Big Cat


Big Cat

The Life of Baseball Hall of Famer Johnny Mize

Jerry Grillo

304 pages
25 photographs, index


April 2024


$34.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

April 2024


$34.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

April 2024


$34.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Johnny Mize was one of the greatest hitters in baseball’s golden age of great hitters. Born and raised in tiny Demorest, Georgia, in the northeast Georgia mountains, Mize emerged from the heart of Dixie as a Bunyonesque slugger, a quiet but sharp-witted man from a broken home who became a professional player at seventeen, embarking on an extended tour of the expansive St. Louis Cardinals Minor League system.

Mize then spent fifteen seasons terrorizing Major League pitchers as a member of those Cardinals, the New York Giants of Mel Ott and Leo Durocher, and finally with the New York Yankees, who won a record five straight World Series with Mize as their ace in the hole—the best pinch hitter in the American League. Few hitters have combined such meticulous bat control with brute power the way Mize did. Mize was a line-drive hitter who rarely struck out and also hit for distance, to all fields, and usually for a high average. Nicknamed the Big Cat, “nobody had a better, smoother, easier swing than John,” said Cardinals teammate Don Gutteridge. “It was picture perfect.”

Tabbed as a can’t-miss Hall of Famer, then all but forgotten, Mize spent twenty-eight years waiting for the call from Cooperstown before he was finally inducted in 1981, delighting fans with his straightforward commentary and sly sense of humor during a memorable induction speech.

From the backroads of the Minor Leagues to the sunny Caribbean, where he played alongside the best Black and Latin players as a twenty-one-year-old, and to the Major Leagues, where he became a ten-time All-Star, home run champion, and World Series hero, Mize forged a memorable trail along baseball’s landscape. This is the first complete biography of the Big Cat.

Author Bio

Jerry Grillo is a longtime journalist and author of The Music and Mythocracy of Col. Bruce Hampton: A Basically True Biography. His work has appeared in Georgia Trend, Atlanta Magazine, Paste Magazine, Newsday, and, among other publications.


"In an engaging writing style that crisply moves along with flourishes of narrative non-fiction elegance, Grillo advances the understanding of home-run-hitter Johnny Mize. Given the author's use of Mize's personal archives and interviews with his surviving family members, this biography will likely be the definitive biographical work on the life of Mize."—Charlie Bevis,

"This is a well-deserved, well-written biography of a Hall of Famer, who is frequently overlooked."—

"The gimlet-eyed slugger on this book's cover is Johnny Mize, a player most modern baseball fans hardly recognize. In Big Cat, Jerry Grillo will reacquaint readers with one of the most feared hitters who ever prowled the diamond."—J. Kemper Campbell, Lincoln Journal Star

“Hall of Fame slugger Johnny Mize was always an elusive and intriguing hero. In this insightful and well-crafted biography of the great slugger, Jerry Grillo takes us from rural Georgia through World Series glory to Cooperstown as he captures the essence of the man and his time.”—Donald Honig, novelist and baseball historian

“This is terrific stuff. Mize is not an easy subject to write about. Grillo makes him come alive.”—Peter Golenbock, author of Whispers of the Gods: Tales from Baseball’s Golden Age

“This four-time home run champ rarely struck out and would be a wonder in today’s game. Jerry Grillo delivers an important book about an overlooked baseball great.”—Marty Appel, Yankees historian and author of Pinstripe Empire and Munson

“In rollicking fashion Jerry Grillo gives Johnny Mize a fresh look and sweet dose of appreciation. Mize played in the era of DiMaggio, Williams, and Musial, so he sometimes gets overlooked. But the Big Cat was top tier in his time, a perennial All-Star and league leader, and a five-time world champion. Grillo brings Mize and his achievements to life in this fun read.”—Tom Stanton, author of Ty and the Babe and Terror in the City of Champions

Table of Contents

Preface: Finding Johnny Mize
Prologue: Crossing the River
1. Hills of Habersham
2. High Drama in the Low Minors
3. Scenic Route in the Bushes
4. Beisból with El Maestro
5. Can Mize Field This Year?
6. The Temporary Red
7. All the Way Back
8. Cardinals Rookie
9. Johnny and Jene
10. Rule of Three
11. Best Hitter in the National League
12. The Temperament of Genius
13. Goodbye, St. Louis
14. Land of the Giants
15. War Clubs
16. Agony of Defeat
17. Chasing the Babe
18. Chasing Kiner
19. Big Cat Earns His Pinstripes
20. Minor Setback, Major Recovery
21. Sitting in Casey’s Lap
22. How to Hit
23. Out to Pasture
24. Going Home
Epilogue: Extra Innings

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