If you're a baseball mom, you know the scenario all too well. Two outs, two strikes and your ball loving son is up at bat. Usually, he holds his own. A contributor to the team's success. But recently, he's been in a slump. Maybe this is it-the moment he crushes the ball. Your stomach tightens into a double, no, triple knot. Sweaty palms grasp your watered down, shaken iced-tea beverage. You can't catch a breath. You do what every great mom does. Pray! "Please, God! Let him clobber this one. I swear I'll work the concession stand every year until the day I die." He swings and you close your eyes in fear of what's to come. "Strike three!" the umpire yells as a bullet pierces your chest and you bleed to death right there on the bleachers. At least you don't have to work the concession stand.
Fact is, we all get in slumps from time to time. Mickey Mantle; The Commerce Comet by Jonah Winter and C.F. Payne is a biography about overcoming those slumps. This story is an inspiration to us all. The Mick (his nickname) didn't give up. Our boys of summer can learn a lot from this baseball hero. We can too.
Mickey Mantle was an old fashioned country boy living in Commerce, Oklahoma. His dad was a coal miner and decided he wanted a better life for his son. He decided Mickey was going to be what he himself had wanted to be: a baseball player. His dad and grandpa trained him to be a switch-hitter. But Mickey was little and had a bone disease that almost caused him to lose a leg. Being an athlete seemed impossible. But once he recovered, he grew tall and wide. He worked a part-time job digging graves and hauling tombstones that made him increase in size and strength. His dream of becoming a baseball player came alive again.
While playing for a semipro team, he was randomly discovered at sixteen by a New York Yankees talent scout. He started with the Yankees farm team in Missouri in 1949. He could run from home plate on a bunt in 2.9 seconds, the fastest in history. He clobbered the ball some guessed "Five hundred fifty-one feet." At age nineteen, the Yankees brought him up to the majors, where he'd replace the aging DiMaggio in center field when Joe retired. Greatness would be expected. And then the slump hit. He couldn't hit a ball to save his life. Was there too much pressure? Expectation? Mickey was sent back down to the minors. He wanted to give up.
But he didn't quit. After receiving some tough love from his dad, Mickey gradually recovered from his slump and returned to the majors. His life was back on track. But shortly after, his dad died of cancer. And then Mickey suffered a severe knee injury while running for a pop fly. He tripped on a drain pipe that was sticking up out of the ground. From then on, each swing of the bat caused excruciating pain. But he didn't give up. He played through the torture to become one of the most beloved baseball players of all time. To this day he holds the records for the most home runs, RBI's, extra base hits, runs, walks, and total bases in World Series history.
In the end, Mickey viewed himself as not living up to everyone's great expectations. He hadn't been perfect. But to everyone else, his emotion and fire inside him shined through making him a figure baseball fans revere and remember. And as for all you baseball moms out there, who endure the uncontrollable emotions of your son's success and failures on the field, we're riding the same baseball roller coaster. So hold on. The best and worst are yet to come. GULP!