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 â€œCommerce Cometâ€ was baseballâ€™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.
Mantleâ€™s story is toldâ€”in painstakingly great depthâ€”by author Jane Leavy in The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of Americaâ€™s Childhood. Leavy talked about the Yankees legendâ€™s life, both on and off the field, in a three-part interview for Baseball Prospectus.
David Laurila: The book is called â€œThe Last Boy.â€ What does that title signify?
Jane Leavy: It was inspired by a photograph that you can see on the last page of the bookâ€™s black-and-white insert. It was taken by Fredrich Cantor, who shot a whole series of photographs at an Old-Timersâ€™ Day at Shea Stadium when the Yankees were tenant farmers there in the mid-â€˜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; heâ€™s got his cap tipped back the way a boy would, and the same Mickey Mantle ham-hock arms and forearms but heâ€™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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