The most exciting, most talented baseball player that I ever saw was Willie Mays. My family's transition from living in New York to moving to the San Francisco Bay area('64) was during the peak years of Willie Mays, and although I went nuts for the NY Mets when they finally won a pennant and a World Series ('69), Willie Mays was and has always been my favorite baseball player.
One always tried to imitate Willie- one would run the bases with abandon, one would attack the pitched ball with a lightning speed swing, and one would always get rid of the ball to make a play as fast as possible. His range in Center field was awesome. One believed that there was not a ball he could not get to! "He played all fields" from Center. My father would call him 'poetry in motion'.
Charles Einstein wrote a wonderful tribute by documenting his storied career along with the contemporary events that occurred during Willie Mays' time.
The height of his career coincided with the Civil Rights movement and some criticized him because his public persona did not translate into the civil rights activism of a Jackie Robinson or a Curt Flood. Willie Mays, however, was essentially an entertainer on the baseball field Mr. Einstein, nevertheless, demonstrates that Willie Mays was a leader of men on and off the field during this tumultuous time of America history. When Alvin Dark showed his traditional Southern upbringing that naturally caused tension on the Giants, Willie Mays stepped up and stopped the dissension. When a race riot almost occurred when Juan Marichal clubbed Johnny Roseboro over the head, Willie Mays cradled Roseboro, embracing him with friendship and got him out of harm's way.
He was a Baseball genius - doing things that even his manager Clyde King did not understand like shrinking a double into a single so that the pitcher would be forced to pitch to the next batter, Willie McCovery (and not walk him). He could hoodwink a pitcher by claiming that he could not see a pitch so that he could expect it next time. He would deliberately strike out during a no consequence inning so that he could expect the same pitch later with men on base and deliver the necessary RBI's.
Ted Williams was correct when he said, "Baseball was created for Willie Mays!" This volume is a great tribute to a great ballplayer; a very worthwhile read of contemporary history.