Here's to Books and Blizzards
The only thing Jane Leavy didn’t share about Mickey Mantle in her fine new book The Last Boy is where and when he made his deal with the devil; the one whereby he became the best-looking [white] ballplayer in America during the decade spanning the mid 50’s & 60’s, both on and off the field; the one that eventually cost him his dignity and family, plus tax. Or maybe the deal was struck by Mickey’s father deep inside an Oklahoma zinc mine and maybe Mutt didn’t drive a hard enough bargain. Speaking of Mickey’s first coach, there is much more Oedipal fodder in this account of Mantle’s improbable life than just the hackneyed anecdote about the confrontation between father and son in a Kansas City hotel room when a demotion to the minors could have become a demotion to those Oklahoma mines.
I opened the book with a pre-existing fascination about Mantle. His stardom paralleled my boyhood and his agonizing demise at the end of life revealed some things about him that I related to. This is not to make a case for or against him versus any other ballplayer from any era. I am not a Mantle apologist. Nor did the book disillusion me, despite that it’s built around the author’s own disillusioning encounter with her childhood hero when she was assigned to interview him for the Washington Post in 1983. I’m too old for disillusionment. Instead my fascination was deepened. His extraordinary athletic prowess both obscured and excused what an otherwise uncoordinated person he was.
Laid bare are the childhood, career and afterlife of the man whose legacy runs a long, wide gamut from the tape measure home run to organ donation. Mantle is painted here as equal parts humble and boorish; a real, live Zeus who was saved from financial ruin but not himself by a nascent memorabilia craze that followed, not coincidentally, his folklorian playing days. He capitalized on celebrity despite that it confused him. He was always a ballplayer, even after he stopped playing ball, never having learned how to be anything else that could profit him.
Leavy earned commendation for the extraordinary depths of her research into, for instance, the mammoth and legendary home run at Griffith Stadium and a later one that rattled the pigeons’ perches at Yankee Stadium. So diligent and thorough was her excavation of Mantle’s ruins that I’m almost surprised she didn’t find her way to me for an account of how I got him to sign my ticket at a pro-am golf event in Iowa City in 1974. For a sportswriter Leavy is an accomplished archaeologist.
The title of the book is just right. Still, it occurred to me that Mickey Mantle would have fit as comfortably in the ranks of Peter Pan’s Lost Boys as he did in the juvenile sanctuary of the clubhouse. Only in dying did he ever grow up.
The Mick who emerges in Leavy’s portrait is someone who was to be pitied and then perhaps briefly admired, but rarely envied. His soul was as tortured as his once remarkable but finally dilapidated body.
When he was young and still enjoyed it himself I imagine Mantle would have been a choice drinking companion. In lieu of ever having that opportunity I’ll hoist this book, poured neat, as a toast to his tragicomic memory.
Fully agree -- can't prove it. But, the numbers are what they are, and a lot of his OF games have come in Aug & Sept, when he has been killing the ball otherwise. And, knowing how baseball players love routine, it seems logical that it could at least be a a factor.
Really, really, really hope I'm wrong on this.
Indeed! It has been absolute blast -- from getting swept by the Phillies to sweeping the Giants, I have always enjoyed being part of this group. Hope we have a lot more games to talk about this year.
Yes, cheers to me! I've noticed a fairly strong correlation between my tenure and Cubbie victories.
And thanks to Michael for our new diggs--and to y'all for sticking around!
CHEERS to CT Steve for keeping this alive in 2015. Who would have thought that the season would have been so successful to this point? Thank you CT STEVE!
I think I may be too nervous to watch the entire game. I will probably watch in bits and pieces - and constantly check MLB App. I will be like Blockhead: Nervous Nellie.
You can't prove the performance is because he played the OF. You just can't. Sorry.
BTW, Bryant hit .168 in July playing 3B exclusively.
oh man, early on it seems like he made at least 1 stupid baserunning blunder per game and almost every single one turned into a positive for the cubs. it was magical.
Not surprised about Lester but bit surprised about Hendricks. Guessing that if something happens to Arietta right away they go to Lester but if they've burned relievers and are in extra innings they go to Hendricks.
My kids' 8:30pm (ET) bed time will be waived tonight (They are Rizzo & Castro fans). We'll get geared up in our Cubs apparel and will watch this as a family. I am stoked. Go Cubs!
Bryant: Base running adventures.
Remember Bryant's home-away splits, too.
Wrigley: 21 HR, 59 RBI, .311/.408/.629
Road: 5 HR, 40 RBI, .243/.333/.360
Good Lord this season has flown by so far. I need more Cubs gifs--the four on the MLB.com article today are not enough. I need a 100 best moments of the season listicle of gifs.
Rizzo: The slide, the catch.
Russell: All the defense.
Bryant: Pelting the video board.
Soler: 125 MPH ground balls.
Schwarber: DINGERS, surprising LF catches.
Fowler: Walks, the many walks he should have had on 3-2 BS strike calls.
Baez: That 3B play.
Ross: Walk-up music? Bullpen appearance?
No evidence other than 8 hits and 0 HR in 45 AB....
I just think hitters like their routines -- think Boggs or Ted Williams -- and messing with that routine adds an element of change. I want my best hitters in their normal routines.
evidently i was busy burying context and meaning.
i was excited about this playoff season kicking up in the drama of that environment, but it was stated insanely muddled.
Woke up early and couldn't get back to sleep in excitement/anticipation. Go Cubs Go!
The only issue with this dead horse is that there's no evidence that his performance during those games is solely due to playing the OF. I would tend to agree that I'd rather see him play 3B, though.
What do you mean by new format in this instance? The second wildcard team with a one-game playoff has been around since 2012.