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THE MICK
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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The next day at Toots Shor's, Mantle announced the formation of the Mickey Mantle Hodgkin's Disease Research Foundation at St. Vincent's Hospital, in memory of his father, who had died of the disease. On July 3 Bauer sued Edwin Jones for false arrest, seeking $150,000 in damages. New York's most famous bowler was never heard from again.

Yet Billy Martin's birthday party would turn out to be a watershed event, and not just because it had given Weiss the occasion to trade him to the Kansas City A's on June 15. It was the day sportswriting began to grow up. The era of hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil would not withstand TV's cathode glare or the skepticism of increasingly irreverent sportswriters, for whom questioning authority would be a generational prerogative.

That September, Mantle was hitting .369, with 34 home runs and 91 RBIs, when he landed in the hospital with what the Yankees called "shin splints." He had injured himself playing golf with pitcher Tom Sturdivant on a day off, and playing golf on an off day, unlike imbibing, was against Stengel's rules. Hurling his putter in frustration, he had broken a tree limb and sliced his leg down to his shinbone. He missed five games, his first of the season.

While he was recuperating at Lenox Hill Hospital, America was reading about the hijinks that took place in Hank Bauer's apartment above the Stage Deli in 1951, Mantle's rookie season. The exposé in the September 1957 issue of Confidential magazine was a follow-up to one penned six months earlier by Holly Brooke, a New York showgirl with whom Mantle had had a rookie-year fling. Mantle, Martin and Bauer appeared arm-in-arm, grin-to-grin beneath the cover line, THERE WAS NO UMPIRE AROUND WHEN ... THESE YANKEES HAD A BALL! In the May 19 issue of the New York Journal-American, Dorothy Kilgallen had hinted at the same when she wrote in her column, "The prelude to the Hank Bauer nightclub fracas has been worrying the Yankees' brass for some time. Ask anyone who lives in the neighborhood of the colorful Stage Delicatessen, where Hank and Mickey Mantle used to be quite famous—and not just for playing ball."

George Weiss saw the printer's ink on the wall, and he was plenty worried. "People have been looking for incidents since the Copa affair," he would lament in a 1960 interview with The Saturday Evening Post. "A national TV network was considering the Yankees for the same sort of inspirational show that is built around institutions like West Point and Annapolis. This might have steered some good prospects to us, and the players could have made some extra money appearing on the program. But the project was shelved after the Copa affair."

Mantle was the Last Boy in the last decade ruled by boys, when it was O.K. to laugh at them for being themselves, and O.K. not to know and O.K. to forgive what you did know.

Several years before Mantle entered the Betty Ford Clinic in January 1994, his friend Tom Molito, a videographer, would film him at a particularly liquid New York banquet. When Mantle was shown the footage by Molito in an effort to compel his friend to confront his addiction, he was furious. "I asked him if he had ever met Elvis," Molito said. "He didn't understand why I asked."

Excerpted from THE LAST BOY: Mickey Mantle and the End of America's Childhood, by Jane Leavy. Copyright © 2010 by Jane Leavy. Published by arrangement with HarperCollins Publishers.

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