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The definitive biography of Willie Mays

February 12, 2010 |  7:15 am

Willie Mays remains one of baseball's best all-around players. His major league stats include 660 homers, 3,283 hits and 338 stolen bases. He helped the New York Giants win the 1954 World Series. But as straightforward as his playing on the field, Mays the man has been somewhat inscrutable; that has changed with the new biography, "Willie Mays: The Life, the Legend," by James S. Hirsch. David Davis has our review:

"Willie Mays" is a thoroughly researched and sympathetic book that will probably stand as the definitive biography of baseball's greatest performer. What's disheartening is that, in peeling away the layers of Mays' insularity, Hirsch has found a prickly personality and a naive apologist.

Perhaps that's the price Mays paid in devoting his soul to baseball. But the book also raises several unanswered questions. The cause of Mays' numerous collapses and hospitalizations remains murky....

Hirsch tends to excuse Mays for his transgressions, as will most of us. That speaks to his considerable legacy. Some 55 years after reaching over his shoulder to snare Wertz's sure-fire triple, Mays still inspires a kind of awe.

Willie Mays, who cooperated with Hirsch for the biography, is now 78. He lives in the Bay Area, near his old team, the San Francisco Giants.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Willie Mays hits the game-winning triple at the 1959 All=Star Game in Pittsburgh. Credit: Associated Press