- Who : Tom Molito, Pound Ridge
- What : Auther of book about Yankees legend Mickey Mantle
- Learn more: On the book's Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/MickeyMantleInsideAndOutsideTheLines/
WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- Tom Molito’s book on Mickey Mantle offers a perspective different from all of the other volumes written about the Yankees’ legend. The Pound Ridge resident remembers Mantle from a fan’s perspective, on and off the field, and brings a personal narrative that developed over a decades-long friendship.
“This is the only book I know about Mantle that was written by a fan,’’ Molito said. “I was one of those kids sitting in the bleachers at Yankee Stadium that idolized him.”
“Mickey Mantle: Inside and Outside the Lines” was published in April. Mantle spent his entire career with the Yankees, from 1951-68, and amassed 536 home runs and 1,509 RBIs. He won three MVP awards, played in 17 All-Star games and helped the Yankees win seven World Series, and hit a World Series record 18 home runs. He was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974. He died in 1995 at age 63.
Molito, a Yonkers native, was one of many worshippers of “The Mick.” He still has a “Mantle Room” at his home, a carryover from his boyhood days. He met Mantle in the late 1980s when Molito was president of Cabin Fever Entertainment and made an award-winning documentary about the select members of the 500 home run club. Molito and his wife, Kathleen, hit it off immediately with Mantle and his live-in agent, Greer Johnson. The couples saw each other frequently until Mantle’s death.
Molito kept notes on their meetings, planning to one day share them with his children. Years later, he told a friend, Geoff Orlando of Scarsdale, about them. “Geoff said you have to put these down in a book,’’ Molito said. “I had about 30 index cards. Geoff convinced me to write it. There were a lot of books out there written about Mantle, but there nothing out there that was written from a fan’s point of view.”
Molito said it only took him about six weeks to write the book. He had already read most of the previous books written about Mantle, so he knew most of the stories and the slugger’s history. During his conversations with Mantle, Molito found anecdotes that had previously gone untold.
“For instance, I introduced Charlie Daniels, who wrote the foreword, to Mickey,’’ Molito said. “They became good friends. Charlie wrote about Mickey in one of his songs and included John Wayne. Mickey said ‘Why’d you have to go put John Wayne in my song?’’’
Molito said his conversations with Mantle generally steered away from baseball. They talked about country music, Mantle’s upbringing in Oklahoma and fatherhood. “There were times when he got a bit melancholy,’’ Molito said. “He thought he wasn’t a good father. He didn’t spend a lot of time with his children, and he expressed a lot of regret about that.”
Molito also said Mantle expressed disappointment with some of his overall career numbers. “It bothered the hell out of him,’’ Molito said. “He was very unhappy with his career. If he had 15 more hits, he would have hit .300 for his career, instead of .298. The other thing that killed him was the old Yankee Stadium and hitting balls to ‘Death Valley.’ If he played in this era, he would hit 800 home runs. He just thought between his injuries and drinking -- he never took care of himself -- his career statistics were not as good as they could have been.”
Among the other baseball anecdotes Molito relates is a home run Mantle hit at Yankee Stadium that hit the facade in right field, keeping it in the park. Historians credit Mantle with two other home runs that smacked the facade. “The one that hit the bottom of the facade gets lost in the shuffle,’’ Molito said.
Molito also said Mantle loved playing for the Yankees, and his teammates. “He thought everyone he played with should be in the Hall of Fame,’’ Molito said.
While Mantle is remembered for his baseball exploits, his career was overshadowed by injuries and his addiction to alcohol. He entered the Betty Ford Clinic in 1994 to address his alcoholism, and Molito said he became a changed man.
“After he came out, when people came up to him he realized what he meant to people,’’ Molito said. “Even though he didn’t understand it, he appreciated it. When he came out, he had a national press conference and told fans ‘Don’t be like me. I had all the gifts in the world and threw them away. All I did was take, take, take.’ He wanted to give back and established an organ donation foundation. There was a redemptive quality to him, and I think that’s how he should be remembered.”