Rest in Peace—Please!
The hawking of dead athletes' memorabilia is, by definition, rather ghoulish business, but the scramble to find filthy lucre among the bones of Mickey Mantle has been particularly tasteless. Since the Mick's death from cancer in August 1995, hardly a week has gone by without some company announcing a Mantle object for sale or auction. Marty Appel, a spokesman for Topps Co., epitomized the sick essence of it all recently when, in all seriousness, he commented: "The real question is whether he becomes an Elvis or Marilyn. He has the real potential."
The nadir of the postmortem Mantle money mania so far was reached last week by Rawlings, which ran a full-page ad in USA Today for its Official Mickey Mantle Game Ball. The ad declared that never before had "an actual game ball"—in this case, the one used in the Aug. 25 game on Mickey Mantle Day at Yankee Stadium—been "created to commemorate a legendary, deceased player." The headline on the ad? MICKEY MANTLE MAKES HISTORY ONE LAST TIME.
Brigham Young East?
The mother of an Oregon State football player, whose anonymity we will protect, was studying the Beavers' schedule when she became perplexed by the Oct. 5 entry and called State's sports information department for help. "What school's initials," she asked, "are B-Y-E?"
Cigar may just be the only athlete left that a common man can appreciate. He is humble and quiet. He does his job with excellence and grace, and then he goes home. No whining (though some whinnying). No demands. There is not a touch of scandal about him. No drugs. No alcohol. He has no agent. He has no endorsements. He does not appear as a genie in a movie, does not tell us what underwear to buy, does not wear golden shoes to make himself noticed.
And he's resilient. Last Saturday, in his first start since his 16-race winning streak ended at the Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Aug. 10, he went out and, in typically workhorselike fashion, started a new streak, winning the Woodward Stakes at Belmont Park by four lengths. When the race was over, he didn't prance or high-hoof, he didn't leap into the seats, he didn't dis his opponents.
Other superstars are ultimately disappointments. The tall men of basketball use tax accountants instead of their hearts to tell them what to do next. Baseball stars wing hardballs at photographers' heads and turn churlish at the slightest request for an autograph. Even the wondrous Cal Ripken Jr. breaks a record and then sells commemorative coins.
With Cigar, there's no conniving. He meets the best opponents. No promoter with electric-shock hair feeds him a steady diet of easy victories. No manager lets him take a seat in the dugout to preserve his average when certain hard-throwing lefthanders take the mound. There is a big race in Dubai in the Arab Emirates? Fine. He's on the plane. No demands for a first-class ticket. He simply goes.
His time in public is a celebration. He hears the cheers but is not changed by them. He's no different now as a champion on the dirt than when he was struggling to win on the turf. He treats everyone the same.