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Willie Mays: The Life, the Legend

4.03  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,719 Ratings  ·  141 Reviews
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 expansion to California. He was a blend of power, speed, and stylistic bravado that enraptured fans for more than two decades ...more
Kindle Edition, 640 pages
Published (first published February 9th 2009)
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Jason Koivu
Jun 13, 2012 Jason Koivu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, sports
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
Jul 05, 2012 Nathaniel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 06, 2010 Nathan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: franklin-library
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
May 30, 2013 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 15, 2012 Timothy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: baseball
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
Paul Pessolano
Apr 18, 2015 Paul Pessolano rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Willie Mays. The Life, The Legend” by James S. Hirsch, published by Scribner.

Category – Sports/Baseball Publication Date – February 09, 2010

“The Catch” was made by Willie Mays in the 1954 World Series, and there is no other “The Catch” in any other sport, that includes football.

The story of Willie Mays goes far beyond the sport of baseball, although baseball was his life and he gave everything he had to the sport. The era of Willie Mays saw not only great changes in baseball but also in politic
Jan 31, 2015 Dan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’m of two minds concerning this book.

The first is that it’s great and makes me a little sad. James Hirsch’s biography on Willie Mays captures the magic of mid 20th Century baseball. Pitchers pitched whole games, nobody had heard of steroids and games were an action packed two hours. People mostly heard games over the radio and players were people you’d see walking down the street.

Baseball mysticism aside, this book was kind of boring. Hirsch spends 500+ pages on Mays with another 100+ pages of
Jan 06, 2013 hamptonenglish10 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Mar 24, 2010 Len rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 17, 2011 Chuck rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 04, 2013 Ty rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Mar 01, 2012 Spiros rated it really liked it  ·  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
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
Apr 08, 2013 Robin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 08, 2012 William rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Tim Basuino
Mar 27, 2015 Tim Basuino rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Say Hey Kid – every Giants fan knows about him, but how many of this day and age actually know him? And how many fans of a previous day and age actually knew him? As time has passed, the role of enigmatic Giants superstar has long since passed from Willie Mays to Barry Bonds (and has more or less remained empty since 2007).

In James S. Hirsch’s authorized biography (I don’t know whether the fact that it’s ‘authorized’ is a good thing or not – I mean, it’s nice that Mays cooperated and all, bu
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
David Lucander
A fun read about someone I always revered but never knew much about (I'm 34), but this book really could have been shorter - especially considering that The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks and The Radical King give compelling stories with about half the page count.

I really feel like I got to know Mays, the same way I felt about Sam Cooke after Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke, and I appreciated what Hirsch had to say about Mays and his times, but this was just...a...little...long. If I
May 07, 2015 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 Ame
Tricia Gabel
Jul 18, 2012 Tricia Gabel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i don't care one little bit about baseball but still found this fascinating!
Keith McGowan
A very thorough biography of the Hall of Fame baseball player. The book delved into just about every aspects of the "Say hey" kid's life, but perhaps not too deeply so as not to offend the subject. I would recommend this book only to a baseball fanatic, as the book, like baseball games, goes on and on.

There are insightful sections on the racial discrimination that Mays faced and how he chose to deal with it. Think that San Francisco does not have prejudiced people? Might want to read this book.
Mar 28, 2010 Frank rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 05, 2012 Rogers rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Scott Taylor
Feb 13, 2011 Scott Taylor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Nov 26, 2012 Andy Miller rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 23, 2012 James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 02, 2010 Tom Gase rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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