If Mantle was brute force, Mays was style and grace. His ability to stay healthier than his Yankee counterpart allowed him to put up superior numbers. Charles Einstein chronicled his long-playing story in Willie's Time: Baseball's Golden Age, a book first published in 1979 that came to be regarded as a classic of baseball writing. This year, Southern Illinois University Press is releasing a 25th anniversary edition.
Einstein combines the name-dropping witticisms of a gossip columnist with the keen analysis of a history professor, citing dozens of sources to illustrate his observations on Mays, whose time in the big leagues spanned five presidential administrations. The author discusses the parallel maturation of the ballplayer and America, but concentrates mostly on the pernicious racial inequities suffered by Mays and other African-American ballplayers. Rather than being heavy-handed with indignation, Einstein manages to infuse a gentle sense of humor into even these ugly situations.