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« It's her party and she'll laugh if she wants to [Happy birthday to you, Nin Andrews!] | Main | Poem: On Reading with Jerome Sala and David Shapiro at the Zinc Bar Last Night a Year Ago [by David Lehman] »

May 06, 2018

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I first saw Willie Mays play for the San Francisco Giants against my hometown Philedelphia Phillies at Connie Mack Stadium. Besides outright baseball card purchases (especially the entire Topps carton each year), I had every baseball card on the "Say Hey Kid" that I could corral from intense schoolyard "flipping" contests. I even had a rare card showing Willie Mays and the Phillies' Richie Ashburn together as National League batting champions. For that one card, I exchanged 100 other baseball cards won in "flipping" contests. I still think I got the far better of that deal. I loved watching Willie Mays play. He could hit, hit for power, run, steal, throw, catch (best "basket" catch skill of all time), hustle, and show joy in doing it all unlike any other player I ever saw, whether in the flesh or on TV. Sorry, Mantle worshipers, but Willie edges out the Mick, especially when you consider that Mantle finished his career with a batting average below .300, while Mays finished his longer career with a batting average above it. I remember interviewing for an editorial job where the editor in chief surprised me with this question: "If you could have lunch with any living athlete, who would it be?" I immediately answered, "Willie Mays." He asked why. "Because watching him play was the greatest pleasure I ever had with my father, and I want to thank Willie personally at our lunch." The EIC reached out his hand to me, smiled, and said, "Welcome aboard."

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"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly

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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark


from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman

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