Happy Birthday to the best switch-hitter of all time, Mickey Charles Mantle of the New York Yankees.
The Mick was the most popular player of his generation. He hit tape-measure home runs.
He ran from home to first in 3.1 seconds.
He made spectacular catches in centerfield.
And he played basically on one leg.
In his first season in the big leagues, Mantle got his spikes stuck in a drain in the outfield, trying to avoid the great Joe DiMaggio, in his final season. Mickey would never be the same. It was the beginning of a career filled with injuries.
Last week, I was at the Yogi Berra Museum and Jane Leavy was doing a talk and book signing on “The Last Boy, Mickey Mantle.” She once asked Mickey when the last time he played without pain was.
Mickey said, “When I was 18.”
He basically played his entire career injured.
And I know what you might be thinking, “Mickey was a great ballplayer, but he was an alcoholic.”
What most people don’t know is that Mickey was sexually abused as a child.
He thought he was going to die young, like the rest of the men in his family (he was the only one who lived past age 45).
So he lived every day like it was his last.
Nobody knows what he was going through.
One of my favorite photos is of a home run that Mickey hit 18 inches shy of clearing Yankee Stadium. It was 118 feet above field level and was said to have been still rising.
His home runs were legendary.
But so was his courage.
At the end of his life, he became sober. He wanted others to learn from his mistakes. He was helping others. They say he left this world in peace.
That may have been his greatest accomplishment.
A true role model.
None of us are perfect, I know I’m not.
So as I think about Mickey Charles Mantle on this day, I think of one of the greatest baseball players in the history of the game, but I also think of one of the bravest and most honest people, as well.
I never met Mickey, but I have done my share of research on him.
One thing is for sure, he had courage; on and off the field.