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Willie Mays Selling Something With His Latest Book

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There was a minor goof in Bruce Weber’s Times article on Willie Mays’s and James S. Hirsch’s new biography, Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend, posted January 30.

After making his immortal catch in the 1954 World Series off Vic Wertz, Mays stopped, turned, and fired the ball back to the infield. “He held the runner at third,” writes Weber, “and the Indians never scored. The Giants won in 10 innings.” But there was no runner at third: Larry Doby was at second and took third on the play.

That’s a minor league mistake. A much more serious one is found earlier in the story when Weber says of Hirsch’s book “It is the first time Mays has cooperated with a biographer …” That untruth, though, can not be blamed on Weber but on both Mays and Hirsch.

On page 557 of Willie Mays: The Life, the Legend, Hirsch writes “Over the years, many writers, agents, and publisher approached Willie Mays, seeking his cooperation on a biography, and Mays always said no.”

Say hey, what? In fact, Mays has said yes more often than Madonna. My own bookshelf contains two versions–the second updated and expanded–of Willie Mays: My Life In and Out of Baseball as told to Charles Einstein. Then there was Say Hey, The Autobiography of Willie Mays in 1988 by “Willie Mays with Lou Sahadi.” To offer two other examples, Mays sat down on numerous occasions for parts of books by Arnold Hano and Roger Kahn. (Kahn wrote of his get-togethers with Mays in detail in his 1997 book Memories of Summer.)

It’s one thing for Willie, who’s pushing 79, to get this wrong; it’s another for Hirsch, who must know better, as all of these books are included in his bibliography. Why Mays and Hirsch are pushing Willie Mays: The Life, the Legend as a “Now It Can Be Told” book when Mays has told the story many times before is a question we’d like to see both men address.

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