After announcing my excitement over my summer reading list, I thought I would start the summer by reading something not on the list. It was, however, recommended by my baseball -loving boyfriend. Well, actually, it was bought by me as a gift for him. He loved it and insisted I read all 556 pages of Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend by James S. Hirsch–the authorized biography.
Do you like baseball? If not, you might want to stop here, admire the cover, admire Willie Mays for his lifelong achievements but I am warning you, this book is not for you. After 556 pages, the conclusion I made is this: Willie Mays lives for baseball. Without the detailed descriptions Hirsch provides of his catches, his at bats, his glorious throws, this book would not be about Mays. And the way Hirsch describes the plays makes you feel like you’ve seen Willie Mays play even if (like me) you weren’t born at the time. I loved it and I wish I had a player like Mays to watch today. Off the field, I loved hearing about Mays’s interactions with children. He loved them and went out of his way to cheer them up, mentor them or even just drive them to the ballgame.
Some reviews of this book criticize the rosy-tinted portrait of Mays since it is an authorized biography. But Hirsch includes not-so-nice incidents from Mays’s life that Mays does not comment on. There is no outright criticism of the subject of this biography, but neither is their any skirting of the issues. Controversies about whether Mays should have spoken out more about civil rights are addressed, especially as they relate to Mays’s relationship with Jackie Robinson, and the reader is left to draw her own conclusions. It worked for me.
Bottom line: For true baseball fans looking to experience or re-live Mays’s glory days–plus learn a little about his life and attitude off the field. For me, a perfect way to kick off the summer (and get a little behind on my self-imposed reading!).