NY Yankee’s Mickey Mantle Remembers How His Father Prayed
By Movieguide® Staff
Note: This story is part of our Faith in Hollywood series. For similar stories, click here.
New York Yankees legend, Mickey Mantle, credited his great success in the MLB to the love and dedication of his father, Elven Charles “Mutt” Mantle.
Mantle, who was often referred to on the field as “The Commerce Comet” or “The Mick,” recalled that even the media recognized his father’s legacy.
“Last April 17th I knocked a baseball out of Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C. I’ll not try and kid anybody by saying I didn’t realize it was a long home run,” Mantle recalled in an article from 1953. “My teammates beat my back black and blue and ‘atta boyed’ me all over the place. They compared the drive with ones slugged by Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio and big people like that.”
“My folks back home in Commerce, Oklahoma, soon heard about it. When Mama telephoned that night, I gabbed first with her, then with my wife Merlyn, my three brothers, kid sister, and the neighbors who happened to drop in,” he added. “Frankly, I liked all these goings on, and there was no sleep in me that night. So I tuned in several sports programs, and they were talking about my homer. Then one announcer made me cry.
“He mentioned my dad, Elven Charles ‘Mutt’ Mantle.”
The Hall of Famer confessed that despite his father’s death in 1952 of cancer, he still talked to him.
“This broadcaster recalled how my Dad taught me to hit both lefty and righty at the age of five, and how he raised me to become a professional ball player. What he didn’t tell was how Dad tried to teach me to be a Big Leaguer off the diamond as well as on it,” he said. “While he was alive, I was Dad’s life. Now, making good for Dad is my life. I guess that sounds a little strange, and maybe it is. Perhaps it may also sound strange that I still talk to ‘Mutt” Mantle,’ my father.”
Mantle recalled the conversation with his father that night of his home run:
That night in my hotel room I asked him:
“How about it? They say it went 565 feet.”
Dad liked it but he wasn’t satisfied. Now, don’t get sore at him. He was just that way; he always demanded that I do better.
“It should have gone 600 feet,” he said … inside me.
“Okay, okay, give me time,” I said, and I’m sure he grinned.
Mantle said that his father often pushed him to excellence in everything he set out to do.
“Demanding better than good was Dad’s way of telling me there’s always a bigger Umpire than the man in blue on the field, and He’s the real judge of what you do. My father tried to model my baseball techniques from the start as a writer works on a novel, or a composer on a symphony,” he said.
“Dad hammered baseball into me for recreation, sure. But it was more than that. He was teaching me confidence by having unlimited faith in me. Dad was 35 and I was 15 when we played week-ends for the Spavinaw, Oklahoma, team. He pitched and I played shortstop,” he recalled. “Those games are the most cherished of my life. Bigger than any World Series. Why? Because we played together, and I watched Dad’s faith in action.”
“He was never angry. He was always patient. He was unhappy when anybody made an error, even on the opposing team. He didn’t try to outshine everybody else. He just tried to shine in himself,” Mantle added.
Mantle’s father also instilled a deep sense of respect and appreciation for faith in the younger ball player.
In high school he wasn’t happy about my playing basketball and football too. During a scrimmage one afternoon I got a kick in the left shin. I hardly noticed it, though I did limp home.
The next morning my leg was twice its normal size and discolored. There was no x-ray equipment in Commerce, so Dad borrowed the money, and got me to a specialist in Picher, Oklahoma. On the way I could see him sort of whispering to himself. He was praying.
The doctor diagnosed my trouble as osteomyelitis, a bad bone disease.
Dad borrowed up to his neck and hustled me to a clinic in Oklahoma City. There was even talk the leg would have to be amputated. When I thought it would make me give up baseball I almost went crazy. More for Dad’s sake than mine. But Mama, Dad and Grandpa all hung on. They made me hang on.
Know what saved that leg?
Prayer and penicillin.
Despite his battle with cancer, Mantle’s father supported and encouraged him throughout his career.
“Seeing me start in the World Series was probably the proudest moment of Dad’s life. In the second game I fell chasing a fly, ripped the ligaments in my right knee, and had to sit out the Series in a hospital bed. But it was all right. Dad was with me. He left a sick bed to see the Series,” he said.
“I guess I really woke up after Dad died. I mean I really got his message. Not because I had the responsibility and became the head of the family, looking after my mother and brothers and sister, and my wife. I guess I woke up to what he meant to teach me all the time,” he added.