Juan Marichal-Johnny Roseboro conflict (and the NY Mets fans vs. Pete Rose conflict during the 1973 NLCS) or patiently courting—over the course of years—his future second wife, Mays always chose the path of least resistance. This seeming passivity was often erroneously regarded as weakness or lack of fortitude, and Mays was sometimes left bitter and distrustful of others due to his experiences. Mays’ performance on the diamond and his genuine altruism, however, revealed a far more complex and compassionate man who valued harmony and peace above all else. Hirsch has written a compelling biography of one of the most complex and celebrated figures in modern baseball history. Mays is not without his flaws, and this book is far from a hagiography, but Mays is, without a doubt, the epitome of class and a man worthy of the admiration that so many have for him.  
cwbMT More than 1 year ago
Great story!!!
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1000_Character_Reviews More than 1 year ago
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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catcher44 More than 1 year ago
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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BB679 More than 1 year ago
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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