Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Mickey Mantle, who died of cancer in 1995 at age 63, was a baseball legend. He played in twelve World Series in his first fourteen seasons and still holds World Series records for home runs, RBIs, runs, walks, extra-base hits, and total bases. In her new biography of "The Mick," Jane Leavy tackles the legend and the man. "So how do you write about a man you want to love the way you did as a child but whose actions were often unlovable? How do you reclaim a human being from caricature without allowing him to be fully human?" Drawing on more than five hundred interviews with friends and family, teammates and opponents, and weaving in a weekend she spent interviewing Mantle for the Washington Post in 1983 (during which he wasn't on his best behavior), Leavy has produced the definitive biography of the man and the athlete, written from the mixed perspective of fan, journalist, and personal acquaintance.
Mantle led the New York Yankees to seven world championships and was voted the American League's Most Valuable Player three times. "'His aura had an aura,' said his teammate Eli Grba." Beset with injuries and an unbelievable level of expectations, his not-unfamiliar mode of "coping" was with the aid the alcohol and sexual profligacy.