WILLIE'S TIME by Charles Einstein


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Willie's Time is more than another sports biography of Willie Mays, but far less than the author's intended memoir of the five presidential administrations that Mays' career spanned. Einstein, who ghosted Mays' Born to Play, has tried to combine the poetic, socially-aware approach of Roger Angell and Roger Kahn, with the popular historical narratives of William Manchester and Theodore White. The result is a hodgepodge of hoary anecdotes, lengthy excerpts (50 pages worth) from these observers and others, and a few good first-hand accounts. Einstein presents an unusually complex picture of Mays as a man who supported a manager he wouldn't speak with; a player who'd turn a double into a single in order to give the next hitter a better chance. And Einstein, the reporter, lets us hear the frantic dictation and clanging teletype bells of the newsservice world. He lets us see the politics of the relationship between a city, its teams, and its sportswriters. But the interweaving of Mays' career with social history is contrived and tenuous. The one theme that does carry over is the civil rights struggle and the role that Mays played, or failed to play, in it. Militant blacks, including Jackie Robinson, often charged that Mays' personal success blinded him to the problems faced by others; and Einstein addresses these charges. He makes a case for Mays' personal dignity, courage, and concern, and he explains the influence of Mays' solid-Alabama background on his refusal to act--his elevated dispassion--just as much as it once needed Mays' refusal to act, his elevated dispassion, just as much as, earlier, it needed Robinson's actions, won't convince the critics. Only Mays fans and the baseball devout will find the occasional great lines worth the trouble of plowing through the slag.

Pub Date: June 15th, 1979
Publisher: Lippincott