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Mickey Mantle

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Mickey Charles Mantle (October 20, 1931August 13, 1995) was an American baseball player, regarded as one of the best of all time. He played his entire professional career for the New York Yankees.

Contents

Career

Mickey Mantle was born in Spavinaw, Oklahoma. He was named in honor of Mickey Cochrane, a famous baseball player, by his father, who was an amateur player and fervent fan. Apparently his father was not aware that Cochrane's real name was Gordon, and in later life, Mickey Mantle expressed great relief that his father had not known Cochrane's real first name, as he would have hated to be named Gordon. Mantle always spoke warmly of his beloved father and said he was the bravest man he ever knew. "No boy ever loved his father more" he said. Sadly, his father died of cancer at the age of 39 just as his son was starting his career. Mantle said one of the great heartaches of his life was that he never told his father he loved him.

"Mutt" Mantle taught his son how to be a switch-hitter. He had played shortstop in the minor leagues, but on arrival at the Yankees, he became the regular right fielder (playing only a few games at shortstop and third base in 1952 to 1955). He moved to centerfield in 1952, replacing Joe DiMaggio, who retired at the end of the 1951 season after one year playing alongside Mantle in the Yankees outfield. He played centerfield until 1967, when he was moved to first base. Among Mantle's many accomplishments are all-time World Series records for home runs (18), runs scored (42), and runs-batted-in (40).

Mantle also hit the longest measured home-run ever in a major league game. On September 10, 1960, he hit a ball that cleared the right-field roof at Tiger Stadium in Detroit, which based on where it was found, was estimated years after the fact to have traveled 643 feet. Another Mantle homer at Griffith Stadium in Washington, DC on April 17, 1953 traveled 565 feet from home plate to the spot it was retrieved by a local boy.

In 1956 Mantle won the Hickok Belt as top professional athlete of the year. This was his "favorite summer," a year that saw him win the Triple Crown (.353, 52, 130) and the first of three MVP awards. On January 16, 1961 Mantle became the highest paid baseball player by signing a $75,000 contract.

On December 23, 1951, he married Merlyn Johnson in their hometown of Commerce; they had four sons. In an autobiography, Mantle said he married Merlyn not because he loved her, but because his domineering father told him to. The couple had been separated for 15 years when he died, but neither ever filed for divorce. Mantle lived with his agent, Greer Johnson. Johnson was taken to federal court in November 1997 by the Mantle family to stop her from auctioning many of Mantle's personal items, including a lock of hair, a neck brace and expired credit cards.

Mantle announced his retirement on March 1, 1969 and in 1974, as soon as he was eligible, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame; his uniform number 7 was retired by the Yankees. (He had briefly worn uniform number 6, as a continuation of Babe Ruth's 3, Lou Gehrig's 4, and Joe DiMaggio's 5, in 1951, but the pressure on him that this caused led to his being switched to number 7 later in that season.) When he retired, the Mick was third on the all-time home run list with 536. In 1983, Mantle took a job promoting an Atlantic City casino, and was suspended from baseball by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn. He would be reinstated in 1985 by Peter Ueberroth, Kuhn's successor.

Mantle's last days

Mantle received a liver transplant on June 8, 1994 after his liver had been damaged by years of chronic alcoholism, cirrhosis, and hepatitis C. He spent time at the Betty Ford Clinic to kick the bottle for good. Mantle spoke with great remorse of his drinking in a Sports Illustrated article called "My Life In A Bottle". He admitted he had often been cruel and hurtful to family, friends and fans because of his alcoholism and sought to make amends. He became a born-again Christian due to his former teammate Bobby Richardson sharing his faith with him, before he died. Mickey Mantle died on August 13, 1995 in Dallas, Texas at Baylor University Medical Center after his liver cancer spread through out his body. He was interred in the Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery in Dallas. Mantle had asked his good friend country singer Roy Clark to perform his favorite song "Yesterday, When I Was Young" at his funeral. Listening to the verses, one can see why the song was his favorite. "I lived by night/I shunned the light of day/ and only now I see how the years slipped away/I ran so fast time and youth ran out/so many songs in me won't be sung/I now must pay for yesterday when I was young."

In eulogizing Mantle, Bob Costas described the legend as "a fragile hero to whom we had an emotional attachment so strong and lasting that it defied logic."

He loved cherry pie and slept with his socks on inside out.

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