cover image Mickey And Willie: Mantle and Mays, the Parallel Lives of Baseball’s Golden Age

Mickey And Willie: Mantle and Mays, the Parallel Lives of Baseball’s Golden Age

Allen Barra. Crown Archetype, $27 (496p) ISBN 978-0-307-71648-4

In these elegant and touching fan notes, acclaimed sportswriter Barra carries us back to baseball’s golden days, when two giants—Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays—dominated the game through their skill and prodigious talent. Giving a fast-paced, season-by-season account of the lives of these players, whose careers developed along parallel lines and sometimes intersected, Barra recreates the excitement, the adoration, and the adulation that Mantle and Mays inspired in their fans—as well as the occasional disappointments. Barra notes the many similarities in the players’ lives: both hailed from the South and both were talented all-around athletes who played football, baseball, and basketball; both had fathers who encouraged them, though Mays’s let his son follow his talents to center field naturally, while Mantle’s groomed his son for center field from the start. Alike as they were, the differences were stark: Mays came from a broken home and Mantle from a large, close-knit family. Barra pulls no punches as he candidly portrays Mantle’s struggles with alcohol and Mays’s anxiety attacks off the field. Mantle will go down in the record books for his home run of 563 feet on April 17, 1953—famously the first home run ever officially measured (a “tape measure” home run) for distance; Mays would gain his celebrity for ”the catch,” a stunning grab 460 feet from home plate in the 1954 World Series. Drawing on his conversations with Mantle and Mays, Barra offers illuminating insights into their views of success and failure as well as into the ways that we often create larger-than-life heroes out of individuals who sometimes cannot carry the burdens of our dreams and hopes. (Apr.)