Coach Pete

Expert advice for Swimmers, Triathletes, and Coaches

Mickey Mantle…His Final Inning

This is a story about a great champion, I have had this story for a long time and in the light of the resent news article about A-Rod and Michael Phelps I thought I would share this with you ……It is written by Ed Cheek from the American Tract Society….printed in 1995

1208155451Mickey Mantle Retirement Day Card 04 14 08

He was one of the most compelling athletic heroes in American history. Long after he’d hung up his fabled pin striped uniform, grown men would stammer and shutter in his presence and faithful fans would pay outlandish prices for his memorabilia. His achievements were many, but they cannot explain his enduring popularity. His legion of admirers felt a deep emotional attachment to this man who moved with such fluid grace and raw power. They loved Mickey Mantle. His Statistics are staggering – 536 home runs, 1509 RBI’s, 298 career batting average, seven world series championships, and three MVP awards. They are all the more impressive when we consider how he battled chronic, painful injuries during his 18 years with the New York Yankees. In addition he won the triple crown in 1956 with a 353 batting average, 52 home runs and 139 RBI’s.

But these numbers pale when compared to what happened in the harsh summer on 1995 when his heart took over in that desperate final inning. Faced with an aggressive cancer, he displayed incredible courage, humility, and even humor as he battled for his life. And when he chose to drag his frail body in front of a mass of microphones and address the public, there was not a trace of self-pity in his words- only heartfelt pleas to avoid the mistakes he had made.”Don’t be like me,” he humbly declared, “I’m no role model!”

At age 19 he left the lead mimes of Oklahoma for the bright lights of New York City. Unfortunately, those lights cast an eerie shadow over his life. After Mickey’s first season, his father Mutt Mantle, died of Hodgkins disease at 40. His grandfather and two of his uncles also succumbed to the same disease before their 40th birthdays. As a result, a growing fear of dying young hunted the budding superstar. He would talk long into the night with his close teammates, confiding to them this nagging fear.

Convinced an early funeral was his inevitable fate, though often joking about it, he played hard and partied even harder. For him there was no tomorrow. Tragically this attitude led to a 40 year bout with alcohol  that caused his body to grow old before it’s time and clouded his mind. In the autumn of his life Mickey admitted that his drug of choice, alcohol, kept him from reaching his full potential as a player and as a person. Finally in 1994 he sought help for his addition. After checking himself into the Betty Ford Center, he was able to win his long battle with the bottle. But he knew something was still missing, he just wasn’t sure what it was.

In June 1995 , doctors found that the cancer had destroyed Mickey’s liver. He was fortunate to receive a transplant, and for a while it seemed as if the greatest switch hitter of all times would live to fight another day. Then the doctors found that the cancer remained in his body, and he began chemotherapy. Mickey knew he was facing death. During the All-Star break in Dallas, he picked up the phone and called Bobby Richardson – a committed Christian. Mickey asked him to pray for him over the telephone.A few weeks later when doctors had discovered that the cancer had spread aggressively. Mickey’s family asked Bobby if he would come and visit him. His death was imminent. To honor Mickey’s long-standing request-one he made at the funeral of Roger Maris nine years earlier- Bobby was asked to speak at the funeral.

After entering the hospital room, Richardson went over to Mantle’s bedside and took his hand. Locking his eyes on him, Bobby said,”Mickey, I love you, and I want you to spend eternity in heaven with me.” Mantle smiled and said,” Bobby, I’ve been wanting to tell you that I have trusted Jesus Christ as my  Savior.”Mickey asked for and received the forgiveness he so desperately needed

Now in the final inning of his life, the Mick had won his greatest victory- more glorious than any of his tape-measure home runs…..

At Mickey’s funeral, Bobby Richardson told 2,000 mourners and a national TV audience that there are only two groups of people; those who say “yes” to Christ and those who say,”no” He added that, since none of us knows when he will face his own final inning, saying “maybe” is really saying,”no”

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February 18, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment