Reader reviews for Last Boy : Mickey Mantle and the End of America's Childho...

I grew up during the time of Mickey Mantle's playing days with the New York Yankees. I would listen to the ballgames on the radio and television with my grandfather, who happened to be a rabid Red Sox fan.The season that Maris and Mantle were hot on the trail of Babe Ruth's home run record was so exciting and I remember how crushed I was when Mantle got sick and fell out of the race near the end of the season.Of course, I collected baseball cards with all the Yankees, bottle caps, baseballs and try as I might my uncle who cut Mantle's hair while in St. Petersburg for Spring Training would never bring me even one hair!I finally got to met Mickey Mantle years later and spend some time listening to his stories along with Whitey Ford.Reading this book revived many memories and also filled in some history of those years.You can find it here in the library in the New Books section in Biographies under Mantle.
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Terribly sad story of Mantle's misguided life and the reasons for it. Jane Leavy returns with a biography of an American original—number 7, Mickey Mantle. Drawing on more than 500 interviews with friends and family, teammates, and opponents, she delivers the definitive account of Mantle's life, mining the mythology of The Mick for the true story of a luminous and illustrious talent with an achingly damaged soul. Meticulously reported and elegantly written, The Last Boy is a baseball tapestry that weaves together episodes from the author's weekend with The Mick in Atlantic City, where she interviewed her hero in 1983, after he was banned from baseball, with reminiscences from friends and family of the boy from Commerce, Oklahoma, who would lead the Yankees to seven world championships, be voted the American League's Most Valuable Player three times, win the Triple Crown in 1956, and duel teammate Roger Maris for Babe Ruth's home run crown in the summer of 1961—the same boy who would never grow up.As she did so memorably in her biography of Sandy Koufax, Jane Leavy transcends the hyperbole of hero worship to reveal the man behind the coast-to-coast smile, who grappled with a wrenching childhood, crippling injuries, and a genetic predisposition to alcoholism. In The Last Boy she chronicles her search to find out more about the person he was and, given what she discovers, to explain his mystifying hold on a generation of baseball fans, who were seduced by that lopsided, gap-toothed grin. It is an uncommon biography, with literary overtones: not only a portrait of an icon, but an investigation of memory itself. How long was the Tape Measure Home Run? Did Mantle swing the same way right-handed and left-handed? What really happened to his knee in the 1951 World Series? What happened to the red-haired, freckle-faced boy known back home as Mickey Charles?"I believe in memory, not memorabilia," Leavy writes in her preface. But in The Last Boy, she discovers that what we remember of our heroes—and even what they remember of themselves—is only where the story begins.
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Mickey Mantle was my childhood hero and after reading this excellent and readable book he still is a hero. a flawed hero, like a Greek tradcy but still a hero. he was never able to overcome his dark side. bit what a great ball player!
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A wonderfully written but sad biography on one of the great baseball players of the 20th century. Leavy goes behind the myth through interviews with friends,children,and even Mantle himself, who she spoke to in 1981.
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Jane Leavy has written a wonderful bio of one of the best baseball players in American history. Leavy's approach is different and very effective as she picks 20 moments from Mantles career and build her bio thru them. The chapters are still arranged chronologically yet each chapter goes much deeper than the simple story of what happened on the date selected. Leavy is a terrific writer and has a personal story to tell of her time spent with Mantle in the early 80's. Combined, this was one of the finest biographies I've read. Certainly the best baseball one since Ted Williams by Leigh Montville. This book appeared on many best of 2010 lists and it deserved every mention.
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This is a biography of New York Yankee Mickey Mantle. I'm not exactly sure how to review it so I will just tell you my feelings. I am an avid baseball fan - mostly the Baltimore Orioles therefore, you do hear about the dreaded Yankees. So I really expected to hear more about baseball, but what I read was basically about injures and inappropriate behavior by Mantle and his teammates. He couldn't seem gather his excellence from the field and continue it in his private life.The first few chapters were interesting, but then it just seemed to be the same over and over - play great, injury, bad behavior, repeat. I guess hearing the life of another pro player who just died, there was a great contrast - maybe Mantle was a great player who was denied his full potential by an early injury, but the injury wasn't what stopped him from being a great man.
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This is a tough one to review. Mantle was a complex character. He was an incredible baseball talent, whose impressive stats would have even been better if he hadn't played most of his career injured. He could be good-hearted and generous, but could be horribly crude and offensive. He was, in some ways, quite humble, but could be extremely selfish and thoughtless. He was a womanizer. He seemed to have no respect for women. Of course, his drinking was legendary.He was also a childhood hero of the author. Trying to do him justice and be honest about him was a tough job for a writer. She opted for a somewhat non-traditional format focusing on key events in Mantle's life, rather than a simple chronological biographical narrative, which I found a little hard to follow at times. I think the audio format didn't help, because I couldn't just "look back" when I got confused. One minute we're at Billy Martin's funeral, and a bit later we're back at a point where he's still among the living.My audio book download was billed as an "enhanced" audio book. I'm not sure what the "enhanced" part was. Were the interludes read by the author, where she described her meeting with Mantle, in the original book? I'd need to see the print copy.I was feeling rather disgusted with Mantle and mostly unsympathetic. Then Leavy explored the issue of the abuse he apparently suffered as a child. I thought she handled that delicate subject pretty well. In a society where the role of "victim" often seems reserved for females, I find it important to discuss the reality that boys -- "even Mickey Mantle!", it appears -- can be victims and that women/teenage girls can be perpetrators. Leavy makes a good case that Mantle showed a number of classic symptoms associated with survivors of childhood sexual abuse.Leavy also explores the significance of Mantle's relationship with his overbearing father; how he spent his life in a futile attempt to be what he thought his father wanted him to be.This was a complex book about a complex man. Leavy doesn't attempt to excuse or justify Mantle's behavior based on his personal baggage, but she does try to understand it. I think the book is at least moderately successful in that regard. Unfortunately, the confusion generated by Leavy's "key events" format makes it difficult for me to recommend the book. I wish she had put her feelings for Mantle aside and written a chronological biography.
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One of the first books I remember reading was a kid's biography of Mickey Mantle, probably written in the late 1950s. The Dodgers and Giants had left New York, and the Yankees were for a few years the only game in town. My father stuck with Duke Snider and the Dodgers, but I switched to the Yankees. I mostly identified with Yogi Berra, perhaps because he was Italian-American and read comic books like me, but what boy who loved baseball didn't admire Mickey Mantle in those days? I remember sitting in the bleachers at Yankee Stadium so I could watch him play center (Yogi was in left field). Who knew all the pain he played through in those days? Until I read this book, I didn't realize how excruciating his emotional pain must have been, more so than the hurting knee and shoulder, or how much pain he inflicted on his wife and children. This is a shocking book, and a complex one. If you value your idols, maybe you should pass it by. If you want to understand an iconic athlete as a human being, read it, it's a masterpiece.
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Mantle was a lousy husband, crappy father, and perpetually injured throughout his career. Who knows what kind of numbers he would have put up if he had been healthy. I'm too young to have grown up watching him, so he was always just one of those old timers to me, and one who played for the wrong team :) Knowing how screwed up he really was doesn't really help me. In fact, I'm not sure I'm really happy about knowing. Maybe I should have just let old legends lie.
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I was a teen growing up in Chicago during the 60's and I got to see Mickey Mantle play live a couple of times. Perhaps my fondest sports memory is seeing Mantle and Maris hit back-to-back HR's during the '61 Homer Race season. They were each awesome shots to the deepest parts of center and right-center field. It sucked the energy out of the White Sox fans in attendance at the old Comiskey Park that day but it was a joyous moment for this Yankee fan. I can still see Mantle's trademark jog around the bases and whether it's a real memory, or a compendium of countless video highlights, or a little of both, doesn't really matter to me.And that is what is missing from this book. There's little joy, no real awe at the records, at the shots. Oh sure, the numbers are there, and moments are described but they didn't convey to me the thrill and emotion of the moment. Instead the story here is dominated by the circumstances of his birth and early years, the numerous injuries, Mantle's ineptness as a husband and father, his crude language and behavior, the drunkeness, his declining health, his attempts at redemption, rehab, etc. Even a moment like the HR hit out of Griffith Stadium is diminished by a very lengthy and very boring description of the author's attempt to quantify precisely the exact distance the ball traveled. The conclusion after 18 pages - it was less than what was reported at the time but for a lot of reasons cannot be precisely defined. The 18 pages include the author's attempts to contact the gentleman who as a young boy had retrieved the ball (this is a Mantle bio, remember?). Equally off-putting was the frequent references to interviews the author conducted with Mantle over one weekend at Atlantic City in 1983. Little new is revealed that hasn't been told before, but apparently it is the one occasion when she spent the most time with him.But perhaps the comments above are a bit nit-picking. There is one central criticism I have of this bio. I have read a number of other bios and I enjoy them when they are well done, e.g. McCullough's book on Truman, Goodwin on Lincoln. These men were heroes. What they did and what they said had tremendous impact on the world. To best understand them and their influences it is essential to study them in depth from cradle to grave. My impression is that the baseball years were covered in less than half of "The Last Boy". I believe that Leavy erred when she approached the Mantle story in the same way as Presidential biographers, forgetting that Mickey Mantle as great a ballplayer as he was, and acknowledging the many awe-inspiring moments he delivered on the field, was in the end, just a ball player.
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