Book Review: A Hero All His Life

Mickey Mantle was, to many, a hero. He was the type of person men wanted to be and women dreamed they could be with. Obviously, those feelings were all contrived from what Mantle did on the baseball field, and some other interactions he would have in public. As most are now aware, Mantle’s private life involved a lot of things that weren’t heroic. In A Hero All His Life, the Mantle family (specifically, his wife Merilyn and sons Mickey Jr., David and Dan) tell their stories of what life with Mickey Mantle outside of the diamond was really like.

The book is told in four parts. The first is told from the famous outfielder’s perspective. It gives details of his childhood, growing up in Oklahoma the son of a coal miner who spent many evenings attempting to mold the younger Mantle into a pro baseball player so he wouldn’t have the same fate in the mines as his pop. Mantle rehashes the famous story of his first year in New York when he called his dad saying he was done and wanted to leave. His father (Mutt) showed up and packed him up, telling him what life he signed up for. He didn’t fight, he just let Mickey see where he would be without baseball. Of course, we all know, Mickey stayed in pinstripes.

Merilyn owns the second section of the book. At first, the story is idyllic. High school sweethearts who make it to the big city from the small town. But the reader quickly discovers not only is Mickey a terrible example of what a husband should be, but also that Merilyn still blames herself for Mickey’s actions. Merilyn tells various stories about Mickey womanizing and getting drunk, leading to embarrassing moments for her and the rest of their family. Despite all he did to turn her away, she continued to come back to him. She might leave for a night, but Mickey would send flowers or call her with sweet messages and she would be right back in his arms only to go through troubles again the next weekend. Merilyn also speaks about her own troubles with alcohol and what she did to become sober. After many decades, she did eventually permanently move out, although she and The Mick never got divorced.

The third section is told by Mantle’s three living sons. They all tell similar stories about a father who they clearly loved, but was never around and had his troubles. Each shares a perspective on life with their famous father. All three seemed to get to know him closer to the end of his life as he was winding down and finally taking some responsibility for his actions. Despite each of them spending multiple pages describing the trouble in their life their father caused, all three turn around and adamantly state their actions are their own and he is not to blame.

Section four is the second section written by Merilyn. The focus of this part of the book is on the waning days of Mickey’s life. The focus is both on medically what happened to him and what he did at the very to attempt to make up for all the wrongs he committed.

The book lacked any real entertaining qualities. If you’re a big fan of Mickey Mantle and you want to have the perspective on his life from his closest family members, then read this book. If not, there’s no point in doing it. The family spends most of the book talking about terrible things Mickey did that left their lives in shambles and the rest of the book attempting to explain why it wasn’t his fault.

The 251-page work was published in 1996 by HarperCollins. The hard cover edition retails for $25.

Baseball Reflections Rating: 1/5

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