Appel: Mickey Mantle, coaching at first base

From SABR member Marty Appel at The National Pastime Museum on November 3, 2016:

The 1970 New York Yankees were in the midst of their long drought between pennants (1964 to 1976 was the actual span), and despite the emerging stardom of Thurman Munson and Bobby Murcer, the team was challenged at the box office, especially since the retirement of Mickey Mantle, which he announced in spring training of 1969.

It was my third season as part of the team’s public relations team, and in the wake of the rival New York Mets’ 1969 world championship win, the challenge was substantial.

Mantle loomed large over the franchise. He was just 38, and under the right circumstances, might well have still been playing. But sadly, he was 32 when he had his last Mantle-like season, and 36 when he quit. His indifference to conditioning had indeed taken a toll—something barely emerging in fans’ consciousness with the publication of Jim Bouton’s best-selling book, Ball Four.

The book, which detailed Mantle’s tendencies to overindulge in nightlife, seemed to do little to shock Mantle’s loyal fan base. Fans just readjusted what they knew about him and, if anything, it made him even more popular.

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Originally published: November 3, 2016. Last Updated: November 3, 2016.