Friday, February 19, 2010

On books and Willie Mays

Seeing a display in the super market of a new book on the life of Willie Mays, an "authorized" biography written by James S. Hirsch, reminded me of a story that author Arnold Hano told a couple years ago at the Los Angeles Times book festival.
He was on a panel with two other authors to discus sports writing at the annual event at UCLA that's sponsored by the newspaper. Among the many books that Arnold has written is the famous baseball story "A Day in the Bleachers," about how he decided at the last minute to attend the game in the 1954 World Series between the Cleveland Indians and New York Giants in which Willie Mays made what is often called the greatest catch in baseball history.
Hano had bought a seat in the bleachers at the Polo Grounds and Mays caught Vic Wertz's long drive to center field right in front of him. Through the years, Hano got to know Mays well enough to propose writing his biography. Mays turned Hano down more than once until, near the end of his career in San Francisco, he agreed with Arnold to write a book. Or so Hano thought.
Before the project got off the ground, Mays asked Hano how much the monetary split would be between the author and the legendary Hall of Famer. Hano suggested a fair sharing of the book's possible revenue, something along the lines of 60% for Mays. Mays countered with 90%, 10% for Hano. Arnold graciously rejected the proposal and that was the end of Hano's Willie Mays book.


add Mays: During the panel discussion at the festival, a visitor asked Hano if Mays had become disenchanted, and even bitter toward the end of his playing days because of the high salaries and bonuses that were being paid to younger players. Hano's answer was a firm "No," that Willie never lost his love for the game. "He played with a joyous abandon," that Hano said he saw in few players.

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