“1954: The Year Willie Mays and the First Generation of Black Superstars Changed Major League Baseball Forever” by Bill Madden
Baseball, professional, Yankees, Giants, Dodgers, Indians, race
May 6 2014
4 of 5 stars (very good)
As a reader who enjoys books on significant times and events in a particular sport’s history, this book had me very interested. The full title says it best about the year 1954 and the significance it had in baseball history. This book not only looks into the topic of race during this year in Major League Baseball but it also recaps the seasons of the three New York teams and the Cleveland Indians.
In that sense of these topics, author Bill Madden does a decent job of taking the reader back to that year and its importance in baseball history. One of the most important items mentioned was that it marked the first time that both World Series teams, the New York Giants and the Cleveland Indians, had black players. Each team had four and all eight played important roles in the success of their teams. There are stories about many black players including Willie Mays, Larry Doby and Henry Aaron interspersed throughout the book. Since the integration of baseball was an important topic of the book, these types of passages were plentiful. They were well written and informative without coming across as judgmental or angry – just telling what happened.
The recap of the season was told through the four teams mentioned above, and as a result, it felt that this part was lacking in some aspects. For example, Robin Roberts led the National League in wins that season with 23 and was an all-star but one would not know about his accomplishments except for the fact that he pitched against the Giants. Because of this fact, Roberts was finally mentioned in the book. While it makes sense to write the most about the most successful teams of the season, the lack of information about the other twelve teams in the major leagues was a letdown. The World Series did get a chapter but aside from the famous catch made by Willie Mays that seemed anticlimactic as well. However, that is more likely due to the fact the Giants swept the Indians in four straight games more than anything the author wrote about that series.
Overall, the book is an easy read about a watershed year in major league baseball. Readers who are baseball historians will especially enjoy this book on the 1954 season and the advancements made by black players in both leagues.
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