Saturday, June 12, 2010

Book Review: Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend

Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend
James S. Hirsch
Scribner, 2010
640 pp.

Epic. The word describes both the career of Willie Mays and the new book penned by James Hirsch chronicling his life, "Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend". Clocking in at over 600 pages, it would be trite to call it in-depth. Hirsch reveals how the legend of Mays developed from his humble beginnings in Alabama playing in the segregated Negro Leagues to becoming the grand regality of Baseball's Hall of Fame.

While Mays' career has been well chronicled and documented, a few things are evident from Hirsch's work. A yeoman's job was done in researching this book. Countless interviews with teammates, friends and family as well as citations from newspapers both national and regional propel the story farther than Mays' lofty accomplishments on the baseball field.

What also becomes apparent as you get familiar with Mays, that while having no biological children of his own, he held a lifelong appreciation for the innocence of childhood. Mays was never too busy to make an appearance to speak and visit with the legions of kids that idolized his play. From playing stick ball with the Harlem locals and taking them for ice cream to making countless appearances at children's hospitals, Willie would literally give the shirt off of his back for a child in need.

While Mays has been distant and guarded in public during recent times, Hirsch allows baseball fans to get to know Mays through this insightful look into his life and career. While it might take you the entire summer to finish reading “The Life, The Legend”, it will give you enough time to digest the totality of the enigma that is Willie Mays just in time for the pennant races.


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