Synopses & Reviews
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..
"The legendary outfielder remains an idol in this starstruck authorized biography. Journalist Hirsch (Hurricane: The Miraculous Journey of Rubin Carter) makes Mays 'the savior' of the floundering Giants franchise, celebrates his 'supernatural' power, speed, and fielding chops and his godlike physique; toasts his 'innocence and joy,' abstemious lifestyle, and kindness to children; and credits him with stopping a San Francisco race riot with a public service announcement. Hirsch is more restrained about his subject's darker side, his financial difficulties and his often cold and prickly personality. He barely mentions Mays's use of amphetamines, which he does not connect to the athlete's frenetic on-field demeanor and recurrent collapses and hospitalizations for 'exhaustion.' Hirsch is more incisive on the racial tensions roiling a fast-integrating baseball during Mays's career, and on the shift to a faster, more aggressive style of play that Mays helped inaugurate. The author is at his best probing the strategy and mechanics behind Mays's feats of fielding and baserunning; his detailed exegeses of individual plays, including an epic account of the over-the-shoulder catch in the 1954 World Series, reveal just how much art and science went into being Willie Mays. In Hirsch's admiring portrait, Mays is certainly awe inspiring, but also remote and a bit impersonal." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
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.