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Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  1,293 ratings  ·  122 reviews
pConsidered to be "as monumental -- and enigmatic -- a legend as American sport has ever seen" (iSports Illustrated/i), Willie Mays is arguably the greatest player in baseball history, still revered for the passion he brought to the game. He began as a teenager in the Negro Leagues, became a cult hero in New York, and was the headliner in Major League Baseball's bold expan...more
ebook, 640 pages
Published April 3rd 2010 by Scribner (first published February 9th 2009)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,373)
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Jason Koivu
A strong and well-constructed biography of one of the first black men integrated into the majors in early 1950s America, and more importantly to the man himself, one of the best players and nicest guys ever to play the game. Willie Mays: The Life, the Legend encompasses a great deal of this monumental and yet utterly humble man's life as well as the times he lived it in prose that is at times lyrical - especially when it comes to describing baseball - but which is at all times throughout the boo...more
Nathaniel
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Chuck
It's stunning to think that, as important he is as a baseball player and as an American icon, there has never been a biography written about Willie Mays. For people who actually read my book reviews, you will note that my summer reading kick has included some sports biography. The last book I posted on was a life of Henry Aaron, and, although I didn't know a great deal about Mays at the time, the one troubling thing I found was the author's need to "dog" Mays to promote Aaron (something Aaron hi...more
Nathan
My previous knowledge of Willie Mays was limited to the once-over given him in grade-school history books: he was an African-American who overcame racism in the national pastime and became a Great American Figure: a catalyst of social change who just happened to play baseball. Hirsch is more thorough, but hardly less adulatory -in the other extreme. This ponderous volume flirts constantly with hagiography. Hirsch paints Mays not as the Great African-American Hope (apparently, he was actually acc...more
Mary
I have always felt extremely lucky that I grew up during what is probably certain to be baseball's "golden age" - after World War II, but before television was widely available in most homes. In the summers, we played baseball all day in our neighborhood - boys and girls together - and then listened to baseball on the radio in the evenings at home with our families and friends. EVERYONE talked about baseball, knew the players, knew the scores, kept the stats. Even in school, our teachers "treate...more
Spiros
Mar 01, 2012 Spiros rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who wants to know greatness
Willie Mays was my third childhood hero, right behind Curious George and Batman. In our games of streetball (or drivewayball), I willingly ceded any right to "be" Willie to Anthony McBride, who was a year older and infinitely more athletic than me. I was perfectly content to "be" Bobby Bonds. Hence, it was a long time before I nerved myself to pick up this tome, and it was only because I found a $10 hardcover copy at Housing Works that I wound up purchasing it, and carried it around the East Coa...more
Timothy
James Hirsch did his best. He tried his hardest to shine a light on a player notorious for being closed off and inaccessible. I have no qualms with the writing, which was very well done, and the research and anecdotes are top-notch. But I have no idea what Willie Mays felt or feels about anything. The racism he must have endured growing up and all through his playing career? We know he did virtually nothing in response, but did he really not have any strong feeling about the injustice? Or should...more
Adrian
The full life at 557 pages. Covers in detail his two years in the negro leagues and 22 years in the majors. Hirsch is good on race relations and portrays Mays as an arch conciliator, seldom taking offense and always seeing the other guy's point of view mainly because this was his personality. This caused trouble with more combative types like Jackie Robinson. I wasn't aware of Mays' difficulty in buying a house in San Francisco in the late 50s nor about the Giants' racial problems which Hirsch b...more
Robin
I grew up watching Willie Mays playing with the New York Mets, and was delighted when I learned he was a hero for the SF Giants too, the team I now follow. Reading this book was a perfect way to sustain my love of baseball during the off season. I learned how being a Mets fan and a Giants fan makes sense. I learned about the roots of baseball in New York. I learned about the horrific prejudice that Mays and other African-American players endured. I learned how and why Willie Mays was an Extraord...more
William
If you love baseball, if you love America (but then I repeat myself) you will love this book. I learned about one of our greatest athletes and about the America in which he lived: Alabama in the 30s up through a new America in the 90s. "Say Hey" Willie's beginning as a "colored" (a non pejorative term) boy in Alabama helped make those changes by his character. I think a reader would almost...almost, have to like baseball to truly love the book as I did, but Hirsche's well writen biography certai...more
Romela Encina
Willie Mays was a legendary baseball player who played for the New York and San Francisco Giants. He entered baseball at a time where segregation was still prevalent but he managed to become an influential figure in the Civil Rights Movement by playing good ball. But Willie had to find a way to handle his popularity as well as deal with his race and his career.

It is evident that the author, James S. Hirsch, has put a lot of time into researching the details of Willie's life because he explains...more
John Behle
Jun 15, 2013 John Behle rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: you don't have to be a baseball fan
Recommended to John by: Baltimore County library staff
Vera my wife is learning baseball and we enjoy a Washington Nationals game a couple of times each summer. This book was fun to read during baseball season.

I saw Willie Mays play at Crosley Field in Cincinnati when I was growing up. Magnetic, gifted from God, talent to watch.

A good, solid well crafted bio of this great athlete, this great human being.
Tricia Gabel
i don't care one little bit about baseball but still found this fascinating!
Frank
The best baseball player of all time. I'll concede that, maybe, anotehr player could hit, hit for power, run, throw and catch, better than Willie Mays. but I'll never be eight yers old again. And, back then, Willie Mays was God. An electrifying player--if the Giants lost, 15-1, it was OK if Mays had hit a home run. The biography was very satisfying and enlightening. If you don't enjoy baseball, you still might find the book worth reading, if only from the civil rights viewpoint. Mays, essentialy...more
Rogers
Willie Mays may be the least well known baseball superstar, in terms of personality, that exists. This book goes along way to giving the reader insight to the man. I found out a lot of things about Mays that I didn't know.

In terms of Mays place in the game, I think the author summed it up quite well. 'Babe Ruth may have been the most dominant player as compared to his peers at the time. Ted Williams was probably a better hitter than Ruth. But Mays was the master of the game.' Willie could do ev...more
Scott Taylor
My first introduction to Mays was via the Peanuts comic strips of my youth. It was a spelling bee, and Charlie Brown was asked to spell "maze." "M...A...Y...S" Charlies says, and immediately the teacher says "Waaaa waaa waaaaaaaa" which, in this case, means "incorrect!" It illustrates something I learned in this book, that Willie Mays was not only a great baseball player but also a great ambassador for the game into popular culture.

An absolute treat, this book takes the reader back to the 1930s...more
Cheryl Gatling
I was initially a bit intimidated by the size of this book. I knew I wanted to read about Willie Mays, but did I want to read that much about Willie Mays? Yes, it turned out I did. The accomplishments of his long career were easy to read. He began in the Negro Leagues, and when he first got called up to the New York Giants, he was so young and insecure that, at first, he refused to go. Leo Durocher gave him encouragement and protection until his skills blossomed. It seemed he did everything well...more
Andy Miller
This is a comprehensive biography of Willie Mays starting with his growing up outside Birmingham Alabama. We of course all know about Willie Mays but one thing I liked about this book is learning so many details about his life.

In high school, baseball was his "third" sport. He was considered a better basketball player and was an superb quarterback. Mays focused on baseball because in late 40's and 50's there were many more opportunities for Black athletes in baseball.

The author, James Hirsch, ba...more
James
For those who never got to see him play—an ever-growing segment that now includes a couple of generations of fans—the legend of Willie Mays is built on grainy film of "The Catch" in the 1954 World Series, maybe a shot or two of him zipping around the bases, and numbers like 660 (home runs), 338 (stolen bases), and 2,062 (runs scored). We accept his greatness because it's always been there, a standard for the heroes of our times to be measured against. He shows up on any credible all-time all-sta...more
Tom Gase
I loved this book. I guess the best compliment I can give this book is that I'm a baseball fan, but a Dodger fan and I LOATHE the Giants. I mean, I hate the colors orange and black because of them. But that being said, this book on the Say Hey Kid was flawless. It's long at 560 pages, but it's basically all baseball. About 10 to 20 pages on each year he played in the Majors, a little more on his years in 1951, 1954 and 1965, but all in all you get to follow Mays throughout his career. Only the l...more
Keith
One of the professors at the seminary I attended once said that God is closer to us "than our underwear". For me, it's kind of that way with Willie Mays. I grew up looking at box scores in the daily papers searching for his stats. Every chance I got to watch him on that newfangled thing called a television, I was enthralled. He was the only player people expected to hit a home run every time he batted, steal every base he could if he didn't and got on some other way, catch everything that was h...more
Adrienne
As a fan of the San Francisco Giants, I knew all about Willie Mays. He played center field, had a great arm and hit lots of home runs. His nickname was the "Say Hey Kid" and he made an amazing catch in the 1954 World Series (I have a copy of the famous photograph on the wall of my office at work). So, yeah, I knew everything about Willie Mays.

