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  • Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend

    Wed, 10 Feb 2010 05:57

    Writing in the New York Times, Dwight Garner takes a look at James S. Hirsch's new book, Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend:

    In his 1979 movie, Manhattan, Woody Allen made a list of the things that make life worth living. At the top sat Groucho Marx. But just behind Groucho -- and before the second movement of Mozart's Jupiter Symphony, Louis Armstrong's recording of Potato Head Blues and "those incredible apples and pears by Cezanne" -- came Willie Mays.

    By 1979 Willie Mays had been retired for six years, and his best years as a player were at least a decade and a half behind him. But Mays's infectious smile, his casually electric playmaking, his pell-mell base-running style, his rocket arm (Joe DiMaggio called it the best he ever saw) and his home runs that blasted holes in outfield fences still defined -- and continue to define -- what baseball, in a perfect world, should look like.

    Mays's gifts were almost preternatural. "Willie must have been born under some kind of star," said Leo Durocher, his manager in the early 1950s with the New York Giants. The journalist Murray Kempton compared the originality of Mays's plays to Faulkner and the Delta blues. The sportswriter Roger Kahn said that "Willie's exuberance was his immortality."

    Over the years Mays has issued two ghostwritten autobiographies. But James S. Hirsch's new book, Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend, is the first biography written with Mays's participation. (Mr. Hirsch and Mays intend to split the book's earnings.) The result is an authoritative if sometimes listless book, one that's less "Say Hey" than so-so. Like a long out to center field that scores a runner, however, it's a book that gets the job done (more...)

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