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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing look at the two biggest at the time
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...
Published 16 months ago by Phil S.

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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Story of Two Baseball Greats But Obnoxious at Times
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...
Published 15 months ago by J. Groen


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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Story of Two Baseball Greats But Obnoxious at Times, May 31, 2013
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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. I'm sorry but I didn't buy the book to read about Allen Barra and his attitudes and opinions. At the end of the book, it actual gets obnoxious. Mr. Barra's continual criticism of Willie Mays' unwillingness to take a stance and support the civil rights movement is repeated ad nauseum. And, his critism of Willie Mays' unwillingness to open up to reporters - well, I'm sorry but I just don't care what this author thinks here.

At the end of the book, Mr. Barra is more fair with Mickey Mantle because he was honest about his mistakes in life and sad he was sorry for his mistakes in a Bob Costas interview - drinking, gambling, women, bad father, etc. Then he goes on that Willie Mays is now considered the better player probably because he has a great event in his career (i.e. the Catch). Well, the author forgot that Mickey Mantle has hit the most World Series home runs in his career of any baseball player, 18, passing Babe Ruth, and setting a record that will never be surpassed in such a key setting. What I would suggest, is that Mickey Mantle, by opening himself up to jerks like this author allowed them to trash him for years. Willie Mays saw that and said they aren't going to ruin my legacy.

And, the fact that Mr. Barra is disappointed in his heroes doesn't matter a twit to me. These men were human beings and made mistakes in their lives just like us, and they will always be the two greatest baseball players in my mind.

As you can see by the end of my review, although the brief spots where the author describes the interactions between Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays in this book are good, I don't see much other value in this book, and the author may annoy you just like he did me at the end of the book. If you are a baseball fan and you are interested in reading about these two individuals, I suggest the other books shared above.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing look at the two biggest at the time, May 22, 2013
This review is from: Mickey and Willie: Mantle and Mays, the Parallel Lives of Baseball's Golden Age (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.

I like how Allen uses a lot of original quotations. Check out Mickey's response to a question about his choice of hitting .400 OR 60 homers. A classic.

Photos included are, to me, very rare.

Very recommended.
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25 of 32 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stops Short, May 15, 2013
This review is from: Mickey and Willie: Mantle and Mays, the Parallel Lives of Baseball's Golden Age (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. When the Series returned to Yankee Stadium, the Dodgers won the seventh and deciding game, giving Brooklyn its only world championship.

Then too, when author Barra whittles his story down to two protagonists, it makes a mockery of the fact that there was another Hall of Fame center fielder playing in New York in the 1950's and his name was Duke Snider. Want facts? Here's one. From 1950-1959, it is a fact that Duke Snider, in the narrow metric of home runs, hit more homers than either Mantle or Mays. True, Mantle set the record for World Series home runs - I saw him take Sandy Koufax deep in the 1963 World Series, a pitcher many people say is the best left hander in baseball history. But Duke Snider also showed up for the World Series, with 11 World Series home runs compared to Mantle's record 18 round trippers. With Willie Mays, there were always little glitches that kept his team from winning it all, none of them his fault, to be sure. It wasn't Mays' fault that Sal Maglie ate too much pasta before his crucial start in the 1951 World Series against the Yankees. It wasn't Mays' fault that it rained in San Francisco before the start of play in the seventh game of the 1962 World Series - without the rain, Roger Maris does not cut off Mays' sharp single and hold Matty Alou at third base thus preventing the tying run from scoring. Admittedly, Barra's argument that Alou had an excellent chance to score is persuasive here.

Barra throws what can only be described as a temper tantrum over the fact that Maury Wills won the 1962 National League MVP award. He forgets what an unforgettable season Wills had. Never before had groundskeepers received Page 1 coverage. The Dodger groundskeeper brought a steamroller to the ballpark in an effort to make the base path between first and third an exit on the Los Angeles Freeway. Giants groundskeepers retaliated by muddying Candlestick Park so much Sea Hero could have run there, great slop runner that he was. But the proof, as as they say, is in the pudding. In 1962 Maury Wills not only won the NL MVP award, he won the Hitchcock Award as best athlete in ANY sport. What Barra is saying is that not only were baseball writers wrong, all sports writers were wrong. In a word, implausible.

But the saddest thing about this book is that there was a real chance for Barra to write a book we could believe in. It happens when the writer talks about Westfield, Alabama, the hometown of Willie Mays, where on page 17 we get: "Today some of the neighborhoods around Westfield are all in ruin." Since the writer himself broached the subject, did the author take some of his advance money and go to Westfield, Alabama or talk to anyone from there? He lets us know Roger Kahn talked to him. Why not let us know someone from the birth place of Willie Mays talked to him. It adds up to a lost opportunity to add depth and transcendence to the tale.

The writer achieves some redemption when we learn the depth of baseball ability held by Cat Mays and Mutt Mantle, the fathers of Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle. A pitcher can battle back. What about a writer? Barra, who seems to know he's been living dangerously, digs down and serves up the mustard with an outrageous story about Willie Mays standing in the batter's box against the great Satchel Paige, a classic confrontation taking place on Page 86, the result of which will not be revealed here.

