We Are Staying

The following is an excerpt from one of my book projects. 

                  

165644277_e0d719e6ba1Do you doubt you are chosen?  Then say your prayers and you may conclude that you are.   ~Martin Luther 

     

A pastor friend of mine grew up in Brooklyn, New York. As a kid he heard all of the tales regarding the New York Yankees and the dynasty they created. One such story involves ‘The Mick.’ 

 

It has been well documented that Mickey Mantle was a fierce and abusive alcoholic.  There are certainly others who have fared much better when it comes to recovery pertaining to such additions and compulsions.  Mantle’s battle with the bottle eventually took his liver.  What tends to be overlooked however, is that Mantle was also a son, a father, and a teammate.  And as it is for many alcoholics, people tend to forget those things—they remember these individuals as monsters.  According to Tony Castro’s book, Mickey Mantle: America’s Prodigal Son, Mantle’s own father died of cancer at the age of 39 and one of Mickey’s greatest hurts during his lifetime was that he never told his father that he loved him.  Say what you will about Mickey mantle, the man had a heart.

 

Mickey Mantle’s rookie season came at a time when the hopes of an entire city for their perennial favorites to return to the promised land were as high as ever.  Mantle, out of Commerce, Oklahoma, was raw talent personified.  He had blazing speed, he could clear knock it over the fence, and he possessed a penchant for hard living. 

 

Mantle was greeted with all the hoopla that you might expect in New York, and was quickly anointed the second coming of an icon—the irreplaceable center-fielder, Joe DiMaggio.  He was to play right-field next to DiMaggio.  DiMaggio, age 37 when Mantle showed up, was at the tail end of his highlight reel career. Mantle, at the young age of 19, was merely a promising phenom. That being said, the Yankees faithful were not in the mood to start thinking about a replacement for one of baseball history’s most feared hitters in DiMaggio (which surely made the pressure to perform even more intense for Mantle).  To top that it off, Mantle had to deal with all of the pressure, lights, and the media frenzy that comes with getting the big bucks and fame in wearing the Yankee pinstripes.

 

There is a story Detroit Tiger Hall of Famer, Al Kaline tells, in which he was once heckled by a young fan for not being half the player Mickey Mantle was. Kaline recalls his response to the fan—Son, nobody is half the player Mickey Mantle is. Needless to say, it didn’t take long for Yankees manager, the great Casey Stengel, to become one of Mantle’s biggest fans either.  Oddly enough, it would be during Mantle’s much heralded rookie season that Stengel’s belief in Mantle would be tested. 

 

Mantle struggled to play through a terrible slump that looked as if the young slugger might not be what all of the hype had suggested, and as Mantles’ numbers continued to tank, so did his confidence.  The fans became impatient with Mantle, and his warm welcome quickly dwindled away.  

 

Legend has it that during this stretch of poor play, manager Stengel called a meeting to talk with the frustrated and discouraged Mantle.  Mantle wasted no time in the meeting to share his feelings with Stengel, he told Stengel that he understood Stengel had no choice but to do something.  Mantle spoke about his desire to be removed from the line-up.  He continued on about how he was embarrassing himself, his teammates, and his family.  He was basically ready to give up baseball, so the story goes.  Stengel finally interjected, asking Mantle to stop talking.  Stengel, firm in his words, proceeded to tell Mantle that he wasn’t going anywhere. No questions, and no objections.  His mind was made up.  No matter how well Mantle fared, or how bad it got, Mantle was staying.  He was going to be Stengel’s right-fielder win or lose.   Mantle ended up spending some time in the minors to work things out, but by seasons’ end he was back on the stage called ‘Yankee Stadium’, tearing the cover off of baseballs and rounding the bases like a lion chasing down its prey. 

 

The rest of Mantle’s career is now some of baseball’s finest history as you may know.  Mantle went on to become one of the greatest players to ever play the game.  His team won the 1951 World Series during his rookie season.  And Mantle, like DiMaggio, went on to retire a Hall of Famer (and that, after tearing up his knee that rookie season.  The injury would plague him the remainder of his career).  The ’51 World Series would be the first of 7 world championship teams Mantle played on in New York during his 18 seasons with the team—which included: 16 All-Star teams, 12 pennant winners, and his World Series records that stand to this day for most homers, RBIs, runs, walks, extra-base hits and total bases. 

‘The Mick” ended up staying in New York alright, he owned the town by the time it was said and done.

I tell that story to say this: God’s picked you and me to play on his team.  You might be a short-stop and I might be a catcher, but we all have our place, and even though he could replace us in a New York minute, we’re not going anywhere.  God has far higher thoughts of us than Stengel had of Mantle. The silly proposition that God kicks his kids out of his family is as widespread as it is wrong.   And even if we decide to run off and play the harlot for a season, God never stops being our Father.

     

Like Mantle, we aren’t going anywhere, we are staying.

             

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  1. Lori
    January 26, 2009 at 9:35 pm

    Very good. I will buy the entire book.

  2. kenstoll
    January 28, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    I’ve got your advance order set aside Lori. Come to think of it, I may have you give your review of it.

  3. Lori
    February 8, 2009 at 8:06 pm

    Any time you need a review of your writing send it my way. I love to read your words and wisdom. You have a gift.

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