Willie Mays

Willie Mays

The Life, The Legend

  • bestseller
Willie Mays is arguably the greatest player in baseball history, still revered for the passion he brought to the game. He began as a teenager in the Negro Leagues, became a cult hero in New York, and was the headliner in Major League Baseball’s bold expansion to California. He was a blend of power, speed, and stylistic bravado that enraptured fans for more than two decades. Now James Hirsch reveals the man behind the player.

Mays was a transcendent figure who received standing ovations in enemy stadiums and who, during the turbulent civil rights era, urged understanding and reconciliation. More than his records, his legacy is defined by the pure joy that he brought to fans and the loving memories that have been passed to future generations so they might know the magic and beauty of the game. With meticulous research and drawing on interviews with Mays himself as well as with close friends, family, and teammates, Hirsch presents a brilliant portrait of one of America’s most significant cultural icons.
  • Scribner | 
  • 640 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781416547914 | 
  • March 2011
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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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