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And now for an awesome Mickey Mantle story

Jan 29, 2010, 12:48 PM EDT

Mickey Mantle AP.jpgThere’s a conventional wisdom among a lot professional sports writers that you should ignore your comments section. It’ll only make you mad, they say. People complaining, and all that.

I think that’s hogwash. Sure, making a comments section a pleasant place to hang around is tough work, especially on a big media site like NBC, but if you set a good example, encourage the good commenters and manage to get the worst elements under control you’ll be handsomely rewarded with good conversation, analysis, constructive criticism and, occasionally, some great stories.

Got one today, courtesy of one of CTB’s most notable commenters, Old Gator (the guy who from Macondo who goes on about the horse meat and Velveeta sandwiches in Philly). It came in the comments below the Jake Peavy post, it’s about Mickey Mantle and I’ll let Gator tell it in his own words:

A great true and I will bet hitherto undisclosed Mickey Mantle story
that was told to me by Eric Blau, author of “Jacques Brel is Alive and
Well and Living in Paris” among other plays and novels.

Way back when
Eric was a struggling young writer, he got a job for Topps writing
little booklets to be inserted in their bubblegum and baseball card
packs – booklets with titles like “How I Pitch” by Whitey Ford, “How I
Catch” by Yogi Berra, and “How I Hit” by Mickey Mantle. He got to
interview each one of those guys briefly in gathering his information
for these booklets. During his interview with Mantle at a bar in
Manhattan, they both had one too many drinks, but Eric was able to make
some sense of what Mantle told him from his notes and wrote the booklet.

Some months later, Mantle was mired in one of the worst slumps of his life. He tried just about everything
to break out of it. Then one night, around three A.M., Eric’s phone
rings. He answers it, and it’s Mantle, stewed to the gills.

“Hey
Ewric,” Mantle slurs, “I wed your brook.”

“Uh, yeah?” Eric mutters.

“You’re full of shit,” Mantle exclaims and hangs up.

There aren’t a lot of commenters like Old Gator, but if you ignore your comments section, fellow writers, you risk missing out on that kind of gold.

  1. moreflagsmorefun - Jan 29, 2010 at 12:56 PM

    Old Gator is a treasure……and craZy too. ;-)

  2. lar @ wezen-ball - Jan 29, 2010 at 1:15 PM

    That’s a great story. Thanks to Old Gator for sharing and for you pointing it out, Craig.
    My favorite part of it, though, is that it somehow comes from the author/playwright of “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris”. That is just so random and perfect (I saw my sister-in-law perform in that in Hawaii… she had to sing Carousel… it’s a pretty neat play/musical).

  3. Craig Calcaterra - Jan 29, 2010 at 1:17 PM

    Yeah, apparently Brau did a lot of sports ghost writing before that play.

  4. Simon DelMonte - Jan 29, 2010 at 1:20 PM

    Cool.
    Now where can we find those booklets?

  5. Ace - Jan 29, 2010 at 1:32 PM

    This site is certainly an exception when it comes to sports blogs (I’ve yet to come across a really good Borges joke on ESPN.com, for example). I visit CTB just as much for the comments as the posts themselves.

  6. r1404 - Jan 29, 2010 at 1:33 PM

    If you want some great Mickey Mantle stories, try Ball Four by Jim Bouton- the book got him “banned” from the game for years

  7. Rays fan - Jan 29, 2010 at 1:37 PM

    Occasionally you’ll find them at a baseball card shop or convention. It’s tough to find ones in good shape–most kids didn’t keep them.

  8. YankeesfanLen - Jan 29, 2010 at 1:54 PM

    Craig keeps everything inter-active. And he loves to keep his hits up by his daily, if not hourly, updates on a certain team 536 miles east of his World Headquaters for baseball information and informalities.

  9. Ice Berg - Jan 29, 2010 at 2:50 PM

    Too long; Didn’t read.

  10. YANKEES1996 - Jan 29, 2010 at 3:04 PM

    Thanks Old Gator and Craig, those type of stories are one of the biggest reasons for reading this blog. I am a Yankees fan but more than that I am a baseball fan and I really enjoy reading all the posts about all different subjects, but the stories about yesteryear are my personal favorites.

