This record I've
got here now," Mickey Mantle said as he waited for the cantaloupe,
buckwheat cakes, sausage, milk and coffee he had ordered in the dining room of
his New York hotel, "if you don't keep adding to it, it won't mean
anything. It's not even for sure I'll keep on doing it. You can't brag about
something like that until the season's over...and then—" he shrugged his
huge shoulders almost helplessly—"and then there's next year to worry
"I like to do
good and whenever I'm doing good, I'm happy," the super-slugging
switch-hitter said, nervously twisting the gold wedding ring on his left hand.
"I really like baseball. I like to play it. When I'm going bad, I'm like
everybody else. I'm playing for the money. I love to play baseball when I'm
hitting, but when I'm not hitting, it's just work."
matured," he was told. "There are lots of big hitters you can't even
talk to after a hitless game."
self-consciously in his chair, then when he realized the compliment was
sincerely offered, he allowed himself a pleased boyish grin.
"This will be
my eighth year in baseball. If you're not adjusted in eight years, then you'll
"I've had a
lot of people tell me I was conceited—like if you leave a ballpark after you
get beat 1 to 0—well, there'll be 75 or 80 kids pulling at your clothes and
asking for autographs, and you don't sign any because you can't sign them all,
and then there'll be four or five guys there saying, 'Sign the autographs, you
understand," he said sadly, "they don't understand."
It is perhaps part
of Mantle's developing maturity that he has reconciled himself to the publicity
requisites of his profession. Yet he has turned down thousands of dollars'
worth of television appearances, restricting himself to only a few shows.
all I've ever been told," he explained. "My dad was a frustrated
ballplayer, and even before I was born he named me 'Mickey' after his favorite
player, Mickey Cochrane. Then when I was about 6 months old, I guess, my mother
made me my first baseball suit."
Mantle spied his
roommate, Billy Martin, and called him over to the table.