Prospectus Q&A

Jane Leavy, Part I

by David Laurila

Mickey Mantle is an American icon, but the Hall of Fame outfielder is also, in many ways, a tragic figure. The “Commerce Comet” was baseball’s golden boy during the 1950s and early 1960s, but his life was far more complex and troubled than the well-chronicled injuries and alcoholism that go with the 536 home runs and 172 adjusted OPS.

Mantle’s story is told—in painstakingly great depth—by author Jane Leavy in The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood. Leavy talked about the Yankees legend’s life, both on and off the field, in a three-part interview for Baseball Prospectus.

David Laurila: The book is called “The Last Boy.” What does that title signify?

Jane Leavy: It was inspired by a photograph that you can see on the last page of the book’s black-and-white insert. It was taken by Fredrich Cantor, who shot a whole series of photographs at an Old-Timers’ Day at Shea Stadium when the Yankees were tenant farmers there in the mid-‘70s. Mantle is sitting between Whitey Ford and Billy Martin in the dugout. His pinstripes are gapping at a widening midriff, his crab grass muttonchops are graying; he’s got his cap tipped back the way a boy would, and the same Mickey Mantle ham-hock arms and forearms but he’s got this goofy Jerry Lewis smile on his face, like a kid aping Jerry Lewis on the blacktop at recess.

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