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.
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 jambands.com, among other publications.