Mickey Mantle has been dead for a quarter-century. There isn’t a baseball fan alive who isn’t familiar with his lifestyle off the field. Repeat after me…
Mickey Mantle was a womanizer and an alcoholic who happened to be a five-tool centerfielder for the New York Yankees, with a plaque in Cooperstown that is a Mecca for anyone claiming to be a fan of baseball.
Which comes first, though?
Is it the chicken (the New York City lifestyle) or the egg (the iconic Yankee who played for the New York Yankees for 18 seasons winning seven World Series championships during his time in the Bronx and was a three-time American League MVP (1956, 1957, 1962)?
Ms. Shah – Tell Me, Tell Me, Please
Diane Shah, who occupies a considerable amount of space with her profile from her alma mater, Indiana University Bloomington, believes she has the answer.
But the inner soul of Mickey Mantle cannot be revealed unless you write a book. Voila – here for everyone to enjoy is Diane Shah’s contribution to journalism.
Its titillating title sets the tone, “A Farewell to Arms, Legs, and Jockstraps: A Sportswriter’s Memoir”.
Shah’s book contains encounters with a variety of athletes over the year, but only one earned a Page Six story in today’s New York Post.
Her account recalls an interview with Mickey Mantle, and she is not shy as she relates the the time she spent with Mantle. It’s a good read – sex always sells.
Mickey Mantle Never Disappoints
Shah was not the first to accent the vulgar presence Mickey Mantle could be in the presence of women. Jane Leavy labors over the challenges she faced when writing, “The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood”.
Meeting Mantle for the first time in 1983 in Atlantic City, Leavy provides this opener:
“He puts out his hand and says, ‘Hiii, I’m Mick,'” she recalled. “And I said, ‘Hi, I’m nervous.’ And he said, ‘Why? Didya think I was gonna pull on your titty?'”
Where does anyone go from there?
For God’s Sake – He’s Mickey Mantle
But why retell a story everyone has, in many cases painfully absorbed ad infinitum until it is no longer a story but a bottom-feeding attempt to sell something – in this case a book?
Mickey Mantle was a scoundrel with a questionable view of women when he wasn’t playing baseball at Yankee Stadium.
He played during a time when there wasn’t a juice bar in the Yankee’s clubhouse – there was a tub full of Budweiser, and most everyone was there for a post-game party.
The party for the Toast-Of-The Town Yankees spilled over to the streets of Manhattan. It came as naturally as Pete Alonso and his fiance setting up a charity in today’s world of baseball.
The “Crew” as it was known then was led by Mickey Mantle, but his entourage included enablers and fellow alcoholics like Billy Martin.
Martin would later die in an alcohol-infused ride to nowhere at his home in Binghamton, New York. And Whitey Ford.
As Shah noted in here book, the drinks would flow in any bar Mickey Mantle found himself in, and there wasn’t a living soul in New York who didn’t take his place at the water cooler the next day at work to proclaim – “Guess who I bought a drink for last night?”
There’s No Sympathy, But There Damn Well Should Be Empathy
To my readers, do not place once iota of sympathy for how Mickey Mantle chose to live his life off the field, especially with regards to his treatment of women.
But it not fair to transpose the culture of the 80s to the Me-Too generation three decades later.
The temptation to label Mickey Mantle as a misogynist in today’s vernacular is all too apparent. For God’s sake, let it be.
Mickey Mantle lived life on his sleeve. There was no one there – no agent – no father to lead him through eighteen seasons as the iconic – Number 7 – The Mick.
“Let He Who Casts The First Stone…”
He f____ked up in so many ways, and he’s the first one to tell you he did.
On or near his deathbed, Mickey Mantle acknowledged the same when he ruefully recalled, “If I had known I was gonna live this long, I would have taken better care of myself”.
Left unsaid, of course, would he have taken better care of the loved ones who surrounded him, like his ever-devoted wife Merle and his sons?
But we don’t live our lives in the past. And as a fan of baseball and Mickey Mantle, it seems to me that this iconic major league ballplayer left one stone unturned.
And I’ll take him at his word that if he had to do it all over again, most if not all of the sordid details of his personal life would be missing from the books like those cited above are written.
Is that a wish or a prayer, I don’t know. I’d instead just let it be while pausing in Monument Park to remember the words on his plaque at the Baseball Hall Of Fame: