To a generation of fans, Willie Mays was the greatest ballplayer they had ever seen. The prowess and speed of the Say Hey Kid were unmatched on the diamond before his time, prompting Joe DiMaggio to label him, “the closest you can come to perfection.” He was the first player to hit fifty home runs and steal twenty bases in a single season. Mays played for the New York Giants (1951–1957), San Francisco Giants (1958–1972), and New York Mets (1972–1973), and in his glory days with the Giants he not only set the major league mark for consecutive seasons by appearing in 150 games or more but by winning his two MVP awards a record twelve seasons apart. When Mays retired, he ranked third in career home runs (behind Aaron and Ruth), a record of 660 soon to be surpassed by Mays’s godson, Barry Bonds.
This twenty-fifth anniversary edition of the only ballplayer biography ever named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, Willie’s Time: Baseball’s Golden Age, restores to print Charles Einstein’s vivid biography of one of the game’s foremost legends. With a new preface from the author, this volume replays the most dramatic moments of the Say Hey Kid’s career—from the 1951 Miracle Giants to the Amazing Mets of 1973—and takes us inside the lives of Ruth, DiMaggio, Aaron, Durocher, and others along the way. Einstein offers a compelling and complete look at Mays: as a youth in racist Birmingham, a triumphant symbol of African American success, a sports hero lionized by fans, and yet all the while, still a very human figure destined to play for two decades amid baseball’s Golden Age.