Monday, September 14, 2009

Willie’s Boys: The 1948 Birmingham Black Barons, the Last Negro League World Series, and the Making of a Baseball Legend (Wiley, September 7, 2009)

By John Klima - Baseball

Nancy Mazmanian, the Angels media relations manager was kind enough this afternoon to put me in touch with local reporter John Kilma from the website John has written a book entitled "Willie's Boys", a book about Mays' rookie year in the Negro American League team. It has a few tenuous Angels' connections which may be of interest to our readers.

Next week, we'll post a Q&A session with John about his book, the Angels' and more, so look for that on our Blog this Friday. Here's a summary of what the book entails and Willie Mays connections with some of the Angels'.

Angels Connections to Willie Mays
Lyman Bostock Sr. was one of Willie Mays’s coaches when Mays played in Birmingham as a teenager. Later, he told Lyman Jr. his stories and Lyman Jr. considered the Black Barons a vital part of his baseball past.

Willie Mays’s mentor was player-manager Piper Davis, who later played for the 1956 PCL champion L.A. Angels alongside first baseman Steve Bilko and second baseman Gene Mauch.

Piper Davis and Gene Mauch were good friends. Mauch considered Piper one of the best baseball minds he ever knew.

Angel center fielder Torii Hunter is featured on the back cover of the book with a quote reading: “John Klima discovered a terrific story of overcoming all the odds to achieve your dreams. The dreamer was a dream player – Willie Mays. I loved this story and this book.

Willie Mays hit the first home run in Angel Stadium history in 1966.

Mays played in the All-Star game in 1967 at Angel Stadium, going 0-for-4.

The story of Willie Mays rookie year with the Negro American League's Birmingham Black Barons, the Last Negro World Series, and the making of a baseball legend.

Baseball Hall of Famer Willie Mays is one of baseball's endearing greats, a tremendously talented and charismatic center fielder who hit 660 career home runs, collected 3,283 hits, knocked in 1,903 runs, won 12 Gold Glove Awards and appeared in 24 All-Star games. But before Mays was the "Say Hey Kid", he was just a boy. Willie's Boys is the story of his remarkable 1948 rookie season with the Negro American League's Birmingham Black Barons, who took a risk on a raw but gifted 16-year-old and gave him the experience, confidence, and connections to escape Birmingham's segregation, navigate baseball's institutional racism, and sign with the New York Giants. Willie's Boys offers a character-rich narrative of the apprenticeship Mays had at the hands of a diverse group of savvy veterans who taught him the ways of the game and the world.

Here's some more details you can find in the book.

· Sheds new light on the virtually unknown beginnings of a baseball great, not available in other books.

· Captures the first incredible steps of a baseball superstar in his first season with the Negro League's Birmingham Black Barons.

· Introduces the veteran group of Negro League players, including Piper Davis, who gave Mays an incredible apprenticeship season.

· Illuminates the Negro League's last days, drawing on in-depth research and interviews with remaining players.

· Explores the heated rivalry between Mays's Black Barons and Buck O'Neil's Kansas City Monarchs , culminating in the last Negro League World Series.

· Breaks new historical ground on what led the New York Giants to acquire Mays, and why he didn't sign with the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Yankees, or Boston Red Sox.

Packed with stories and insights, Willie's Boys takes you inside an important part of baseball history and the development of one of the all-time greats ever to play the game.

Pick up your copy of Willie's Boys at here
Love to hear what you think!


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