Jane Leavy, Mickey Mantle’s new biographer, admits her bias: she loved him as she grew up in Roslyn, N.Y., on Long Island, and always took his side when she debated her father over who was better: Mantle or Willie Mays. “Facts, statistics, nothing mattered,” she said. “Mickey was my guy.”
Her grandmother lived two blocks from Yankee Stadium and near the Concourse Plaza Hotel, where Mantle and his wife, Merlyn, lived early in their marriage.
Although her grandmother never set foot in the stadium, “in my memory she loomed large in it,” Leavy said. For her, the stadium and her grandmother’s Apartment 2A at 751 Walton Avenue were personal Edens.
“My intense love for Mickey,” she said, “was suffused with my intense love for my grandmother.”
But something else bound her to Mantle: her premature birth and Mantle’s injuries.
“I felt that he carried a sense that he was damaged and so did I,” she said.
Her new book, “The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood” (Harper), is an episodic tour of Mantle’s athletic achievements and his physical and emotional traumas. Harper is publishing the book with a large first printing of 200,000 copies.