The Last Boy

The Last Boy Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood by Jane Leavy

A snippet from the author’s preface:

Who else — besides maybe Elvis — is lodged so firmly in pop iconography?  They were two country boys fated for unimaginable fame and infamy.  Look at their smiles:  Elvis with a dark, brooding forelock dangling over his brow like an apostrophe and a curled upper lip.  And Mick, with that slight overbite, those buckteeth (for which he had been sufficiently teased) pushing the corner of his mouth upward, into an irrepressible grin.  “Mantle-esque,” the catcher-cum-broadcaster Tim McCarver called it.  “Quite unlike any other that I remember.  It was almost a measure of a man in his smile.”

Elvis served notice: the blatant sexual braggadocio was a come-on that came with a caution.  Mantle’s darkness was concealed by a sunny, coltish smile and a euphonious name that makes produce branders grin.  Linguistically, “Mickey Mantle” is mmm mmm good.

. . . With his aura of limitless potential, Mantle was America incarnate.  His raw talent, the unprecedented alloy of speed and power, spoke directly to our postwar optimism.  His father mined Oklahoma’s depths for the lead and zinc that supported the country’s infrastructure and spurred its industrial growth.  Mutt’s boy had honest muscles.  His ham-hock forearms were wrought by actual work, not weight machines and steroid injections.

He was proof of America’s promise: anyone could grow up to be president or Mickey Mangle — even Mickey Mantle.  and he recognized it.  “I could have ended up buried in a  hole in the ground, and I ended up being Mickey Mantle,” he mused.  “There must be a god somewhere.”  And, more succinctly, “I guess you could say I’m what this country is all about.”

. . . “His aura had an aura,” his teammate Eli Grba said.  “The way he walked, the way he ran, and the way he presented himself once he put on the uniform–he was a symphony.  Ever hear Beethoven’s Ninth?  The Ode to Joy?  You see him hit and then you see him run, and it’s like going into the chorale.”


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