Saturday, March 2, 2019

My First Crush

A half century is a long time to have a crush on somebody. But I still do.

It was 50 years ago this week that Mickey Mantle announced his retirement. The Mick arrived on the scene in the season of 1951, with an uneven beginning before his star shined bright later that year. Just about the time I was conceived. So you might say that we entered the big stage together.

From my earliest memories, Mick and I were friends. He would hang around the house with me, my glove an extension of his arm. We would be in my backyard together, Mick making a throw from the center field wall to the cut off man, little Robby, who turned and threw a bullet, a perfect strike to home plate, cutting down the runner trying to score from first.

And at night I would listen to my friend's exploits on the transistor radio, that brown leather covering a smell my mind recalls vividly even today. And there, in my mind's eye was Mick, like a blur between first and second, sliding in safely, dusting himself off, grinning that slightly off center grin that told me how much fun it was playing baseball.

When he got injured I felt the pain in the pit of my stomach. When he struck out, I ached. But when he hit those home runs that traveled farther than nature intended a baseball to go, I felt a rush of adrenaline unlike anything else I had ever experienced.

We were best friends for 18 seasons, inseparable. He was always my hero, a god really. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

I know it was mostly a mirage. I know he was a pretty bad alcoholic and an even worse husband. I know that I should long ago have abandoned my silly childhood fantasies and brought Mick crashing back to earth. But that will never happen.

To me, Mickey Mantle was and will forever be what I saw the first day he entered my universe. Forever young, forever great beyond description. And though it is nearing 70 years since he first arrived and 50 since he lay his bat and glove down, he is still walking beside me, still in my mind, still in my dreams. Still and forever my first crush.


Anonymous said...



Harvey F Leeds said...


You will love this!!

Harvey F Leeds said...


Anonymous said...

I was a Roger fan . Can we still be friends?