I GREW UP ROOTING FOR WILLIE MAYS.
At one point in my childhood, I thought we might become neighbors. The Brinings, the elderly couple next door to us in the New Jersey suburb where I lived, put their house on the market. I’d read that Willie Mays and his wife were looking for a new home. The Brinings’ place was a perfectly nice brick house with a screened front porch and a wooden two-car garage. The garage was overgrown with vines and part of it was rotten, but I was sure that if Willie Mays bought the place, he and I could fix that.
It did not occur to me in the mid-1950s that there were no minority families living on our street. Then again, I didn’t think of Mays as a black man. I thought of him as the magnificent center fielder on my favorite baseball team. I hoped that after he got settled next door, he’d come over to my backyard and begin preparing me to take his place with the New York Giants when the time came for him to retire.
I regarded as fools the people who thought Mickey Mantle was better than Mays. I still do.
In the summer of 1972, I moved to Boston to attend graduate school. Gradually I became a fan of the Red Sox.
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