Willie's Boys: The 1948 Birmingham Black Barons, The Last Negro League World Series, and the Making of a Baseball Legend

Front Cover
Wiley, Jul 28, 2009 - Sports & Recreation - 320 pages
4 Reviews

The story of Willie Mays's 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 homeruns, 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.

  • 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.

What people are saying - Write a review

Review: Willie's Boys: The 1948 Birmingham Black Barons, The Last Negro League World Series, and the Making of a Baseball Legend

User Review  - Tom - Goodreads

The first responsibility of a non-fiction writer is to transform all of their research into as readable of a narrative as possible. A writer takes information gleaned from documents, interviews, and ... Read full review

Review: Willie's Boys: The 1948 Birmingham Black Barons, The Last Negro League World Series, and the Making of a Baseball Legend

User Review  - Anna Graham - Goodreads

While the writing was at times so full of names and characters it became hard to follow, the story was so intriguing, I couldn't stop reading. It wasn't just Willie Mays's story, but of an entire team ... Read full review

About the author (2009)

John Klima, an award-winning baseball writer, has written for the New York Times, Yahoo! Sports, and Los Angeles Times. His story "Deal of the Century" was selected by David Maraniss to be included in the 2007 edition of Best American Sports Writing. In 2007, he was honored by the Associated Press Sports Editors for column writing. He is a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America and the Society for American Baseball Research. Visit his Web sites at www.klimaink.com. and www.baseballbeginnings.com.

Bibliographic information