Mickey Mantle loved sex. And getting drunk. Those are the topics of discussion as the baseball hero, now in heaven, pulls up a chair with writer Leonard Shecter. Together they rehash Mantle''s life, from his X-rated bedroom exploits and his treatment of fans to his relationship with the media and his phenomenal career. Nothing is left uncovered in a story that reveals Mantle''s dark side.
Only two main voices are needed from
Alan Smithee -- a drawly, scratchy Oklahoma twang for Mantle and a low, whispery tone for Shecter. The novel, rooted in truths, is a remorseful confession for Mantle as, in his own way, he faces the demons that shaped his life.
Smithee -- a traditional pseudonym in the entertainment industry -- is wonderful as ball player and writer.
In Peter Golenbock''s shocking and revealing first novel, Mickey Mantle tells the hidden story of his life as a baseball hero, and asks for forgiveness from his friends and family. If the revelations in Jim Bouton''s
Ball Four were the first crack in the Mantle legend, then
7 smashes the myth to reveal the human being within.
Bestselling sportswriter Peter Golenbock knew Mickey Mantle, Billy Martin, Jim Bouton, Joe Pepitone, and many of Mantle''s friends, family, and teammates. While Mickey was a good person at heart, he had a dark side that went far beyond his well-known alcoholism and infidelities. In this fictional portrait, Mickey--now in heaven--realizes that he''s carrying a huge weight on his shoulders, as he did throughout his life. He needs to unburden himself of all the horrible things he did and understand for himself why he did them. He wants to make amends to the people he hurt, especially those dear to him; the fans he ignored and alienated; and the public who made him into a hero. Mickey never felt he deserved the adulation, could never live up to it, and tried his damnedest to prove it to everyone. The fact that he was human made the public love him that much more.
This Mickey Mantle is revealed as a man who lived in fear--fear of failure, of success, of life beyond baseball, and of commitment. His was a life filled with sex, yet devoid of deeper satisfactions. From the alcohol-fueled good times and bad, to the emptiness when the party was finally over, 7 has it all.
Through the recounting of his exploits on and off the field, some of them side-splittingly hilarious, some disturbing, and others that will make your head shake in sympathy, Mickey comes clean in this novel in the way he never could in real life. 7: The Mickey Mantle Novel puts you inside the locker room and bedroom with an American Icon every bit as flawed and human as we are.
How Mickey Mantle Wound Up in Heaven
An Exclusive Essay by Peter Golenbock
I met Mickey Mantle for the first time in 1974 when I was writing my first book,
. He had asked me to meet him at his home in Dallas, but when I arrived, I was informed he had flown to New York and I could meet him in the clubhouse of Yankee Stadium the next day. Back on the plane I went.
During an hour-long interview which I conducted in the Yankee clubhouse, Mickey talked about his career, his love of the game, and the nightmares that woke him up almost every night. During the middle of the interview New York Times reporter John Drebinger entered the clubhouse, and Mickey then told me that Drebby had a hearing aid and that Mickey would move his mouth, pretending to talk so Drebby would turn the hearing aid up, and when he got it up all the way, he''d scream at the top of his lungs. Mickey, myself, and everyone standing around listening roared with laughter.
That was Mickey, irreverent, complex, funny and sad.
7 Second Interview: At Bat with Peter Golenbock
You''ve been writing bestsellers for years, you saw the response to your friend Jim Bouton''s , and you even wrote a book (with Graig Nettles) called . And you''ve already been through this once, with a controversial book being dropped by a major publisher and picked up by a smaller press, with , your book on Jim Valvano. Were you surprised at what''s happened so far with
A: When I saw the outrage over the O.J. Simpson book, my immediate reaction was, Uh oh. Judith Regan became the focal point of the controversy, and since she was also my publisher, I was fully aware of what seemed sure to follow. I was hoping against hope, but unfortunately my instincts were correct.
Q: Mickey Mantle was your childhood hero. In the opening to the book, you recount the last conversation you had with him, when you try to explain to him what he meant to you. Do you still think of him as a hero?
