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Everybody’s All American

“The Last Boy,” Jane Leavy’s long-awaited biography of Mickey Mantle hits bookstores tomorrow. Last week, SI ran an excerpt that is sure to whet your appetite.

Dig:

In the spring of 1957 Mickey Mantle was the king of New York. He had the Triple Crown to prove it, having become only the 12th player in history to earn baseball’s gaudiest jewel. In 1956 he had finally fulfilled the promise of his promise, batting .353, with 52 homers and 130 RBIs. Everybody loved Mickey. “Mickey who?” the singer Teresa Brewer chirped. “The fella with the celebrated swing.”

Men wanted to be him. Women wanted to be with him. His dominion was vast, and his subjects were ardent. (One fan asked Lenox Hill Hospital for Mantle’s tonsils, which doctors there had removed following the 1956 season.) Mantle accepted his due with that great drawbridge of a smile that yanked the right-hand corner of his mouth upward to reveal a set of all-American choppers. “When he laughed, he just laughed all over,” his teammate Jerry Lumpe said.

Why wouldn’t he? Wherever Mantle went in the great metropolis—Danny’s Hideaway, the Latin Quarter, the “21″ Club, the Stork Club, El Morocco, Toots Shor’s—his preferred drink was waiting when he walked through the door. Reporters waited at his locker for monosyllabic bons mots. Boys clustered by the players’ gate, hoping to touch him. It wasn’t enough to gawk at his impossibly broad shoulders and his fire-hydrant neck. They wanted tactile reassurance that he was for real. They scratched his arms, his face and the finish of every car he rode in. A burly security detail became mandatory.

Women—none more beautiful than he was—waited in hotel lobbies. Arlene Howard, the wife of Yankees catcher Elston Howard, says that when she met Mantle for the first time, she thought, My God, who is that? Just the physical body, I’d never seen anything like that. There was something about his presence that was just absolutely stunning.

“He was adorable,” said Lucille McDougald, the wife of Yankees infielder Gil McDougald. “We used to joke about it: Who wouldn’t hop into bed with him, given the opportunity, just for the fun of it?”

7 comments

1 Just Fair   ~  Oct 11, 2010 12:28 pm

I enjoyed this article at home this past week. I learned Frank Gifford pretty much hated Mantle. Anyone know if there was anything behind that other than personality clash? It's nice that Gifford was able to lead such a righteous life. ; )

2 Alex Belth   ~  Oct 11, 2010 12:47 pm

Yeah, that was funny. But he also says that football players didn't like baseball players. But I think it was just a personality thing. Mick was a hick, guess not sophisticated enough for the Giff.

3 williamnyy23   ~  Oct 11, 2010 12:57 pm

I really enjoyed Leavy's Mantle-themed essay from Yankee Stadium Memories, so I can't wait to pick up a copy the bio.

[1] I'd imagine lots of New York athletes were jealous of the Mick's glorified status, so maybe that played into it as well.

4 RagingTartabull   ~  Oct 11, 2010 1:00 pm

oh Gifford's a miserable guy, everyone knows it. Now that being said, I'm sure there were moments at Toots Shor's or wherever that the whole "inebriated hayseed" act wore a little thin on people...so I can see that side of it too.

I just started Posnanski's Reds book which so far is absolutely fantastic (naturally), but I can't wait to pick this one up.

5 The Mick536   ~  Oct 11, 2010 4:05 pm

Finished Golenbock's book on Steinbrenner which could explain my continuing animus. Jane's book on Koufax one of my favorites. I hope she fills in a lot of holes about The Mick. I have a batbag of Mantle books. Truly tired of the parts of his life that deal with him and his father. Need to know more about the 60's player, his relationships with Merle, kids and Billy Martin; and his last years.

6 The Mick536   ~  Oct 11, 2010 4:18 pm

Let me say after reading the excerpt, I be in from the beginning. Rereading The Mick in preparation. Thought the family book added a little, but not enough, to the myth and man.

7 omarcoming   ~  Oct 11, 2010 6:15 pm

Mickey Mantle was my idol growing up. I guess my attitude toward all this is tied up with my childhood.
Anyway, I get angry every time someone passes him on an all-time list. The steroid era records really piss me off.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
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