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Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend by James…

Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend (edition 2010)

by James S. Hirsch (Author)

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254866,337 (4.11)5
Title:Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend
Authors:James S. Hirsch (Author)
Info:Scribner (2010), Edition: First Edition, 640 pages
Collections:Your library

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



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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.
( )
  jimrgill | May 7, 2015 |
  StephenBeaulieu | Dec 8, 2014 |
What can I say? I really enjoyed reading this biography of Willie Mays, who I saw play at the Polo Grounds as a kid. This is an authorized biography, so it doesn't explore every dark corner of Mays's life, but who wants to go there anyway? ( )
  nmele | Apr 6, 2013 |
First, had to overcome dislike of narrator of these audio disks. As someone curious about Mays' rise during segregation, I was pleasantly surprised to find that his career in that regard was not as bad as most. generally his teammates were loyal to him. And his upbringing was pretty stable. I just got bored with it with 2 more CDs to go so finished it but found my mind wantering. ( )
  bogopea | Mar 25, 2012 |
An absorbing biography revealing much that was not known to me at the time the events occurred.

Mays entered professional baseball in the years after World War 2 when some baseball owners began to accept that top players of all colors would bring in the fans and win games. As one of the first players crossing the color bar, Mays did not have an easy time of it. But his love of the game and style of play won him overwhelming and widespread admiration.

The author carefully deals with many complex and sensitive issues. While this biography is not a simple adulatory work, it could be said to admire the Mays for his spirit and achievements in the complexity of his times.

Readers will learn much about how racism was manifested in professional baseball in the US since the 1940s; what black players had to endure as a result; and how the different black players dealt with these issues. Mays' responses were his own. The author strives to present their integrity.

Another fascinating theme in this book was the development of Mays' attitude toward professional baseball. Given the opportunity to play pro ball, his initial attitude was almost to play for free, he loved the game so much. Baseball was his life (although as a young man he was also an excellent football player). He was not found among those seeking to organize as players against the owners to win greater rights. But in later years we see how he came to feel more personally the labor and human rights issues being raised by those players.

Finally, for baseball players, the author provides frequent insights into Mays' canny craftwork and feats of brilliant talent. ( )
1 vote Wheatland | Sep 23, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
Hirsch has given us a book as valuable for the young as it is for the old. The young should know that there was once a time when Willie Mays lived among the people who came to the ballpark. That on Harlem summer days he would join the kids playing stickball on St. Nicholas Place in Sugar Hill and hold a broom-handle bat in his large hands, wait for the pink rubber spaldeen to be pitched, and routinely hit it four sewers. The book explains what that sentence means. Above all, the story of Willie Mays reminds us of a time when the only performance-enhancing drug was joy.
"Willie Mays" is a thoroughly researched and sympathetic book that will probably stand as the definitive biography of baseball's greatest performer. What's disheartening is that, in peeling away the layers of Mays' insularity, Hirsch has found a prickly personality and a naive apologist.
James S. Hirsch’s new book, “Willie Mays: The Life, the Legend,” is the first biography written with Mays’s participation. The result is an authoritative if sometimes listless book, one that’s less “Say Hey” than so-so. Like a long out to center field that scores a runner, however, it’s a book that gets the job done.
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The Best of All Time
Was Blessed with Speed and Power
Will Always Be a Giant

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Authorized by Willie Mays and written by a "New York Times" bestselling author, this is the definitive biography of one of baseball's immortals.

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