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Willie Mays

Willie Mays

The Life, The Legend

  • bestseller
Considered to be “as monumental—and enigmatic—a legend as American sport has ever seen” (Sports Illustrated), Willie Mays is arguably the greatest player in baseball history, still revered for the joy and passion he brought to the game. Mays began as a teenage phenom in the Negro Leagues, became a cult hero in New York, and was the headliner in Major League Baseball’s bold expansion to California. With 3,383 hits, 660 home runs, and 338 stolen bases, he was a blend of power, speed and stylistic bravado that fans had never seen before. Now, in the first biography authorized by and written with the cooperation of Willie Mays, James Hirsch reveals the man behind the player.

Willie is perhaps best known for “The Catch”—his breathtaking over-the-shoulder grab in the 1954 World Series. It is a classic visual that represents a transcendent figure who ushered in a new era of baseball, received standing ovations around the globe, and—during the turbulent civil rights era—advocated understanding and reconciliation. However, the years of racial attacks, the stress of celebrity, and the mental and physical demands of the game also took a toll. Meticulously researched and drawing on lengthy interviews with Mays, as well as with close friends, family, and teammates,

Hirsch presents a complex portrait of one of America’s most significant cultural icons.
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  • Simon & Schuster Audio | 
  • ISBN 9780743599856 | 
  • February 2010
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James Hirsch: Off The Shelf

Authorized by Willie Mays, the definitive biography of one of the greatest baseball players of all time.

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About the Author

James S. Hirsch
Photograph by Bill O'Connell

James S. Hirsch

James S. Hirsch is former reporter for The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. He is the author of four nonfiction books, including the New York Times bestseller. Hurricane: The Miraculous Journey of Rubin Carter, which was the basis for the film of the same name starring Denzel Washington. Hirsch is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and has a master’s degree from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas. He lives in the Boston area with his wife, Sheryl, and their children, Amanda and Garrett. Born and raised in St. Louis, he remains a diehard Cardinal fan.


Author Revealed

Q. how did you come to write Willie Mays?

A. In 2000, after I wrote a book on Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, someone suggested I should write a book on Willie Mays. While I never saw him play, his name is magic to any baseball fan, and his career -- from 1951 to 1973 -- exquisitely overlapped the modern civil rights movement. Mays was one of the most prominent blacks in America at that time, so any authoritative biography of him would be about more than baseball. I was able to track down one of Willie's few trusted friends, and he asked Willie if he was interested in cooperating on a biography. Willie said no. I returned to Willie's friend two years later with the same request, and Willie again said no. I tried a third time, and had the same result. I then tried a fourth time -- seven years after I made the initial effort -- and this time Willie agreed to meet me. It was worth the wait.

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