Growing up white in Oklahoma in the 1930′s and ’40s was very different than growing up black in Alabama at the same time.  From those different backgrounds, emerged two of the greatest centerfielders in baseball history. In his new book Mickey and Willie: Mantle and Mays, the Parallel Lives of Baseball’s Golden Age, Allen Barra details the differences between the two men, but also reveals striking similarities in their lives on and off the field. Barra joined Bill Littlefield on Only A Game.

Bill’s thoughts on Mickey and Willie

They came to New York in the same year, 1951, one to star in Yankee Stadium, the other to light up the Polo Grounds.0523_oag_Mickey_and_Willie

In Mickey and Willie: Mantle and Mays, the Parallel Lives of Baseball’s Golden Age, Allen Barra makes the case that each man should have won seven MVP’s. They may have been that good. He also makes the case that Mantle “invented nostalgia,” which is a harder point to prove with statistics, though it’s an intriguing notion.

Barra grew up a fan of both great players, and his book is energized by a fan’s passion, though he acknowledges that “both ballplayers grew into manhood without maturing into men.” Mickey’s immaturity and irresponsibility have been well-documented, as has Willie’s crankiness, but the triumph of Mickey and Willie is that it will afford readers a glimpse of what fun it was to be a young baseball fan during the 1950′s and ’60′s, when Mantle and Mays were so regularly headlining the sports page.