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PostMeeting Mickey Mantle (Randy Black, USA, 10/01/15 4:39 am)
Today, September 30, Germany published its Constitution in Arabic for the benefit of the 800,000 political immigrants they anticipate this year.
However, I want to write about baseball (see Robert Gibbs, 30 Sept).
As a child growing up in the 1950s in Texas, I worshiped folks who were on television. Every Saturday, I was treated to Mickey Mantle, Pee Wee Reece, Yogi Berra, Roy Campanella, Gil Hodges, Orlando Cepeda, Brooks Robinson, Ernie Banks, Willie Mays, Duke Snider, Hank Aaron, Al Kaline and others.
I was a devoted baseball nut as a kid. They were my heroes during the Eisenhower era.
Over the years, I met only one of them as a teen, and then I ran across him several memorable times as an adult.
As a teen lifeguard at Glen Lakes Country Club in Dallas, on a June day in about 1962, I had to eject an 11-year-old boy who thought it fun to harass the young teen girls at the club's pool. Pushing them into the pool, snapping their 2-piece swimsuits bra straps, the usual teen shenanigans. To me, it became a safety risk.
After several warnings, I kicked the kid out of the pool and asked security to have his mom called. Shortly, his mom arrived, was told of the matter by my supervisor. She approached me and apologized. She said, "You're the first person who's ever stood up to my son. I'm so sorry." They left.
The supervisor told me that the boy was Mickey Mantle, Jr. No kidding. "I am in so much trouble when the old man hears about this." I was wrong. I never heard a thing and never had a problem with the father.
It gets better. Years later in the mid-1980s, I was a 35ish advertising executive in Dallas. I worked for a multi-national conglomerate that owned resorts and hotels across the Caribbean, the US and Latin America. They also were part of a life insurance group whose spokesman was, wait for it... Mickey Mantle.
I was tasked to write and produce a marketing commercial with Mantle as the spokesman. I got to go to his North Dallas home, talk to him about his thoughts on my promotional ideas, listen to his feedback but best of all, I got to see his trophy room.
It was about 18 feet square and had shelves from floor to ceiling, four walls with every trophy you can imagine. He was the easily the most important center fielder in the history of baseball and the greatest switch hitter of all time. He was a member of the All-Star team 20 times. He hit more home runs than anyone else in 1955, 1956, 1958 and 1960. He was MVP three times, won the triple crown in 1956 (most hits, runs and home runs), earned the Golden Glove once, a World Series champion 7 times. The list was endless. His trophy room was the Holy Grail of baseball. I thought I'd died and gone to baseball heaven. Plus, he was a gracious host and a true gentleman.
Jump forward to about 1991-1992: I was paying the bills as a commercial photographer and freelance writer in Dallas during the period before I moved to Russia. One day, I got a call to ask if I was interested into spending the day with golf great Byron Nelson as he surveyed and submitted design changes to Preston Trails GC, an exclusive, men's-only Dallas golf club that was home to the Byron Nelson PGA tournament.
I was offered payment of a couple of free rounds of golf at that club. I accepted and later played a couple of rounds with the head pro. On the 17th hole of one round, another player caught up with us and asked if he could play the last two holes with us.
He was Mickey Mantle. He was playing without a shirt, just shorts and golf shoes, no socks. He played golf left-handed even though he hit a baseball from both sides of the plate in his baseball days. He had a tremendous slice. I remember that.
Attached is one of my photos of Byron Nelson from that year.
Now, jump forward to about 1992. At that time, I was planning my move to Russia. A friend and I set out on a Sunday morning for a Tex-Mex café for brunch. We were sitting in a corner booth. In marched a group of folks. Holding the door for them was Mickey Mantle. They sat nearby. He looked across the cafe at me, winked and waved. Surely, he can't remember me, I thought. He left his group, approached me and with a smile, asked, "Have we met?"
I stuttered, "I wrote a video production that featured you a few years back, played two holes of golf with you at Preston Trails, and in the 60s kicked Junior out of the pool at Glen Lakes."
He did not bat an eyelash. "Well, thanks for all three."
He left for his group and my companion asked, "Who is that?"
I told her, "He's the greatest baseball player who every played the game and was my childhood hero."
Note from Wiki: "Mantle hit some of the longest home runs in Major League history. On September 10, 1960, he hit a ball left-handed that cleared the right-field roof at Tiger Stadium in Detroit and, based on where it was found, was estimated years later by historian Mark Gallagher to have traveled 643 feet (196 m). Another Mantle homer, hit right-handed off Chuck Stobbs at Griffith Stadium in Washington, DC on April 17, 1953, was measured by Yankees traveling secretary Red Patterson (hence the term "tape-measure home run") to have traveled 565 feet (172 m). Deducting for bounces, there is no doubt that both landed well over 500 feet (152 m) from home plate. Mantle three times hit balls off the third-deck facade at Yankee Stadium, nearly becoming the only player to hit a fair ball out of the stadium during a game."
JE comments: That's a brush with baseball greatness. I was curious about Mickey Mantle, Jr, and I discovered that he died of skin cancer in 2000, age 47. He struggled with alcoholism, as did his father.
Here's Byron Nelson: