MICKEY MANTLE and FREDDY DERODA
This story is taken from the seldom read tome "Maybe It's Just Me" which in retrospect should have been titled "Perhaps It Is I" anyway...It is a childhood tragedy I endured which haunts me to this day. A travesty that helped mold me into the untrusting cranky old man I am today.
1956 was a magical year for
Yankee fans. The Yankees won the pennant, and recaptured the World Series title
which they had given up to the hated Dodgers the year before. Don Larson threw
the only World Series perfect game, and Mickey Mantle hit the homerun which
assured that victory. 1956 was the year Mickey won the Triple Crown, leading
the league with 52 homeruns, 130 RBIs and a batting average of .353.
Mickey was every 10 year olds
In the summer of 1957, Mickey
Mantle was coming to Manhasset, Long Island to sell and sign his new book, “The
Mickey Mantle Story”.
This review is from: The
Mickey Mantle Story, (Hardcover)
The childhood story of Mickey Mantle's father pitching to him first as
he hit from the right side, and then from the left is the beginning of the
story of a baseball legend. Mantle was considered by many to be the greatest
natural athlete who ever played the game. He was probably the greatest
switch-hitter of all times, and his career mark of five hundred and thirty six
homers is still impressive. He played on the great Yankee teams in which there
also played his buddy Whitey Ford, and also Maris, Yogi Berra, and Billy
Martin. Mantle was injury-prone and this hurt his career. But the really tragic
part of his story is the genetic disease which haunted him throughout his life.
In terms of power and speed when he was at his best, there was no one like him.
The “Mick” was coming to town!
I saved for weeks and raided my milk bottle of change to scrape up the $7.00
price of this life story of the most famous 25 year old in New York. When the
day came I stood with Mom in a line fifty yards away from the bookstore
Mickey was scheduled to sign for two hours. After an hour, the line
had moved only ten yards. I left Mom to see what was holding things up and
found the entrance jammed with an unorganized scramble of line cutters. The
only way in was to also cut the line. Mom of course said no. Cutting was wrong,
and you should not stoop to other’s transgressions.
For one time in my brief life I
did not listen to Mom. I left and went to the front, ducked, dodged dipped and
crawled to the entrance and reached the real line to see “The Mick.” Ten
minutes before he was scheduled to leave I was in front of my idol. It was the
first time I had ever stood face to face with a real celebrity.
Mick was great; he took my $7.00 and asked with his Mickey Mantle smile and
Oklahoma charm, “How do you want me to sign it kid?” “Joe” I managed to blurt
out, “To Joe.” And so I went home as probably the only eleven year old in
Manhasset with an autographed copy of “The Mickey Mantle Story”, “To Joe, best
wishes Mickey Mantle.”
This became my favorite
possession; a puff piece slapped together to capitalize on Mickey’s Triple Crown
year, autographed to ME! “The Mickey Mantle Story” somehow left out the
accounts of Mickey’s boozing and womanizing that became legendary years later,
but it would not have mattered to me.
At night, listening to the game
on WINS radio, I would hold “The Book” as I listened. When Mickey came to bat,
in a crucial situation, I would rub “The Autograph”, and almost as often as not
Mickey would deliver a homerun. I, of course, took some credit; rubbing the
autograph and a homerun could not have been a coincidence. There was a bond
between the Mick and me even if he did not know it. The Mick was from Oklahoma;
I was born in Oklahoma and called it home the first eight months of my life, so
“The Book”, “The Autograph” and I held a special power.
I was the envy of the
neighborhood because of my prized possession-especially to FREDDY DERODA.
Freddy lived about two blocks
away. He was a rich kid who lived in the only custom built home in the Munsey
Park section of Manhasset. Freddy was only a casual friend, though he and his
Father did once take me bowling. Even Dad was impressed when they picked me up
in their Bentley, and Dad was not easily impressed by material possessions.
Winter vacation 1959, Freddy
asked to borrow “The Book” which he needed for a book report. I reluctantly
lent him “The Book”. How could you not trust a kid whose father drove a
Bentley? When I returned to school after Christmas, Freddy was absent. He was
absent the next three days. I rode to his house to see if Freddy was alright
(and to get my book back).
His house was empty...no
furniture, no Bentley, no Freddy, NO BOOK! The Derodas had moved. Quickly and
quietly they had moved in the middle of the night. No one knew where or why.
Freddy had known, but told no one, and he used the opportunity to escape with
I pedaled home in shock. Theft
did not happen in Manhasset. We did not lock up our bikes, you could leave your
car running if you were going to make a quick stop in the store, and homes were
left unlocked all day. Yet, my BOOK was stolen! It was stolen by FREDDY DERODA.
this day the name affects me. FREDDY
DERODA. “Slowly I turn, step by step, inch by inch”. It makes me want to break
or KILL something.
Mickey still had some good
years, especially 1961, but he was slowed by debilitating injuries and as great
as he was, he never really reached his full potential for greatness. I think it
had something to do with “The Book”, “The Autograph”, and our now broken
Reflecting today, I have a
feeling that Mr. Deroda might have been a member of that special Union which
did not allow striking, or leaving, and the Derodas had no choice but to leave
on the sly, in the dead of night.
This must have been devastating to an eleven
year old boy. That he could leave with one special thing of value must have
been important to him.
Freddy, I hope “The Book” helped you through what must
have been a hard time.
I guess I forgive you.