SI Vault
Jane Leavy
October 11, 2010
He was the most famous face of America's most famous franchise, his mythology burnished by adoring fans, writers, teammates and opponents. And then, as detailed in his forthcoming biography, there was the other Mickey Mantle, at once innocent and insatiable
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October 11, 2010

The Mick

He was the most famous face of America's most famous franchise, his mythology burnished by adoring fans, writers, teammates and opponents. And then, as detailed in his forthcoming biography, there was the other Mickey Mantle, at once innocent and insatiable

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When Martin rejoined the Yankees, the roommates resumed their prank-playing partnership. They staged water-gun battles in the locker room, and from the safety of the clubhouse they took aim at unsuspecting female noncombatants standing on the ticket line. "The Yankees' clubhouse was, like, below street level," Mantle told me in 1983, when, as a reporter for The Washington Post, I spent a weekend interviewing him in Atlantic City. "We had windows, like, where people are walking along. Girls used to come stand there, and we used to shoot water guns up in their p---. We could see 'em kind of flinch. They'd be looking around trying to figure out where the f--- that water is coming from."

Martin and Mantle were gleeful peeping Toms. At the team hotel in Detroit they crawled onto the window ledge, dead drunk, hoping to see a teammate getting lucky. Twenty-two stories above the street, acrophobia kicked in—and there was no going backward. They had to crawl all the way around the building through decades of pigeon droppings to get back to their room. To their great regret they didn't cop a glimpse of anything.

During contract negotiations with Weiss, the Yankees' general manager, in January 1957, Mantle had asked for $65,000, twice his '56 salary. Weiss replied with a threat, producing a fat file of incriminating evidence. To wit: "Billy Martin and Mickey Mantle left the St. Moritz at 6 P.M. Came in at 3:47 A.M." (Stengel's method of surveillance was simpler: He'd send the elevator operator upstairs after midnight to get autographs, thus documenting the curfew breakers by their absent signatures. Stengel's biographer, Robert Creamer, cited the Ol' Perfessor's lesson for tomcatting ballplayers: "It ain't getting it that hurts them, it's staying up all night looking for it. They gotta learn that if you don't get it by midnight, you ain't gonna get it, and if you do, it ain't worth it.")

There was nothing funny or subtle about Weiss's attempted blackmail, recounted Mantle—who got his $65,000 after the intervention of Yankees ownership—in The Mick, the 1985 autobiography he wrote with Herb Gluck. "He pats the folder, leans back in his chair, and twiddles his thumbs.... With slow deliberation he checks through a batch of papers and suddenly slaps them down on the desk. 'Here, take a look,' he says, the venom returning to his voice. 'I wouldn't want this to get into Merlyn's hands.'"

Nonetheless, it remained a giddy, high-octane time. The players lived over the speed limit, and Mantle was a get-out-of-jail-free card. There were no rules—and there was no one to enforce them. After the death of Mutt Mantle in 1952 there was no one to say no to Mickey Mantle. The son would not grant that authority to anyone again. "He wasn't under anybody's finger anymore," Merlyn told me. "He could do what he wanted."

Miss Marjorie Bolding tried to teach Mantle some manners. He had met her at Manhattan's Harwyn Club, a swank joint where Grace Kelly had announced her engagement to Prince Rainier of Monaco. Bolding was a Southern belle from Birmingham and an aspiring actress and writer. She recalled, "The maître d' came over and said, 'Mr. Mantle wants to meet you.' And I said, 'Well, I don't know who Mr. Mantle is.' He wanted me to come over to his table. I said, 'I'm sorry, I don't go to anybody's table. If he wants to meet me, he'll have to come to my table.'

"I remembered that I'd seen him on television, advertising Chesterfield or Camel cigarettes. So I get up to go to the little girls' room, which was very small, just one little booth. I came out of the stall, and Mickey was standin' in the little girls' room! He had his hand across the door and said, 'You've got the prettiest blue eyes I ever saw.' I said, 'Do you really smoke those cigarettes?' He said, 'Nah, I don't smoke.'"

It was the beginning of what she calls "a unique and personal" relationship. The first time they went out for a drink he asked her up to his hotel room. He said he had something he wanted to show her. She ignored her mama's warning and went. "We'd become friends by then," she said. "He showed me what he wanted to show me and started the procedure to kiss me. But when he got a little too amorous, I said, 'Oh, Mick, if you think I came up to your room because I'm gonna go to bed with you—let me tell you right now, that's not gonna happen.' And I got up and walked out of his room, and he came runnin' up the hall. He said, 'I'm sorry, Marjorie, I'm sorry.' I walked out of the hotel, and he came down and got me a cab. But he realized right then that I was totally different—I was a Southern lady. He liked me because I didn't go to bed with him."

What a time it was, to be a young girl from Alabama barhopping with the man. "There were [times] I don't think we got out of the limousine for two days!" Bolding said. "He was the most fun. Nobody could play ball like Mickey, and nobody could play like Mickey."

His teammates cleared out of his room when Bolding visited. If call girls were present, Mantle quickly let them know Bolding was different. And he never said a bad word about his wife. "Ever, ever, ever," Bolding said. "He had respect, if you can call it respect, for the wife and what she represented in his life."

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