For any of you that are baseball fans: do you ever wonder what life was like for the legend Willie Mays? How did he get to stardom and acquire his nickname of the “Say Hey Kid?” James S. Hirsch shows us throughout Willie Mays: The Life The Legend of the challenges and struggles Mays faced during his early years to become arguably the greatest center fielder of all time.
Mays was raised in Fairfield, Alabama during the Great Depression. His mother abandoned him as a young child. His father was at work most of the time trying to make ends meet for a family that consisted of a young Mays and his other cousins. The children were cared for by their Aunt Sarah. Mays father, Cat Mays, played baseball at the mills. He would eventually play on his fathers team at a young age, helping him earn a shot a professional baseball.
Mays would go on to make his major league debut in 1951 with the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds. He would struggle mightily at first, but would help lead the team to a National League pennant that season when Bobby Thomson hit the “shot heard around the world.”
The next season, Mays would go on to serve for the United States Army in the Korean War. However, by 1954, he would go on to be a Major League star and would become one of the most feared hitters in the baseball. He was also known for his amazing jump and speed in center field. Mays is known for making “The Catch” during the 1954 World Series that helped propel the Giants to their last title until 2010. This would also be the same year that his Aunt Sarah died, who was his only mother figure growing up.
The Giants eventually moved to San Francisco in 1958. This created havoc in Mays life, because housing was very hard to acquire for African Americans in the area during this time. He and his wife, Marghuerite, adopted a young child, and struggled to handle money while finding different places to stay. They would divorce in the 1960’s, and he would marry Mae Louise Allen in November of 1971. He was disliked in San Francisco at first, receiving boos during normal slumps a player in professional baseball has. However, Mays grew to be a fan favorite and the city was saddened to see him go off to finish his career with the New York Mets in 1973.
Willie Mays: The Life The Legend by James S. Hirsch is a great story of a baseball star who came from humble roots to become one of the greatest baseball players of all time. Reading this book makes you feel as if you are traveling through time and living the moments as if you were Willie Mays experiencing his life all over again. Happy reading!