At least, I thought I knew plenty about Mays, but after reading James Hirsch's entertaining biography, I realized that there was a lot that I didn't know b...more
hamptonenglish10
Eric Mikulan
Ms. Brooks and Ms. Sims
English Book Review
7 January 2013

For my non-fiction book I read the book Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend by James S. Hirsch. This book tells of the story of Willie Mays life from growing up in Alabama to becoming a Major League Baseball player. The book tells of May's struggles as he got drafted out of high school as he grew up in a time of great racism. His struggles continued as he began to play in minor league baseball in Minneapolis. Due to the great ra...more
Chris Munson
Anyone that knows me knows that I have a passion for baseball. So, I often try to read something baseball related. I also like to read about great people. Recently, I saw that Willie Mays and I shared the same birthday and I saw this book in the bargain bin. Willie Mays definitely had an interesting life. From his time in the Negro Leagues to his debut in the major leagues, Willie's story shows what you can overcome if you work hard, never give up and are surrounded by supporting and loving peop...more
Len
I like to start each baseball season by reading a baseball book, and it's hard to imagine a better baseball hero to read about than Willie Mays. This book was a thorough life story, starting with his childhood in Alabama through his time in the Negro leagues, on to his brief minor league experience -- and then of course the story of his remarkable major league career with the Giants and Mets.

Willie Mays has always been something of an anomaly -- a public figure with a very private personal life....more
Ty
This is one of the few biographies of the great Willie Mays and the only one written with his support (thus "authorized"). the book is a very detailed look at the Say Hey Kid's life and times. i believe that Mays is the greatest baseball player of all time, and not coincidentally, the greatest NY/SF Giants player of all time, of course. reading through the description of his playing career was fascinating for me, as i never got a chance to see him play in real life. i found it a bit odd that the...more
Jamie
The first comprehensive authorized biography of Willie Mays, the greatest centerfielder of all time, was worth the wait. Hirsch examines all of Mays' playing years as a Giant and a Met (sigh), while looking at his rise to stardom in the context of the civil rights movement and his childhood growing up in the Deep South and playing in the Negro Leagues. It also delves into his relationships with coaches and other players, including the temperamental but fatherly manager Leo Durocher and Jackie Ro...more
Gary Land
Willie Mays was one of my boyhood heroes. Indeed, my now well-worn San Francisco Giants 1959 Yearbook with his (and Willie McCovey's) autograph remains a prized possession. One gratifying element in reading this book was to learn that my youthful hero-worship was not misplaced; Mays was and is an admirable man on and off the baseball field. More significantly, Hirsch places Mays's style of play and accomplishments within the context of baseball history, noting how he and other black stars enlive...more
William Cunion
The first (?) extensive biography of the Say Hey Kid. Extremely enjoyable book, as it brings to life a figure who does not easily lend himself to a book-length biographical treatment. Despite his enormous talent and his obvious place in American history, Mays’s life largely lacks the drama and conflict of most biographical subjects. In fact, he comes across as a rather simple man, one who loved what he did, and who enjoyed adulation, but shied from the spotlight. He avoided controversy, virtuall...more
Craig
A pretty decent biography, but it kind of made me wonder if I really needed to read this. There was some cool stuff about traveling teams and civil rights stuff, but in general, there wasn't too much surprising.

I guess I just feel that while I really like Willie Mays, I don't know if his life was really full of enough interesting things to fill a multi-hundred page book. And I get to thinking this about a lot of people I admire. Kurt Vonnegut is my favorite author, but after Dresden, did anythin...more
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