Toward the end of Mantle’s life he finally faced up to his alcoholism and checked himself into the Betty Ford Clinic. After he stopped drinking, he tried to make amends for his past behavior. He apologized to his family for his neglect and proclaimed himself to be the perfect non-role-model by telling kids not to be like him. He received a new liver, but it was too late. Doctors discovered he had terminal cancer and he died soon thereafter.
Mickey Mantle had some wonderful qualities and could have been an exemplary figure in another reality. His demons just got the better of him and he lived a life of deceit most of his adulthood. The lesson for sports fans is to appreciate what our “heroes” do on the field but to refrain from putting them on a pedestal. We’re likely to be disappointed when we make them into something they’re not.
David Kent is the director of the Village Library of Cooperstown. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.