Pete Hamill on Willie Mays: The Say What? Kid

"I must plead guilty to nostalgia," Pete Hamill writes in the New York Times Book Review, "but not to sentimentality, which is always a lie about the past."

This is Pete Hamill's fake apology for the first few hundred words of his review of Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend, by James S. Hirsch, in which the reviewer blathers on and on about the Brooklyn Dodgers, a team Willie Mays did not play for, and about his own childhood in the most authentic borough of the most authentic city at the most authentic moment in the whole history of humankind:
My father took me to my first ballgame at Ebbets Field in 1946. I went with my own friends one June day in 1947, just before my 12th birthday, and saw Jackie Robinson in his first brave season, saw him get hit by a pitch, then steal second, then drive the pitcher nuts with his jittery feints, and then score on a single. And heard the gigantic roar from all the Brooklyn tribes. Bed-Stuy was joined at last with Bensonhurst and Park Slope, Flatbush and Bay Ridge.

(Jackie Robinson, it might be noted, was also not Willie Mays.)

"Dem Bums"? Check. Bitterness at the loss of the Dodgers? Check. But eventually, Hamill does turn to the New York Giants outfielder who is the subject of the book he is supposed to be reviewing. And there, even by his own forgiving standard, lying sentimentality carries the day:
Above all, the story of Willie Mays reminds us of a time when the only performance-enhancing drug was joy.
Really, Pete Hamill? Really? If you were a 12-year-old boy in 1947, then math says that you can't possibly be a 12-year-old boy anymore. Luckily, in the intervening decades, people invented the Internet. Try Googling "Willie Mays" and "red juice."

Feb 28, 2010, 02:44 AM     amphetamines · baseball · lies about the past · New York Times · Pete Hamill · shut up about your tedious fucking Brooklyn Dodgers already · sports writing · Willie Mays

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