Spanning a baseball
fan’s life, this memoir explores hero worship, coming of age, and obsession.
Paul Kocak grew up in Stamford, Connecticut, as a New York Giants fan in
baseball’s golden age. When the boy’s team moved to San Francisco after the
1957 season, he became a fan in exile. Mostly because of Willie Mays, he stayed
with the team that abandoned him (though he did try to reach out and touch Mays
by phone). We relive backyard fantasies of fathers and sons and brothers and
buddies who play Wiffle Ball and Hitting Them Out. We learn of a heart-breaking
teenage drowning of the narrator’s neighbor, a Dodgers fan. The chronicle’s
time line coincides with the assassination of JFK, the Beatles’ bursting onto
the scene, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Second Vatican Council, and the
Vietnam War. Kocak’s journey features encounters with Hall of Famer Willie
McCovey, former Cy Young winner Vida Blue, commentator William F. Buckley Jr. —
and Willie Mays. With a subtext of addiction and recovery, Chasing Willie Mays travels coast-to-coast and into the soul with
grace, insight, and humor.
Paul Kocak is the author of Baseball’s Starry Night, which Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin called “a magical book about a magical night.” Born in Stamford, Connecticut, he lives in Syracuse. This is his seventh book.
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