When I was researching and
interviewing for my "New York City
Baseball,1947-1957, the Last Golden Age," I
naturally attempted to interview Willie
Mays. He belonged in the book as one of the
great figures in the national pastime in
that era. To my dismay I made contact with
him and learned he was not interested in
being interviewed. He was surly, too.
I found out from other
authors and sports journalists that he
sometimes could be that way, especially if
he did know the person who approached him. I
did try a couple of times later to get
Willie Mays for an interview for other
baseball books I wrote. Same story, Same
Now there is "Willie Mays:
The Life, The Legend" by James S. Hirsch,
(Scribner, $30.00, 624 pages), a book that
proclaims on its cover "Authorized By Willie
Mays." I have never seen that before.
But the book does contain a
mother lode of material covering many of the
key events in the life and times of Willie
Mays although the territory is covered
just as well in other books and with a less
fawning approach. There are many interviews
with most of the usual suspects (Monte Irvin
as always is terrific) and even with Mr.
Mays. A good deal of research is evident.
We get the hits and the runs. We get few
errors. We get the great over-the-shoulder
catch that Mays made in the '54 World
Series, almost eight pages on it although we
still do not know much more about "the
Catch" from this book than is already a
matter of public record.
Ultimately, there's a lot to like about
"Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend." Plenty
of baseball stories, lots of insights into
his life off the playing field and time
spent in various ventures. If you are a fan
of Willie, this is the book for you.
For others, you make the call. For after
forking over thirty dollars and spending a
lot of time going through a book that
tallies 624 pages and could have been half
that length and worked as well the man
behind "The Life, The Legend" is still not
captured in this authorized bio. What we
ultimately wind up with is not a home run,
but a solidly hit double.
Two interesting New York City sports
centered books are "Summers in the Bronx" by
Ira Berkow (Triumph, 235 pages, $15.95,
paper) and Jeffrey Kroessler's "The Greater
New York Sports Chronology" (Columbia
University Press, $74.50 cloth, $24.95,
paper, 336 pages).