Sunday, July 17, 2005

Revisiting Mantle

If you haven't seen the new Mickey Mantle documentary on HBO, it's definitely worth a look. If you don't know much about the Mick and his life, it's definitely an excellent introduction to his story.

For those of us that know quite a bit about Mantle's life and times, it's a nice piece but doesn't really add much. It's a nice complementary piece to any other books or docs on him but doesn't really provide the sort of depth that a hard core fan might be looking for.

My pet peeves about the piece; too much psychology, not enough baseball. We all know about Mickey's troubled past. His fear of dying young, his lifelong battles with alcohol, his friendship with Billy Martin and Whitey Ford (although they only scratched the surface on that, you could do whole piece on those three), his troubled homelife and his heroics at the end of his life. But what about the baseball? Hero worship is fine, but baseball is a game of numbers and Mantle was maybe the best switch-hitter of all time. This man was a sick ballplayer and more was focused on his presence and the "graceful" way he tossed his batting helmet than the fact that this guy was a five-tool monster.

And can we find someone other than baby-boomers who were too young to really appreciate what they seeing to watch poetic about Mantle? I understand what he meant to that generation of fans. But Bob Costas, Mike Francessa, Skip Bayless and Marty Noble were all born in the fifties. They were all kids who weren't even close to their teens when Mickey was in his prime. They were all awestruck with hero-worship and more than a little biased in their opinions of Mantle as a ballplayer. Costas says that any knowledgeable watcher of the game would say that Mantle was one of the 10 greatest non-pitchers of all-time. Really? And you were what, 10 years old when you came to this conclusion? I never saw Mantle play, but I think that it's debateable that Mantle was one of the 10 greatest players of all time. 20 definitely. 10... that's a real tough call.

I would have like to have seen his contemporaries or writers from the time talk about Mantle's place in history instead several baby boomers who were too young to really make the assertion that that he was a top 10 player.

If anyone cares, here's my top 10 in no particular order;
Hank Aaron
Babe Ruth
Lou Gehrig
Willie Mays
Barry Bonds
Ted Williams
Stan Musial
Ty Cobb
Joe DiMaggio
Josh Gibson/Jackie Robinson-tie


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