Now you can laugh. The real me is coming out in the next few days. I'm revealing my deep dark secrets - however, anyone who knows me knows that this is NO big secret. Ever since I was a child, Mickey Mantle was my absolute hero! I even had a letter from him - written BY HIM. But my parents threw it out when I went to college and they were mad at me. Do you have any idea how much that would be worth today? Of course I would never get rid of it because it meant so much to me. You're probably thinking that this was just written by his secretary. But remember the time period I'm talking about - back in the 50s (that's NINETEEN-50s, not Eighteen-50s for you smarty pants out there) - they did NOT have press secretaries then. And let me tell you, if this letter had been written by a press secretary, he or she should have been fired. There were more typos in the letter than there are in most of my emails (I believe that if you really want to hear from me you won't care that I don't take the time to capitalize perfectly or have perfect grammar - if you did care, you'd never get an email from me for sure). I cherished this letter but sigh, it's gone as is Mickey Mantle.
One year when I did the NYC Marathon I ran for a charity that had us meet on Sunday morning (marathon Sunday) at Mickey Mantle's restaurant. How wonderful that was. I didn't want to leave but had to so that I could run the marathon.
I know I'm blabbering on but I idolized Mickey. Everyone who was a Yankee fan in my youth did (of course that was no one else in my family which is probably why I WAS a Yankee fan).
I don't remember if we had a TV back then, but I know listened to the radio every single day during the summer. I kept score and drew pictures of him all day long (can you spell "crush"?).
What was it about him that everyone, including me, loved? His charisma and winning smile was part of it but, for me it was his amazing courage to overcome serious medical issues with his knees in order to become and continue as one of the greatest Yankees ever. The year 1961 would have been even more remarkable if he had not had an infection that landed him in the hospital - he would have competed with Roger Maris right up to the very end. And all without performance enhancing drugs too. Simply amazaing.
I admired his determination and dedication to a game that didn't pay very much then and sure didn't come with any creature comforts - he was out there every day with his very painful knees (osteomyelitis at one point) playing his heart out and loving it. It gave kids some place to "go" (virtually) and enjoy life. Listening to Mickey play with the Yankees allowed me to leave the real world for a couple of hours and be somewhere where the miserable things in my life didn't matter or even exist anymore. I was captivated by this man more than any other I'd ever been exposed to (well maybe Ben Casey - so maybe we did have TVs or maybe Ben was later in life). All I know is that I started loving Mickey Mantle and the Yankees about the same time I "decided" (knew) I was going to be a doctor - age 4. And I've never waivered from that love.
Mickey Mantle has been the hero of so many kids and although his life didn't turn out terrifically after he retired, he remained in all our minds as something to aim for. He was just a country kid who worked hard and wanted to succeed and wanted to be there for people (especially kids) who hadn't "made it" like he had. That's a very important type of philanthropy.
I know I've blabbed on and on about Mickey and I apologize (be thankful I have to go to work or I'd go on even more) for that but he's one of the best memories of my childhood. I still remember being able to go to Mickey Mantle day when he retired. A tiny little girl at Yankee Stadium participating in such a wonderful tribute to a great man. How could that not stay indelibly printed in your mind.
Have the courage to continue on in spite of pain, be there for others when they need you, stay happy and positive and act like a country boy, smile all the time, and be there for others. That about sums up my childhood hero!
P.S. In case you hadn't figured it out yet - the number 7 is my lucky number!