spacer Willie Mays and Leo Durocher
Willie Mays born 1931
Leo Durocher 1906-1991

It is a spring morning in Sanford, Florida, 1951. Leo Durocher-- . . . now manager of the New York Giants--has driven over to have a look at a hot prospect named Willie Mays. It is only four years since Jackie Robinson broke the color bar in the major leagues, and at nineteen Mays has advanced . . . to Triple A ball. This . . . exhibition game has been arranged just so Durocher can see Mays play. . . . When Durocher leaves in the seventh inning, Mays is crushed. . . . By late spring, with the Giants losing steadily, Mays is looking even more impressive. One day [his] manager gets a telephone call. Durocher wants Mays right away. Mays panics. . . . "Talk to Leo yourself," the manager says. Willie: . . . "I'm not coming." Leo (growling): "What the hell do you mean you're not coming?" Mays admits he's scared. Suppose he can't hit big-league pitching? Leo: "What are you hitting now?" Willie: "Four seventy-seven." Leo: "Well, do you think you can hit two-fucking-fifty for me?" Mays guesses he can. . . . Durocher was a pugnacious guy, but he saw that this rookie needed bolstering, so he praised him. . . . In what became a fabled race, the Giants surged from far behind to seize the pennant.

[Adapted from First Encounters by Edward Sorel (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994)]

Ink and watercolor, 1993
Original illustration for The Atlantic, July 1993
Collection of the artist
© Edward Sorel

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