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Meeting the Mick

Mickey Mantle

In the fall of 1994, I went to my first baseball memorabilia show in San Francisco. One of the reasons that I was compelled to go was that Mickey Mantle would be signing autographs. MICKEY MANTLE! I loved Mantle growing up, even though he wasn't nearly the spectacular player that he had been from 1951 to 1964. Despite this fact, I could never forget the way he jogged so gracefully around the bases, like a Roman god, after hitting his powerful home runs.

The guy before me in line had a photograph of Mantle with Roger Maris. Maris had signed the photo and the guy wanted Mantle to sign it as well. Mantle was very taken by the photograph, and, in a reflective voice that revealed his sentimental nature, said: "That's Roger!"

Then, it was my turn. It was definitely surreal to meet "The Mick." I stuck out my hand and told him what an honor it was to meet him. Mantle gripped my hand and I'll never, ever forget two things. First, how big his hand was and second, that his was the handshake of a warm person.

I took the opportunity to ask Mantle one question: "Out of the seven world championship rings he had won, which ring did he wear?"

He told me that it was his 1974 Hall of Fame ring that he treasured above all others, because, as he put it: "Whitey [Ford] and I went in (to the Hall) together." Ford, the Yankees ace pitcher was Mantle's best friend. Then, Mantle took off his ring and showed it to me.

I walked away from my encounter with Mantle feeling humbled to be in the presence of one of the great athletic heroes of the 20th century, and, needless to say, one of my heroes growing up.

Months later, Mantle was diagnosed with cancer. He died on August 13, 1995, and I realized that I had been at Mantle's last signing.

Years later, when the Mantle family auctioned off many of Mickey's mementos, one item stood out to me: a baseball signed by the entire 1995 New York Yankees team in honor of Mantle, as he lay dying. On the plastic cube housing the ball, a note said: "Get Well Mickey."

He had treasured that particular ball and kept it by his hospital bed. During his career and throughout his life, Mantle must have signed literally hundreds of thousands of baseballs, but this ball signed to him was the one that he treasured the most.

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great story dad was bedridden and sick with cancer the same time Mickey was, and I remember watching Mantle updates on dads tv in the hospice. Mick died a couple of months before my dad did, but I think it made dying a little less scary for my dad knowing that the Mick would be over there too...

Posted by: Mike

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