Mickey Mantle would have been 78 years old today. I once met The Mick while he was signing autographs at a trade show in the early 90's . I was, at the time, a reporter covering cable TV and he was promoting the fledgling (now defunct) cable channel, Sports News Network. The show was attended mostly by cable execs and was not open to the public. There were few people seeking an audience with Mickey so he sat at the SNN booth drinking vodka and orange juice from a big plastic cup. The PR guy, a friend of mine, came over and said something like: "You gotta help me! No body wants Mickey Mantle's autograph so he's sitting in our booth getting drunk. Could you come over and pretend to interview him or something?"
And that's how it came to pass that I spent about a half-hour chatting with one of the greatest baseball players of all time. I still have the ball he signed for me that day (ironically the ball has a Mets logo on it. It was a freebie given at the trade show by WWOR-TV.) The Mick's speech was slightly slurred that day, but he was gracious, funny and seemingly unconcerned with the lack of interest among show-goers.
How do I know that October 20th is Mickey Mantle's birthday? It is mine too. (Also Tom Petty's BTW) I turn 50 today. On this day I always recall the day I met the Mick, great teammate gone too soon and, it must be said, a cautionary tale.