Thereafter though, the writer engages in science fiction style speculation over whether a hybrid Mickey Mantle-Willie Mays Yankee outfield could have overtaken the Bob Feller, Early Wynn, Bob Lemon, Mike Garcia Cleveland Indians in 1954 and captured the American League pennant. Why stop the speculation there? What if the Boston Red Sox had signed Willie Mays when he tried out with them? Strangely, Barra is silent on the whole Boston Red Sox- Willie Mays issue.

For my money, the best written sequences consist of Mickey Mantle's minor league history. Berra's research leads to Mantle driving a pitch over the head of outfielder Bill Hornsby, son of Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby. For some reason, tracking Mantle's minor league career carries the same, if not more human interest than his major league exploits perhaps because the interaction between Mantle and his father is that much more intense.

In the index to Barra's book, there are nine citations listed for Chicago Cubs Hall of Fame shortstop Ernie Banks. I looked at every one, and unfortunately, none of them capture the pithy comment Banks once made about Mickey Mantle which, as we move further away from the Mantle and Mays playing days, can now be used interchangeably for either player because it is part of what made both of them so attractive to people who saw them: "He was a great player," Banks said "and he had that name."
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars OK, but could have been much better, September 3, 2013
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This review is from: Mickey and Willie: Mantle and Mays, the Parallel Lives of Baseball's Golden Age (Hardcover)
I had long awaited 'Mickey and Willie' as I enjoyed the author's prior books. I was disappointed in the total package. There are interesting anecdotes (particularly about Mickey and Willie's friendship), but the author inserts himself into the story too frequently. What was particularly frustrating to me was the rampant use of asterisks. They seemed to appear on every page. It was a major distraction. Very few added any insights to the story. The asterisks just made it appear that the author intended to include every bit of his research into the book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fun to read but not Barra's best, June 19, 2013
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Robert Slocum (STAMFORD, CT USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Mickey and Willie: Mantle and Mays, the Parallel Lives of Baseball's Golden Age (Hardcover)
I would say this isn't as successful a book as Barra's book on Bear Bryant, but that's a high bar indeed, and it's certainly a fun read---even if your childhood idol was Duke Snider as mine was (who barely gets a mention). Lots of great stories and you get a real appreciation for the two famous ballplayers' personalities.

Barra gives a lot of space to quotes from Mickey and Willie that are too clearly the "as told to" type. There are a few long quotes whose source would be nice to know in the text rather than in a footnote. The dual biography structure has its problems and takes some getting used to. (Likewise in a Branca-Thompson book a few years ago. By contrast Stephen Ambrose's book on Custer and Crazy Horse is a gem--I think mostly because Ambrose doesn't shy away from spending a long time on one man, and then a long time on the other. The reader gets into a better rhythm. I say this as a person who would, as a rule, much rather read about the baseball of my youth than the conquest of the west.)

Most of Barra's personal anecdotes are great, but his Introduction is titled "My First Game Was Better Than Yours." That's just silly. He saw Mickey and Willie both at a Mayor's Cup (exhibition) game, Willie Mays's "return" to NYC after the Giants had moved to San Francisco four years earlier.

Well I met Jackie Robinson at my first game in 1956! He gave me a ball autographed by the World Champion Brooklyn Dodgers. I would never even think to claim that as the "best first game," since there are doubtless hundreds of boys and girls who have spent time on the field, in the dugout, met more players, etc their first time at a big-league ballpark. (Since my mother had cooked this up as a surprise, and since my father and his family were life-long Dodger fans, I WILL enter this in a contest for the all-time best experiences of a father taking his son to a game!)

Sticking to purely "on the field" content, I knew a guy whose wife's first game (as an adult) was the sixth game of the 1986 World Series, Mets-Red Sox, with the famous Bill Buckner muff. Now that's a "best first game" if there ever was one, unless you're from Boston.

I digress, but first impressions are important in life and in baseball books, too. Barra also bone-headedly persists in asking Willie about his lack of involvement in civil rights, even after the troubled star had already brushed him off utterly and completely some years before.

Oh well I still recommend this book. Barra does a good job of using modern baseball analysis to make the case that Mickey and Willie should have had just about every MVP award from the mid-fifties to the early sixties. People who follow this sort of thing closely may find this as old news, but some of the elections were ridiculous by modern standards (Maury Wills in particular).

There are great contrasts with these two extraordinary athletes. Mickey was the troubled alcoholic Golden Boy who was roundly hated early in his career, then much beloved later on. Like Jack Dempsey he was dogged by unfair claims that he had evaded military service, and like Dempsey he became more popular as some of his vulnerabilities became more public. (Dempsey got beat twice by Tunney; Mantle's evolution is more complicated and psychological.)

Willie by contrast was seen as the light-hearted happy warrior, but in fact his was/is a much more troubled and (dare I say) grouchy soul. EVEN more troubled, that is. The man never revealed much of himself.

Mickey got a big boost from his biography THE MICK, whereas Willie's analogous volume was a dud. I haven't read either, but I was reminded of Ronald Reagan, another MVP with a rather anodyne private side.

