Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend Hardcover – Feb 9 2010
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"Willie Mays had everything--except a first-rate biography. That omission has now been addressed by James S. Hirsch, who has produced a piece of artistry worhty of Mays in center field."--Bloomberg.com
"James Hirsch has written an enormously entertaining and wide-ranging biography--a fitting tribute to Mays . . . and a thoughtful account of the complex and often misunderstood man. . . . True baseball fans will delight in the author's edge-of-seat game reports and picture-perfect descriptions of Mays' superlative talents. . . This is a superb baseball book, but it's also a riveting narrative of Mays' life and times."--Seattle Times
"A terrific new biography . . . [an] always engaging and enlightening book . . . A wonderful introduction to the magical life of one of the finest athletes ever."--San Francisco Chronicle
"Hirsch has produced a masterful biography that has the same freshness and excitement that Mays generated as a player. All the highlights are there in shining, solid detail. It's a must-read for any baseball fan."--Tampa Bay Online
"James S. Hirsch compellingly recounts Mays' career . . . giving even Mays' iconic moments, such as 'The Catch' in the 1954 World Series, a sense of tension as if they were unfolding anew. . . . Great baseball reading, by an accomplished writer . . . about a wondrous ballplayer and man with gifts beyond the diamond."--Associated Press
"The book, documenting Mays’ rise from Negro leagues star to major league icon, also serves as a history lesson."--USA Today
"Tautly written . . . Mr. Hirsch captures Willie’s greatness on the field.”--Wall Street Journal
“Does a better job than any book before of getting at what it means to be Willie Mays.”—Sports Illustrated
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.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I feel a bit of sadness about Willie, having read this book, the same sadness I had as a 9-year-old in 1973, watching him stumble when rounding second, trying to go from first to third on a single, in the 1973 World Series, and having to crawl back to second.
Whether due more to innate personality tendencies, his own reactions to segregation in his native Alabama in general, or associated with baseball, his family of origin, or a combination of this and more, it's sad that he doesn't open up even more.
And while I, being Caucasian, am in no position to judge Willie on his activism in civil rights, and agree with him that we don't all have the same temperament, Hirsch does show how Robinson and Aaron could wish so hard for more from him and be frustrated he didn't give that.
But, Mays ultimately lived for baseball above all else. And Hirsch shows that, too.
Speaking of that, I'm sure Bowie Kuhn's ban on Mays' associating with baseball while doing casino work had to kill him. Something else it would have been nice to have him open up more about.
But, the not opening up is itself part of Mays. Hirsch also does a good job of showing how Mays, in his own quiet way, refuted or rejected various stereotypes.
A good sports bio.
When he signed with the New York Giants he had a meteoric rise through the minors and when the Giants promoted him from Minneapolis to New York the fans loved him so much in Minneapolis the Giants owner placed an ad in the Minneapolis paper apologizing for taking Willie away from them. Where this intensely dogged story explodes into an even higher gear (in this old-school-fanatics opinion) is when he gets to New York and plays for the man who would become his mentor... protector... Father figure... and PR staff... the inimitable Leo "THE LIP" Durocher. No stone is left unturned and none of the course language on the field and in the locker room is spared. Having been a fan of Durocher from his Dodger days I had to laugh and acknowledge the authenticity of "The-LIP'S" words when after Willie started his big league career off with an 0 for 12 slump at the plate... and then got his first hit... a home run off of future Hall Of Fame pitcher Warren Spahn... Durocher was quoted as saying: "I NEVER SAW A *darn* BALL LEAVE A *darn* PARK SO *darn* FAST IN MY *darn* LIFE." "The savior had arrived."
Another refreshing ability in the author's work is that he does not hesitate for a second in sharing Willie's weaknesses as well as his Superman like strengths. When documenting the famous comeback in the 1951 pennant chase when the Giants overcame the Dodgers "insurmountable" lead to force a 2 out of 3 playoff series... which of course led to Bobby Thompson's "SHOT HEARD ROUND THE WORLD" that won the pennant... it so happened that Mays was on deck. Willie admits to praying while he was on deck: "PLEASE DON'T LET IT BE ME. DON'T MAKE ME COME TO BAT NOW, G-D." This surprising weakness in Mays's self-confidence became pivotal in Mays future. "HE WAS EMBARRASSED BY HIS TIMIDITY, ASHAMED THAT HE DID NOT WANT TO BE THE MAN AT THE PLATE WITH THE GAME ON THE LINE. HE WAS DETERMINED TO CHANGE THAT."
This book has encyclopedic power as it delivers FIVE-HUNDRED-SIXTY-SIX-PAGES of hypnotic information ranging from Willie battling Hall Of Famer centerfielders Duke Snider of the Brooklyn Dodgers and Mickey Mantle of the New York Yankees for supremacy of a city... let alone the world. And the magical 1954 World Series which of course included one of the greatest catches in the history of baseball... and is the last time the Giants whether in New York or San Francisco ever won a world championship. It also includes Willie going in the Army despite his trying to... and failing to get out through legal challenges. Again the author and Willie pull no punches when they write: "BUT TO HIS CREDIT HE NEVER EXAGGERATED HIS MILITARY SERVICE OR MADE HIMSELF OUT TO BE A FALSE HERO. AS HE SAID IN AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY, I HAVE NO PRIDE IN MY ARMY CAREER, BUT I HAVE NO APOLOGIES FOR IT EITHER. I DID WHAT THE MAN SAID." Like I said a beautifully documented *true*-life story. There are also SIXTY-FIVE PAGES OF ACKNOWLEDGMENTS... NOTES... BIBLIOGRAPHY... and INDEX. It's all here including the heated hatred-fueled rivalry between the Dodgers and Giants (It should be noted that Willie was one player who the Dodger fans applauded at Ebbets Field)... to Willie's reaching the pinnacle of national success and adoration which ranged from national magazine covers to actress Tallulah Bankhead stating: "THERE HAVE BEEN TWO GENIUSES, WILLIE MAYS AND WILLIE SHAKESPEARE." And of course there was the decline of the once great Mays as he stayed too long and finished his career with the Mets. Note: The author made a historical statistical mistake on page 189 when he said Willie finished second in the league in home runs behind Gil Hodges in 1954. Actually Willie was third. "Big" Ted Kluszewski of the Cincinnati Reds led the league with forty-nine home runs... Hodges was second with forty-two... and Willie was third with forty-one.
You won't be able to read this SIX-HUNDRED-PAGE-BOOK in one sitting... but you'll be glad you can't... because every page is a gift to true baseball fans.
I was one of those who grew up and into my adulthood thinking that Willie Mays was the best ballplayer of all time. This book confirms that. Now I know for sure that he was. Not only was a genuine, all-around, complete ballplayer, but he was a gentleman, modest, and a very kind man. He was and still is my hero. God Bless Willie Mays. And God Bless James Hirsch for writing this wonderful biography.