Ron Swoboda on Mickey and Willie

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John F
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Ron Swoboda on Mickey and Willie

Post by John F » Sun Jun 02, 2013 2:52 am

‘Mickey and Willie,’ by Allen Barra
By RON SWOBODA
Published: May 31, 2013

The first time I played ball against Willie Mays, in 1965, it was impossible to take my eyes off him. At bat, in the outfield and on the bases, he did everything differently from — and better than — anybody else. Mays’s style of play could come only from an impressive intelligence and a thoroughly cultivated knowledge of the game.

Mickey Mantle, by contrast, whom I encountered in spring training in 1966 and ’67, seemed less studied and more instinctual. Baseball appeared easy for the Mick, and he occasionally said as much. Once in spring training I screwed up my courage to ask for some batting tips, but he waved me off: “Kid, I don’t know anything about hitting.” That made two of us.

In “Mickey and Willie,” the veteran sportswriter Allen Barra explores in depth the remarkable similarities between these two great New York center fielders, one white and one black: both from dirt-poor Southern backgrounds, both born in 1931 to athletic fathers in male-­dominated families, both of them prodigies and perennial All-Stars celebrated for their speed and power. They were even about the same size, though Mantle’s upper body was ­bigger.

That’s not all they had in common, either. “I wouldn’t be surprised to find that Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays, in that order, are the two most written-about players in baseball history,” Barra acknowledges. “And yet, it seems to me that there has always been one major element missing from the many books on Mantle or Mays: each other.”

Barra gives credit for this premise to the venerable reporter Charles Einstein, who wrote about Mays in the 1979 book “Willie’s Time.” In what amounts to a diligent compendium of other books and articles, along with a couple of desultory interviews with the principals (conducted decades ago in the case of Mantle, who died in 1995), Barra works hard to construct a cohesive narrative about these two extraordinary players. If he misses the mark here and there, remember that his targets are in motion and the glimpses we have are anecdotal collages at best.

Yet he succeeds in his main objective, getting us to view Mantle and Mays side by side. “I believe they knew each other better than anyone else knew them,” the baseball writer Roger Kahn tells Barra at one point. “They were the only two men in America who understood the experience they had both been through.” In this they resembled Matisse and Picasso, the two greatest artists of the early 20th century, who, like Mays and Mantle, always knew what the other was up to...

MICKEY AND WILLIE
Mantle and Mays, the Parallel Lives of Baseball’s Golden Age
By Allen Barra
Illustrated. 479 pp. Crown Archetype. $27.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/02/books ... barra.html
John Francis

lennygoran
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Re: Ron Swoboda on Mickey and Willie

Post by lennygoran » Sun Jun 02, 2013 7:05 am

Brings back memories--those were the days I really followed baseball! I was a Yankee fan so Mick was tops for me although my favorite player was Yogi. To think NYC had Mick, Willie and a pretty darn good Duke Snider! Regards, Len

jbuck919
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Re: Ron Swoboda on Mickey and Willie

Post by jbuck919 » Sun Jun 02, 2013 4:12 pm

Ron Swoboda wrote:The first time I played ball against Willie Mays, in 1965, it was impossible to take my eyes off him.
Aha, so the problem with the expansion Mets was that they were watching the other players rather than watching the ball. (Come to think of it, that may not be entirely a facetious explanation.)

Bless me for remembering the name Ron Swoboda from that team. My first major league stadium game was a Cub Scout trip to Shea Stadium in 1964, and a bunch of those players still stick in my head. And like a lot of adult fans who should have known better, I loved them.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

lennygoran
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Re: Ron Swoboda on Mickey and Willie

Post by lennygoran » Mon Jun 03, 2013 8:42 am

jbuck919 wrote: And like a lot of adult fans who should have known better, I loved them.
Could you explain this statement? Len [who was in love with Yogi] :mrgreen:

jbuck919
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Re: Ron Swoboda on Mickey and Willie

Post by jbuck919 » Mon Jun 03, 2013 9:22 pm

lennygoran wrote:
jbuck919 wrote: And like a lot of adult fans who should have known better, I loved them.
Could you explain this statement? Len [who was in love with Yogi] :mrgreen:
Yogi as the Mets manager does not count. Yogi is a god. I mean players like Ron Hunt, whose fame was built on winning first base by means other than a base hit, or Ed Kranepool, who was not traded away or sold by Joan Payson because he was her fantasy boy-toy, or Mrs. Payson herself, who sold so many great players just to make money (you do remember someone called Nolan Ryan, don't you?) and got away with it because the Mets didn't need a winning team to pack the stadium with paying customers.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

lennygoran
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Re: Ron Swoboda on Mickey and Willie

Post by lennygoran » Tue Jun 04, 2013 5:16 am

jbuck919 wrote:(you do remember someone called Nolan Ryan, don't you?) and got away with it because the Mets didn't need a winning team to pack the stadium with paying customers.
Ryan, yes definitely remember him! Thanks for the explanation. Regards, Len

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