There's quite a bit here about the early use of sports stars in advertising, and a little bit about civil rights and the early players union. Hank Aaron, Hank Bauer, and Jim Bouton put in the best cameo appearances, but this is mostly a book about our two boys.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Story Tediously Told, September 2, 2013
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This review is from: Mickey and Willie: Mantle and Mays, the Parallel Lives of Baseball's Golden Age (Hardcover)
Very interesting pair of stories but the comparisons seemed weak. Well researched and compelling stories. The effort at the end to come to a conclusion about which player was better was weak and contrived.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If you are a baseball fan - Read this book., June 11, 2014
If you are a baseball fan you have probably heard of Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays. They are two of the biggest names in baseball. Allen Barra tells the story of how they became two of the major league’s most known players and how similar their stories are.

For me, it was tough to get this book started. It begins with them being children and I was ready to read about their experiences in the majors. This should not hinder you from reading this book though since this part of the book helps to mold their stories together so well. Everything about these two men seems similar throughout their lives.

It is an inspiring story of how two men who, according to the standards of their time, weren’t supposed to be friends. But they were. Although it is primarily focused on Mays and Mantle, there are numerous stories that tell of other baseball greats throughout the book. If you are a baseball fan of any kind, you need to read this one.

At 425 pages, it will take a while to finish but it is worth the time it takes. Once you have finished it you can read a comparison in the Appendix that compares the two of them to see who really was the better baseball player. I hope you will take the time to read this book and become a better baseball fan in the process!

I received a free copy of Mickey and WIllie from Waterbrook Multnomah in exchange for this review.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not enough factual facts, August 9, 2013
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Book is full of Assumptions, heresay and non factual information. The rest of the time the book just gives superfluous statistics
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fluff but OK, June 26, 2013
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Mostly fluff but interesting stories about the Mick and Willie. Seriouys readers would be better to get a more definite biography.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great Read for Baseball Enthusiasts With Prior Knowledge, August 22, 2014
Three stars for general interest; four stars for a niche audience. If you enjoy baseball and also like biographies, this may be a winner for you.

As for me, I found myself wishing I had read separate biographies of each of these players before tackling one that compares the two. The first third of the book was very slow going for me, because the narrative flips from one to the other frequently, and during their growing up years I found myself becoming confused…now wait a second, which one has the horse? There was so much minutiae and I had a hard time keeping track.

That said, the story has a certain elegance. I like the fact that it breaks apart stereotypes: Willie Mays grew up in the Jim Crow south, but his family was part of the Black middle class, urban folks with a degree of sophistication. Pictures of him as a youngster show a well developed, well nourished child wearing a nice suit. Mantle, on the other hand, grew up in a very poor mining community in Oklahoma. Had baseball not permitted him to escape Commerce, Oklahoma, he would likely have had to go into the mines as well.

Mantle was diagnosed early in life with osteomyelitis, and nearly had to have his leg amputated. Though he was able to save the leg and go on to run like lightning on the field, he was booed by New York fans who were convinced he had dodged the draft. His agent and manager both spread the word that he had been declared unfit to serve because of his condition, but the fans saw the man run and, in the parlance of the time, believed his sick-leg story to be a lot of hooey.

Mays tried to avoid the draft by pointing out correctly that he had eleven dependents, but they made him serve anyway. However, he was never placed in harm’s way, and spent his tenure in the armed forces playing ball for a military team. When he returned to the professional field, he was already in shape, just as if he’d been off playing winter ball for a year or so.
This middle portion of the book is very interesting and has a photograph section that can actually be seen on an e-reader, a definite bonus. I enjoyed reading about their professional lives, and since they start far away from one another and grow gradually closer until they are together, the transitions are buttery smooth.

The end portion of the book is a let-down, although since it discusses their careers and bodies in decline, it is probably inevitable; I felt it could have done with some pruning, but those who hang onto every individual statistic will enjoy the charts and comparisons.

To me, however, trying to decide which athlete is “better” is specious. Who cares? They are both legends. They both deserve to be remembered well. There is no contest, as far as I am concerned.

Seeing how they struggled financially once they could no longer play was really a sad thing, and a good reminder of why star athletes earn every penny they make. By their late 30’s they will be deemed old men, and most of their lives will still be in front of them. Not everyone can become a coach, a manager, or an announcer. There aren’t enough of those positions, and many athletes aren’t gifted as writers, speakers, or teachers. They know what to do, but it’s muscle memory, and when it’s gone, it’s gone.

Barra’s research is mostly comprised of secondary sources; he has a few brief interviews, but his perpetual insistence on badgering Mays over his abstinence from the Civil Rights struggle got him cut off time after time. Mays was a reticent person, and it struck me once again that Black athletes have put up with such double standards; nobody climbs all over a Caucasian player who simply isn’t political and prefers to keep his thoughts to himself. Yet Mays hears about it all the time, and his biographer here is as bad as any of them.

I appreciated his references to what he says are the best biographies of each man individually; those are now on my to-read list. Meanwhile, I recommend this book to die-hard baseball enthusiasts who already know a little something about Mays and Mantle individually.
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Mickey and Willie: Mantle and Mays, the Parallel Lives of Baseball's Golden Age
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