Willie Mays began playing baseball in 1947 in the negro leagues, and his career mirrored that of baseball itself. After being drafted into the major leagues with the onset of integration, Willie played in what is considered to be the golden era of baseball. He was the most prominent star to move to California with the Giants in the great Western migration of the game. In 1963, as Dr. King was staging sit-ins at lunch counters, Mays was earning a league-leading $100,000 salary. When he retired, Mays had played in 150 games over thirteen consecutive years, from 1954-1966, a league record. He was voted into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.
Willie Mays is arguably the greatest all-around player in baseball history. He did everything right. He recorded 3,383 hits and 660 home runs (currently fourth in the all-time list). He earned NL Rookie of the Year honors in 1951, won two MVP awards, accumulated twelve Gold Glove Awards, played in a record-tying twenty four All-Star games, and participated in four World Series.
In the first biography authorized by and written with the cooperation of Willie Mays, James Hirsch reveals the man behind the player: the years of racial attacks, the stress of celebrity, and the mental and physical toll the game took on him. Drawing on interviews with Mays himself, as well as many close personal friends, family, and teammates, Hirsch presents a complex portrait of one of America’s most significant cultural icons.
At 560 pages, this is certainly not a quick read, but it’s definitely an adventure worth embarking on. Much more than a book on baseball, Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend is also a comprehensive look at American history and the civil rights era. This is non-fiction that reads like fiction – you can look forward to curling up on your couch with this one.
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