Saturday, June 30, 2012
The Last Boy by Jane Leavy
Synopsis from Amazon.com
Jane Leavy, the acclaimed author of the New York Times bestseller Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy, returns with a biography of an American original—number 7, Mickey Mantle. Drawing on more than 500 interviews with friends and family, teammates, and opponents, she delivers the definitive account of Mantle's life, mining the mythology of The Mick for the true story of a luminous and illustrious talent with an achingly damaged soul.
Meticulously reported and elegantly written, The Last Boy is a baseball tapestry that weaves together episodes from the author's weekend with The Mick in Atlantic City, where she interviewed her hero in 1983, after he was banned from baseball, with reminiscences from friends and family of the boy from Commerce, Oklahoma, who would lead the Yankees to seven world championships, be voted the American League's Most Valuable Player three times, win the Triple Crown in 1956, and duel teammate Roger Maris for Babe Ruth's home run crown in the summer of 1961—the same boy who would never grow up.
As she did so memorably in her biography of Sandy Koufax, Jane Leavy transcends the hyperbole of hero worship to reveal the man behind the coast-to-coast smile, who grappled with a wrenching childhood, crippling injuries, and a genetic predisposition to alcoholism. In The Last Boy she chronicles her search to find out more about the person he was and, given what she discovers, to explain his mystifying hold on a generation of baseball fans, who were seduced by that lopsided, gap-toothed grin. It is an uncommon biography, with literary overtones: not only a portrait of an icon, but an investigation of memory itself. How long was the Tape Measure Home Run? Did Mantle swing the same way right-handed and left-handed? What really happened to his knee in the 1951 World Series? What happened to the red-haired, freckle-faced boy known back home as Mickey Charles?
"I believe in memory, not memorabilia," Leavy writes in her preface. But in The Last Boy, she discovers that what we remember of our heroes—and even what they remember of themselves—is only where the story begins.
I’m a huge Yankee fan. My father grew up during the Mantle era, I grew up in the 70’s. I heard so many amazing things about Mickey Mantle and he was a great player. No denying that, but as a person, he was human. He cheated on his wife, who continued to stand by him until his death knowing that he cheated on her. He drank to the point of destroying his health. He ignored his children during the years they needed him the most.
It’s really a sad story. Mantle found out too late what was really important in life. From the sounds of the book, Mantle had quite a few regrets in life. Very very sad.
None of the stuff was really new to me. I had heard about all of it at one time or another, but I’m from New York and we hear about everything.
However, I liked the way the story unfolded in the audio version. The narrator alternated between the author and John Bedford Lloyd. Both of them kept my interest as I listened to this in the car. Once the book was over, I just felt sad. The man wasn’t a hero, he was a flawed human being.
For reading challenge:
2012 Audio Reading Challenge
FTC Disclosure: I took this book out from the library for my own enjoyment.