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Memories of the Mick

Nov. 20, 2006
Nov. 20, 2006

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Nov. 20, 2006

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Memories of the Mick

A unique collection of tales and artifacts provides an intimate new look at Mickey Mantle

MICKEY MANTLE:STORIES & MEMORABILIA FROM A LIFETIME WITH THE MICK
by Mickey Herskowitz with Danny and David Mantle
Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 175 pages, $35

This is an article from the Nov. 20, 2006 issue Original Layout

No baseballlegend won America's hearts the way Mickey Charles Mantle did. Babe Ruth wasidolized, Lou Gehrig sentimentalized and Joe DiMaggio lionized, but Mantle wasloved. "For two generations of fathers and sons, Mantle was baseball, a guywho hit the ball over buildings, who inspired the phrase tape-measure homeruns," Mickey Herskowitz writes in his unique new book on the Mick.

Mantle was thereason Little Leaguers everywhere fought over their teams' number 7 jersey. Hehas been gone for 11 years, a victim of cancer and his own careless lifestyle,but his name is still a magical one to baseball fans who remember a simplertime before the DH, divisional playoffs and steroid scandals. This book is forthem, though perhaps the word book doesn't do it complete justice. Includedwith the text are 10 removable reproductions of Mantle memorabilia, including amoving letter on Motel Cleveland stationery that the Mick wrote to his wife,Merlyn, and Mantle's first baseball contract, with the Class D Independence(Kans.) Yankees, which would earn him a salary of $140 a month.

Maybe it's thepinstripes on the inside covers, the infectious Mantle smile on the front orthe myriad family photos inside, but this book, written with the help ofMantle's sons, David and Danny, feels personal. This is Mantle's life story,feet of clay (i.e., his excessive drinking) and all, rich in behind-the-scenesnuggets. Like the time Mantle was on a talk-radio show with Paul Simon andduring a break asked Simon why the famous line from Mrs. Robinson ("Wherehave you gone, Joe DiMaggio?") wasn't about him. DiMaggio's name had theright number of syllables, explained Simon, who was actually a Mantle fan as aboy. Another time Mantle was posing for a photo at Disneyland, surrounded byDisney characters. When the photographer ordered Goofy to move to the right,Mantle slid over. "I've been called worse," Mantle would say later.There's also a fond remembrance of Mantle's hellacious knuckleball. It was goodenough that he begged Yankees manager Casey Stengel to let him pitch an inninglate in a blowout. That never happened, but it was that same knuckleball thatbroke the nose of unwitting rookie catcher Jake Gibbs during a sidelinetoss.

Mantle's appealis enduring in part because he was an American hero during the nation's age ofinnocence. His impact was only fully felt by his son David when David was 17and attended Old-Timers' Day in Arlington, Texas, in 1973. He was sitting inthe stands when his father was introduced, and the ensuing ovation lasted, itseemed, forever. "My eyes welled up with tears and every hair on my armsand neck stood up," David writes in the book. "That was a definingmoment for me."

Mantle's life wasa series of defining moments for many fans. This book offers a preciousopportunity to savor those too-fleeting moments a little longer.

 

PHOTOAPA CUTABOVE
Mantle's mighty swings--and his misses--made him an icon for ageneration.
TWO PHOTOSERICK W. RASCO