Now, I suppose we have to start this post by coming to terms with the meaning of “Great” in Great American Things. Because Mickey Mantle was a very flawed man. He was a philanderer, an alcoholic, and he squandered more talent than most ballplayers will ever have.
There was just something about the guy that made people love him. In spite of his drinking, he still ranks as one of the finest players in baseball history. He was named to the All-Century team. The Sporting News named him number 17 in its listing of all-time greatest players. In its Sports Century series, ESPN ranked him no. 37 in its all-time greatest athletes.
As a kid, I thought there was magic in the name. And in the number 7 he wore on the Yankee pinstripes. As a man, I understand his flaws, and I know he wasn’t a saint. But I watch those films of his swing, hear that distinctive Oklahoma voice, look at his baseball cards, and all those memories come rushing back. I don’t know how, but there’s still magic in the name Mickey Mantle.