By Lenny Cacchio
Every boy needs a hero, and mine was Mickey Mantle, the great Yankee slugger of the 1950s and 60s. That’s why I enjoyed the great summertime read The Mick, which is his autobiography.
Written in 1985, long after his baseball career had ended and after his admirers had grown to adulthood, it was a good, light read for this former Yankee fan, a sin for which I long ago repented.
Though Mantle softens some of the more raucous experiences of his baseball years, he does paint a portrait of himself as a flawed human being who did many foolish things, but a man who loved the game of baseball and loved being a New York Yankee. His carousing and barroom brawls with his buddies Billy Martin and Whitey Ford make for great story telling, but the Mick is clear that his exuberance for living was fun at the time but foolish in the long run.
I was hoping for a redemption moment in his story, and after a manner there was one. Mantle’s last few chapters discuss the strain his career and antics placed on his family, and that he never grasped that until after he had hung up his bat and glove. The regret of not being there for his wife and boys from March to October during some very critical years was a palatable regret, but I was looking for more from this man that I idolized in my youth.
Mantle was clearly a religious skeptic. He says that he began to doubt God when his father was diagnosed with cancer and given no hope. The Mick had virtually no religious instruction as a youth and thus had no context in which to place the trials of life.
Later in the book he speaks of Bobby Richardson, the great Yankee second baseman well-known for his deep faith and commitment to that faith. Richardson conducted Bible studies for his Yankee teammates, and Mantle not only attended but recruited several of his fellow Yankees. Then Bobby Richardson made a mistake. Intentionally or not (I’m guessing not), Richardson embarrassed Mantle in front of his teammates by asking him if he would conclude their worship time by reciting the Lord’s Prayer. Mantle did not know the Lord’s Prayer! Feeling humiliated, he never went back.
This is an object lesson in how fragile people can be and the need to be sensitive to their unseen hurts and pains. Psychological and spiritual injuries are every bit as real as a broken arm, but with a broken arm we can immediately recognize the injury. You can’t tell that someone is hurting inside just by looking at them, nor can we always know what will act as a trigger. Those who are in a position of encouraging and teaching others need a special bit of wisdom, a discernment that can only come from God.
Posted 20th June 2016 by Lenny Cacchio
Lenny Cacchio has a blog on the Bible Sabbath Association website. You can follow him at the following weblink: http://biblesabbath.org/index.php?pr=Lenny_Cacchio_Blog