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Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend Hardcover – Feb 9 2010

5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (Feb. 9 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416547908
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416547907
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 4.6 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 717 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #620,833 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"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."

"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.

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Inside This Book

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Top Customer Reviews

By Lava1964 TOP 1000 REVIEWER on Oct. 15 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This long biography of Willie Mays is well worth reading. It discusses his shy personality that greatly contrasted with his exuberant playing style. I especially liked the stories about how Mays was perceived not to be active as a civil rights personality--yet he fought his own battles many times in a quiet and effective manner.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
good book
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa0c13888) out of 5 stars 138 reviews
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa0d7dab0) out of 5 stars amazin' book April 13 2010
By Lee Harper - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is more than a baseball book. It is a history of Jim Crow America from the 20's through the 60's. For those who have no experience, memory or knowledge of a segregated America, this book will be quite an eye opener. In addition, Willie Mays is someone who little has been written about, other than his great baseball talent. He helped open the gates for a quota free desegregation of baseball. And he did it his way: with a smile on his face and the thickest of skin. Bravo to James Hirsch for a well-written and sell-researched book.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa0d7c8ac) out of 5 stars To the degree Willie Mays will reveal himself ... Dec 1 2010
By S. J. Snyder - Published on
Format: Hardcover
He does so in this book.

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.
20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
By Rick Shaq Goldstein - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The first thing that I feel is beneficial to point out to all potential readers is that it doesn't matter who your favorite team is... if you're an old school baseball fan you will absolutely love this book! The author covers in excruciatingly tantalizing detail the world of baseball in the 1940's... 50's... 60's... and 70's. This is the time period that has lovingly been described as both the "GOLDEN-AGE-OF-BASEBALL"... and also been blessed with the poetic ribbon of admiration as the period when "BASEBALL-WAS-STILL-A-GAME!" And no one before or since played with such youthful uninhibited exuberance as Willie "THE-SAY-HEY-KID" Mays. The author leads you from Willie's childhood days in Birmingham Alabama and sheds an informative affectionate light on Willie's Father Cat Mays who was also a good ballplayer and also the young woman... actually just a young girl... his thirteen-year-old Aunt Sarah who was the main female/mother presence in his daily life. Young Willie was so talented that he played professional baseball when he was fifteen-years-old thus giving up his high school baseball eligibility. Willie played in the final years of the Negro League and of course he idolized Jackie Robinson. His favorite player was Joe DiMaggio and Joltin' Joe is who he patterned his batting stance after. He also enjoyed following Stan Musial and Ted Williams. When Willie was ten-years-old he even told people to call him "DiMag".

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.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa0d7c804) out of 5 stars Willie Mays: the real deal July 13 2010
By Chas. Johnson - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I was one of those kids of the late 50s and early 60s fortunate to grow up in the Bay Area, old enough to be a Giants fan, and lucky enough to have a dad who took me to several games at Candlestick. So I got to see Mays in action numerous times, as well as his amazing teammates of that era: Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda, Jim Davenport, et al. My dad and I even got to sit in a third base box for the sixth game of the 1962 World Series. I was in heaven, especially when the Giants won.

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.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa0d7cf18) out of 5 stars Amazing Player and Book Jan. 6 2011
By Adam Bauer - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
While we all know Willie Mays is one of the best baseball players ever, Mr. Hirsch also wrote one of the best biographers ever too. Mr. Hirsch captures the reader's attention and never let's go. The book includes details of baseball while also capturing personal moments. After reading the book, I have a greater appreciation of Willie Mays and others who played during his time. This book is not just for baseball fans, it is for all those can appreciate a story about someone who worked their way to the top of their profession.