From Keith Olbermann's review of Jane Leavy's new book about Mickey Mantle:
- Almost anyone who knows about Mantle knows that the frequently admitted presumption of early death is part of his legend. While Leavy disproves his depiction of a family in which all the men died by 40, she also convincingly identifies this specific fear as the likely outcome of Mantle’s having been repeatedly sexually abused as a child by a half sister and neighborhood boys, and produces heartbreaking on-the-record evidence to support this painful conclusion.
This is not, however, a dark book, no matter how dark parts of the life it portrays surely were. The hero worship of the fans, and the women who constituted a kind of endless batting practice in Mantle’s life, are presented thoroughly and fairly. There are revelations of hidden charity and great empathy, of a hero’s genuine inability to understand what others saw in him, and deeply endearing self-deprecating humor, even when a drunken Mantle is literally in the gutter. Almost everyone in sports over 40 has a “When I met Mickey” story, and Leavy weaves her own through five vignettes interspersed with the main chapters. Hers is too sweetly, horribly, blissfully, embarrassingly Mantlean to give away here.Whatever you might think of Olbermann's politics, he's a gifted writer.
So is Jane Leavy. There have been a number of books written about Mantle since his passing, and I have to confess having read none of them. I think I knew, subconsciously at least, that there would be no end to them, so I might as well wait until a great one arrived.
I think I'll see if Leavy's is the one.
(As an addendum, here's a little bit about Olbermann, the Yankees, and Mantle.)