Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend

I finished reading Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend. I brought the book in July after seeing Willie Mays promoting the book on the John Stewart show. I had thrown the book in my suitcase on the way to Spain thinking that I might get Jack interested in reading it. On the plane on the way home, I ran out of books to read so I started reading it myself.

The book provides a very detailed look at Mays' baseball career. In spite of missing almost all of the 1952 season and all of the 1953 season to serve in the Army during the Korean War, Mays played 22 seasons in the major leagues. He played 6 seasons with the New York Giants, 14 seasons with the San Francisco Giants and 2 seasons with the Mets. Mays played in the World Series in 1951, 1954, 1962 and 1974; he played on the winning World Series team only in 1951. Mays was on deck when Bobby Thomson hit the "Shot Heard 'round the World" against the Dodgers to win the 1951 to win the National League pennant. He played in 20 straight all-star games, earned 12 Golden Gloves, won 2 MVPs and was Rookie of Year.

Willie Mays' career serves as the backdrop for looking at a number of other interesting subjects, including the Negro Baseball Leagues, race relations in the 1950's and 1960's, the move of the Giants and the Dodgers from New York to the West Coast, Candlestick Park and the pennant races between the Giants and the Dodgers in the 1960's. Mays' comments about playing in Candlestick were particularly interesting.

My dad was not a baseball fan. As a result, although I grew up in Northern California, I never really started following the Giants until the mid 70's. Consequently, I was not that familar with Mays' career. The book paints a very positive picture of Mays as a player and a person. As the first authorized biography of Willie Mays, I do wonder how much negative information was swept under the table.

Tomasin had also read the book. He and I talked about it while we were at Shasta. We both agreed that the book is extremely detailed in covering the first half of his career, almost too detailed.

I was pleasantly surprised by the book. I started reading it primarily because I did not have another book with me, but I ended up really enjoying the book.

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