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My New Book, 'Mantle: The Best There Ever Was' 
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Post My New Book, 'Mantle: The Best There Ever Was'
My new book Mantle: The Best There Ever Was, brings to life the man who is arguably not only the greatest baseball player of HIS time but also the greatest baseball player of ALL time. The book offers illuminating new insight into Mickey Mantle's extraordinary career, including the head-turning conclusion -- based on the evolution of analytics -- that the beloved Yankee switch-hitting slugger may ultimately win acclaim as having fulfilled the weighty expectations once placed on him… of being greater than even Babe Ruth. Mantle: The Best There Ever Was also adds intimate, never-before-published details from Mantle's personal life, with unprecedented access to Mantle's widow, Merlyn, who wanted to rescue her husband's historical reputation from the public revelations of alcoholism, infidelity, and family strife. You need to be Mickey’s voice from the grave, Merlyn said to me in her last interview before her death in 2009. "You need to say it and champion it… that Mickey Mantle was the greatest baseball player of all time."

Available at Amazon, http://mickeymantle.live, and wherever books are sold.

I had the good fortune, through my newspaper career, of having known the late Tom Wolfe. Tom was a pitcher in college and even had a tryout with the New York Giants in the early 1950s. Tom read early drafts of my new book a few years ago and was kind enough to offer this pre-publication endorsement blurb:

"I have long admired Tony Castro’s writing, for a selfishly good reason. He is an avowed fan of my work, even having risked Heaven’s wrath once by reworking the Nicene Creed in my honor: “I believe in Tom Wolfe, the Writer Almighty, Artist of Culture and Life. And in The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine Flake Streamline Baby, His first Son, Our Model, Who was conceived of' the Holy Mind, born of the Virgin Word, suffered under Smaller Minds, was criticized, denounced and nearly banisned. He ascended into legend, sitteth at the right hand of James Joyce, the Artist Almighty. From thence, He shall come to judge the Radical Chic and the Fad…”

"While in Los Angeles to collaborate on the transformation of The Right Stuff to the silver screen, I paid a visit to Tony’ boss, my former editor Jim Bellows, and there – in the humble trappings of a newsroom – our paths crossed, as if destined for us both. There are few people I’m indebted to as much for the direction of my own career as Jim Bellows from our days at the New York Herald Tribune and its creation, New York magazine. And here I was being written about in such charming exaltation – this young scribe with a limitless spirit of wonderment… he is a former altar boy, no less… christened me “Pope Tom” -- by yet a new generation of columnists whom the great editor had groomed at what turned out to be his final newspaper to resurrect. At the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Bellows had created the same Tijuana bull ring for competition among feature writers that had made us all flourish at the Herald Tribune. I called Tony and insisted we celebrate in a manner befitting our flamboyant styles. Wouldn’t you know? The altar boy drove up in a pristine, classic Mercedes convertible, white, matching my suit, of course. And manners, to boot. He ordered at Elton John’s Le Dome in perfect French, C’était délicieux. As I’ve told Tony since then, my only disappointment has been that he chose to become Mickey Mantle’s biographer instead of mine. But, hey, maybe I’m still on deck, ready to swing from the heels, so who knows?

"I wanted to be a ballplayer myself. I didn’t understand just how impossible that dream was until I saw Mickey Mantle in his rookie year when he was barely nineteen but a brilliant gift from the gods. And here I was a pitcher, a semi-pro who attended a tryout with the New York Giants the next season, an already over-the-hill 21-year-old who fortunately could fall back on my English degree, if not my sinker and curveball from Washington and Lee University. Who among us of that age, though, doesn’t have a Mickey Mantle story, memory, or meeting to share? Fortunately, for us, Tony was graced with a rich bonanza of these. I wanted to hear them all as well as those of his agent Mike Hamilburg. His father Mitchell produced Safe at Home, that cheesy but endearing 1962 film starring Mantle and Roger Maris that piggy-banked on their phenomenal chase the previous year of Babe Ruth’s home run record.

"Tony shared many of his early drafts and what touched me most of all those stories was Merlyn Mantle’s last conversation with Tony when she urges him – no! implores her husband’s biographer – to champion a reassessment of Mickey’s career and to bestow upon him the status he was due: That Mickey Mantle was not just one of the game’s greats, an assignation that could go to any of dozens or even hundreds of players in the history of baseball, but that Mickey Mantle was the greatest ballplayer of all time. Yes! Greater than DiMaggio. Yes! Greater than Ted Williams, Hank Aaron or Stan the Man. Yes! Greater than Gehrig. And yes! Greater even than the Great Bambino. Yes! Greater than the Babe!

"It is no easy task. Could even Homer, the chronicler of Achilles, pull this off? I was curious as to how close Tony could come. For status, in life and in sports, is the game that few arbiters can navigate successfully. I have long believed that every living moment of a human being’s life, unless the person is starving or in immediate danger of death, in some other way, is always controlled by a concern for status. Certainly, this is Merlyn Mantle’s final wish, a deathbed wish almost, for the man of her life. She loved Mickey. She protected him. She would have done anything for him. She forgave him all his trespasses, and there were many, a lover in every major league city, and in many of the country’s minor league towns as well, according to Tony’s biography Mickey Mantle: America’s Prodigal Son. So Merlyn, his faithful wife throughout, was blessed with the kind of mercy and forgiveness the good Lord had for David. And Mantle, well, he seemingly was a man after God’s own heart. If Mickey had been a Biblical figure, he would have been David… a man whose strength was admixed with weakness and flaws, which cascaded down through the lives of others and left his family in ruinous condition.

"In the spirit of wonderment, I was moved by how Tony was able to weave his own experience as a boy and youth who saw in Mickey what so many others of his age envisioned of their hero and icon. Too often we censor out our emotions and best phrases so as not to reveal too much of ourselves, but Tony hasn’t done that. He incurred the wrath of his religious mother who feared his admiration had become sacrilege. His wonderful anecdotes about that time, filled with stream of conscious recollections. And now this wonderful book. The altar boy has penned an American literary stylistic masterpiece. This is The Mick as we knew him only in moments, for Tony Castro paints Mickey Mantle through a prism of genius and wonderment, with the pinstripe magic of [Gabriel] Garcia Marquez phantasmagoria and realism.”

Tom Wolfe


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Tue May 28, 2019 1:53 am
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