A: He is more of a hero to me that ever. What most people refuse to accept is that alcoholism is a disease, and too often a deadly one. Mickey suffered with all the ills--both physical and social--of alcoholism for most of his life. In the end, he faced up to his problem. For a macho guy like Mickey, that took a lot of guts. To us, he was a hero. To himself he was a failure. How he must have suffered. That''s what this book is all about.
Q: You''ve written books with and about Billy Martin, and he''s a big figure in this book too. What was Mantle''s relationship with him like?
A: They were best friends, drinking buddies, soul mates. They loved each other like brothers. They were also enablers. Both were alcoholics, but neither would admit it.
Q: You''ve talked to hundreds of old ballplayers for your books over the years. Was Mantle typical in the way he handled the time after he was done as a player, or the exception?
A: Mantle was an extreme example of an athlete who died inside the day he retired. Some athletes can smoothly make the transformation into the real world, but not most. In the days before the mega-salaries (when the athlete had to find a job after baseball) plenty of the players I interviewed felt lost and abandoned. Selling insurance or cars just didnt excite them. But they had to do if they wanted to feed their families. Mickey was one of the few athletes who could sell his autograph and make his living that way. And he felt bad about having to do that.
Q: Mickey has a line in the book: "I''m only sorry camcorders didn''t exist way back then. We''d-a made a fortune." Do you think things were different "way back then," or was the difference just that everybody didn''t have camcorders?
A: Things were different back then. There wasn''t the constant scrutiny of the athletes'' actions like there is now. There was no SportsCenter or talk radio, no Internet blogging or YouTube. The sportswriters rarely wrote about what happened off the field. The players had a lot more privacy.
This book would make Henry Miller blush. Golenbock, author of many sports books, has written a novel about baseball great Mickey Mantle. It takes place in heaven, where Mantle, talking with dead baseball writer Leonard Shecter, coauthor of
Ball Four, recalls his three favorite things in life: "puss," booze and, lastly, baseball. Mantle is the first-person narrator and in the first half of the book takes us on a hedonistic yet misogynistic ride. There are stories of him and fellow teammate Billy Martin and their endless pursuit of women, in bars, on ledges outside of hotel rooms, in dark movie theaters, with telescopes and while signing autographs ("We''ll sign your balls if you''d... play with ours"). Mickey seems more of the gentleman ("I don''t believe in having sex with women against their will the way Billy sometimes did"), but the quest for sex is endless. Perhaps the most controversial part of this book will be the part about Mantle supposedly bedding Marilyn Monroe while she was married to Joe DiMaggio. In a scene where Mantle prematurely ejaculates and Monroe is "frigid," Mantle pronounces Marilyn "a lousy lay." Dropped into the book apparently randomly are samples of Mantle''s sophomoric humor ("How can you tell when two lesbians are twins? They lick alike") that are sometimes downright offensive. The second half of the book looks at Mantle''s impressive Hall of Fame career, but no one will be talking about that. This is not a book to give to your favorite nephew. In fact, it will be interesting how Mantle''s fans will receive it—as an insult to their hero? or a prurient look at the Mick that they can''t help themselves from buying?
250,000 first printing. (Apr. 3)Note: This review is based on a galley received under the Regan Books imprint of HarperCollins; the book occasioned a firestorm of controversy and was contributory to publisher Judith Regan''s firing and the cancellation of the book, since picked up by Lyons. The text of the book is unchanged.
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Peter Golenbock is one of the nation’s best-known sports authors, and has written some of the best-selling sports books of the last thirty years, including
Idiot (with Johnny Damon),
Balls (with Graig Nettles),
The Bronx Zoo (with Sparky Lyle),
Bums: An Oral History of the Brooklyn Dodgers, and
Wild, High and Tight: The Life and Death of Billy Martin. Five of his books have been
New York Times bestsellers. Golenbock lives in St. Petersburg, Florida. This is his first novel.