  11. Old Gator - Jan 29, 2010 at 3:07 PM

    Let me take a moment off from basking in your collective adulation, then, to explain the precise circumstances of Eric telling me that story. He and my father were good friends from childhood, growing up together on the lower east side of Manhattan in the late 20s, 30s and early 40s; both poor kids, Eric escaped with his pen and my father with his fists at first – he was a Golden Gloves winning bantamweight – and then as a very successful businessman. They kept in touch all those years after, and then back in the 80s some time, wish I could remember exactly when, my father asked Eric to put together a musical show for a big bash to celebrate the 30th anniversary of his company. My (second and current) wife and I met my parents, and Eric and his wife Ellie, at a now long gone (but not forgotten) and fantastic Chinese restaurant on E. 57th Street in Manhattan called Bruce Ho’s Four Seas (and I can actually taste the ginger steamed sea bass just thinking about that place). I don’t recall what it was that brought up the Mantle story – I was probably bellyaching about something Steinbrenner and the Borg were up to, as was my wont as a Mutts fan (at the time, anyway). And Eric spun his tale. Then the conversation swung to planning the bash, which Eric did a great job assembling – some terrific singers, dancers, entertainers (Ellie not the least of them). One last delicious bit before I have to go out and feed the turtles in my pond: the master of ceremonies at the party was Douglas Fairbanks Jr., a good friend of Eric’s. And Fairbanks absolutely butchered the pronunciation of all the Yiddish phrases Eric had written into the script. You had to be there….I was wondering how anyone could spend so much time in Hollywood and still not know how to handle the “ch” sound in Yiddish or Hebrew????
    .
    Ah well.

  12. TF in Tampa - Jan 29, 2010 at 4:38 PM

    I’m relatively new to CTB and not the stats man that a lot of you longtime blogging, computer savy baseball geeks are, so I am more adapt at reading about and telling a good story.
    Since visiting Craigs posts around WS time and being a big Yankees fan, [I lived my entire life in the NY/NJ area till about 3 years ago] I latched onto Old Gator vs. Phillies fan John [Phillies in 5-6-7- Mark my Words]. [Craig has mentioned John in his posts in the past]
    Included in their baseball threads, they expanded their conversations going back and forth to include critiquing certain authors and books they read over the years. Needless to say I became mesmerized with their give and take banter and have been following Gators threads ever since. John has since slipped away from us, probably still licking his wounds from his Phillies WS loss to the Yanks.
    I would just like to say that I have had the privilege to throughly enjoy Gators intellectually refreshing remarks, stories about his worldly travels and epicurean delights, both in the air and on the ground, and all the rest of his witty comments and look forward to much more of the same.
    Here’s to finishing the novel and taking that road show, Gator!!!

  13. Old Gator - Jan 30, 2010 at 11:43 AM

    I suspect that more than likely John is merely recuperating from the triple bypass he needed after so many years of eating…well, you know what he was eating.
    .
    Get well soon, John, and let me know where to send this case of veggie burgers.

  14. TF in Tampa - Jan 30, 2010 at 2:11 PM

    Well, at least John has something to look forward to, if as you suggest he lives long enough. His Phils are tied with Craig’s Braves to finish 1st in the NL East, according to the PECOTA ratings report. My Yanks tied for 1st vs Boston. How accurate this report becomes is anyones guess, but these projections lend itself to setting up a tight race coming down to the final stretch.
    And the Feesh??? They’re MIA right now. Better start rubbing that Buddha’s belly now.

  15. Old gator - Jan 30, 2010 at 7:18 PM

    I’d be impressed if PECOTA even took notice of my Feesh. I’ve also been following the adventures of Mario Lemieux in his futile attempt to wrest control of the Bucs from Nutcase. It says somewhere in that post that at the rate the Feesh are settling with their arbitration-eligible trade bai…heh heh, I mean, regulars, pretty soon the Pirates are gonna pass them as the cheapest bunch of slugs in MLB. Player’s association, take note – stop shooting at the floor around Loria and the Chihuahua’s feet and put that muzzle (the gun, not the Chihuahua’s) to Nutcases’s head for a change. Loria’s lil’ dog is gonna be peeing on the carpet for months, he’s so traumatized.
    .
    By the way, I have a stand of Buddha’s Belly bamboo (http://www.bamboocraft.net/bamboo/showgallery.php?cat=705) out back here. I have to spray it regularly during the rainy season to kill the goddamned pandas.

  16. TF in Tampa - Jan 31, 2010 at 6:09 PM

    I went to the web site you listed above but could not get to the page cat=705, so I’m not sure what else I should be looking for.
    Any suggestions?

  17. food processor - Feb 8, 2010 at 5:00 PM

    I got a brand new food processor for Xmas as well, however it will not do all I’d like. In the event you had been to start out clean, which one might you buy?

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