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Mickey and Willie: Mantle and Mays, the Parallel Lives of Baseball's Golden Age Hardcover – May 14, 2013

4 out of 5 stars 53 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In the 1950s, Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle played center field a few miles apart from one another—Mays in Manhattan’s Polo Grounds, for the New York Giants; Mantle at Yankee Stadium, in the Bronx. They were certainly the best players of their era and among the best of all time. Much has been written about both Mays and Mantle, but Barra takes a new and revealing tack: focusing on the uncanny parallels in the pair’s lives and careers. It is a remarkable story: two men, one black, one white, born in the same year, both raised in poverty by baseball-playing fathers who groomed their sons for stardom. Barra follows the pair’s development as players and their careers in the major leagues, always noting the eerie similarities: both started slowly but quickly rose like meteors, each enjoying unimagined celebrity and each, in different ways, reeling from the attention. Juxtaposing Mantle’s alcoholism against Mays’ growing bitterness over perceived and very real slights (his cool reception in San Francisco, when the Giants relocated from New York), Barra produces a compelling and deeply affecting portrait of two superior athletes who shared the terrible burden of being heroes. --Bill Ott

About the Author

ALLEN BARRA is the author of Inventing Wyatt Earp, The Last Coach, and Yogi Berra, as well as several essay collections. He is a regular contributor to such publications as the Wall Street Journal, Daily Beast, and Salon.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Archetype (May 14, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307716481
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307716484
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.8 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #699,391 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is an interesting story of two baseball greats - Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays - and their common bond and relationship, but it can get obnoxious at times.

All the key events of their careers are included in this book: Willie Mays' catch in the 1954 World Series, Mickey Mantle's catch in the 1956 World Series to save Don Larsen's perfect game, the continued years of leading the leagues as the greatest hitters from 1954-1962, Willie Mays' great All Star games, Mickey Mantle's great World Series games, including the 1962 World Series when they played each other (which wasn't so great for either of them).

However, if you are looking for books on their careers, I would turn elsewhere, e.g. Willie Mays, the Life and Legend by James Hirsch (refenced in this book a number of times) and The Last Boy by Jane Leavy (the most recent book about Mickey Mantle although The Mick and Mickey Mantle, My Favorite Summer - 1956 are also great but hard to find now.) These books do more justice to each individual and don't go back and forth in such a way that it can get somewhat confusing at times.

What is good about this book is the relating of the times that they interacted: the barnstorming tours, Willie Mays All Stars vs. Mickey Mantle All Stars, and especially the Home Run Derby episode in 1960 which the author goes into in much detail (those were great episodes). Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle became close friends and colleagues due to similar experiences and careers and this book highlights that. If you are interested in that, I do recommend this book for you.

What is not good about this book, is the tendency of the author to make the book about himself and not these two baseball greats.
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Format: Hardcover
How does one rank a book who's subject is far more appealing than its writer?
Allen Barra beats a reader over the head with the fact that he is a professional writer while others are nursing a sixpack and working on a second bag of Doritos in front of a Yankees - Twins game at a neighborhood bar. He makes sure you know that he gets to go to baseball games on an expense account, while you get to shlep on the D train back up to the Bronx or Brooklyn or wherever it is you park yourself after your night shift at the city morgue. Today people like this are called solipsistic, a fancy word for a know it all. What Allen Barra does is to make himself the story and substitute our interest in the life and times of Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays for an interest in his life. It's not an attractive quality.

What's more, some of the writing is clearly misinformation. Case in point: "who cared about Dick Groat or Brooks Robinson" in a bubble gum pack. Short answer: lots of people. We'll leave out Dick Groat's All American status at Duke University, and just say that Dick Groat took every team he played on either to or near the World Series, and around 1966, when Frank Robinson went to the Baltimore Orioles from the Cincinnati Reds, his teammate Brooks Robinson was, without argument, the best third baseman on the planet. Even today, the 1970 World Series is still known as the Brooks Robinson World Series. So who cared about Brooks Robinson? Everybody.

Perhaps even more unforgivable, the author awards the first two games of the 1955 World Series to the Brooklyn Dodgers. Actually, the Dodgers lost both of those games, but came back to sweep the Yankees three games to none at Ebbets Field.
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21 Comments 27 of 34 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
The may 15th, 2013 reviewer has a lot of complaints. I guess I should go to "Comments" PLUS I should step back and wait until I *finish* the book to write a review but here I go:

To that reviewer, this book is not about the three centerfielders but the two biggest players to don the hot baggy uniform. To my knowledge there has never been a book about the "other" "M & M boys", Mantle and Mays; their beginnings, as similar. Strong family and community support for their dream.

What is very refreshing and soothing to this fan, is the author's very fair approach to statistics. he is the first published writer I recall who *ever* wrote that Mickey had a very good season in 1966, during that "down" period when most writers lump that year together with 1965, that nightmare for Mantle-Yankee fans (in my opinion, far worse than the following year when they finished at the bottom). He looks at 1967-68 and notices that Mickey played full seasons and did very well at first base - plus hit a decent amount of round trippers.

Further, he engages the under-used on-base average and notices that for both players, even in their "declining" years, they still got on base.

Although Barra seems to provide more coverage to the Mick than to the Say Hey Kid, his comments about many small details about May's career, i.e., Mays' losing the MVP to Maury Wills in 1962 ring very true, I think, for most fans and historians. maury stole 130 bases. great. Willie led his team to the Series and although I don't have the number at hand, the outfielder probably scored at least as many runs. The author adroitly points out another terrible disappointment for May's fans, in that, in 1965, the Giants did not win the pennant, and so Mays' incredible MVP year lost a lot of lustre.
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