"But I'm not in the ball park, and the gates are closed. There's a hole that I can crawl under, and halfway through the hole I get stuck and I can still hear the guy saying, now batting Number Seven, Mickey Mantle.
"And I can see Casey and Billy, Whitey, Hank Bauer, all the guys are looking around, like where's he at? And I'm stuck in the hole and they can't hear me and...then I wake up. And I usually can't get back to sleep."
We talk a while longer, about his envy of current player salaries and of his own financial condition. He says he hasn't done as well with his money as he might have, but he hasn't done that badly, either, from various business ventures and public relations jobs. He lives in what is now a half-million dollar house in Dallas with Merlyn, the wife he started out with. They've raised four sons.
There are people waiting to drink with him, and though he no longer seems in a hurry, I decide to end the interview. Now I'm the one who wants to get away quickly, to think about what I've heard this evening.
Driving home from Atlantic City, I wonder how often Mantle trots out his dream; it seemed too slickly Freudian, too polished in the telling. The skepticism he once instilled in me won't let me buy it whole. And yet....
I wonder if Mantle will have his dream tonight. And I wonder about that night in 1960. What was on his mind? Was he hung over, distracted; was he already burdened by his regrets? Even then, was he stuck in a hole?
I feel a warm spot for the graying golden boy. I wish I could reach back in time so a 22-year-old cub reporter could feel that warm spot, too.