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Life Lessons

Mickey Mantle’s legacy

Yesterday was Mickey Mantle’s birthday. He would have been 79.

Mantle, the glamorous power hitting centerfielder for the Yankees during the 1950s and early 1960s, remains my favorite ballplayer of all time.

Despite his power, speed and skill, Mantle never played the role of superstar in the clubhouse. He made a deep impression on his fellow players with his sense of teamwork.

He said that he wanted the words “a great teammate.” on his tombstone. They are. They also appear on his plaque in Monument Park in Yankee Stadium.
Other Mantle items: When he was a little boy, his father taught him baseball. Not only did his father pitcher to him, but he turned him into a switch-hitter. This coaching at an early age gave Mantle a head-start on the 10,000 hours it takes to achieve mastery.

His father also saved Mantle’s career by shaming him when his son wanted to quit. Frustrated by a slump, he told his father he wanted to come home. Mantle expected a shoulder to cry on. Instead, Mantle’s father drove all the way from Oklahoma to Kansas City, where the younger Mantle was staying. Instead of giving him a shoulder to cry on, he began throwing his son’s belongings into a suitcase. “I thought I raised a man, not a coward,” he father told him. The young man stayed in Kansas City, and soon his carer took off.

Mantle died at age 63, alcohol abuse having destroyed his liver. He had said, “If I had known I was gonna live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.”
That sense of what Mantle could have been — if he had been sober and trained harder — remains an aching hole in his legacy.


One comment for “Mickey Mantle’s legacy”

  1. Hey Mike
    Mickey was my hero growing up as well except I caughthim near the end of his great career circa early-mid 60’s. I am jealous that you had a chance to watch him in the mid to late 50’s when he wreaked havoc on pitchers everywhere.

    Posted by kevin reilly | October 21, 2009, 8:32 pm

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