The Yankees celebrated the 60th anniversary of Mickey Mantle’s Triple Crown season Friday night with a Mantle bobblehead giveaway. The Yankees invited Mickey’s two surviving sons, David and Danny, to attend the game and toss out the ceremonial first pitches. They met with the media shortly afterwards and discussed their father’s legacy.
“It’s funny. As much as he enjoyed individual accomplishments, it was the success of his teammates that meant far more to him. Winning was all that truly mattered,” Danny stated.
I was a bit surprised that both brothers enjoyed the 1998 HBO film “61*” that was directed by Billy Crystal and starred Thomas Jane as Mickey Mantle and Barry Pepper as Roger Maris. “It showed that they weren’t rivals but truly good friends,” Danny said.
The film did show that Mickey liked to hit the bottle and frequently arrived drunk to the Kew Gardens apartment that they shared. “Dad did drink a lot but it was done to help numb the considerable pain that he always seemed to be in,” David stated frankly.
Both brothers were surprised to learn that the late legendary Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Marvin Miller cited Mickey Mantle as the key to the success of the baseball players’ union when it was formed 50 years ago. In his 2004 autobiography, “A Whole Different Ballgame,” Miller knew that Mickey carried a lot of weight with his peers. Miller was worried that Mantle would think of himself as a company man along with the fact that he was from ultra-conservative Oklahoma, a state that certainly was never a hotbed for organizing labor. Miller was understandably ecstatic when the Mick put his arms around him and said “Listen to this guy, fellas!” when he was addressing the Yankees players during spring training in 1966.
I asked the Mantle brothers if their dad ever speculated about how his career would have been affected by free agency that was unfortunately not available to him or his peers prior to 1975. “Dad loved being a Yankee and I doubt that he would have ever have considered leaving,” David unequivocally stated. Come to think of it, there is no way that George Steinbrenner would ever have let another team outbid him for Mickey’s services had he been the Yankee owner when Mantle played for them and assuming that free agency was in effect then as well.
While it doesn’t rank with the Tom Seaver’s return to the Mets in 1983, following his banishment to the Cincinnati Reds six years earlier which still ranks as the franchise’s worst moment, it’s understandable why most Mets fans are very happy with Jose Reyes’s return albeit through unfortunate circumstances.
Fans were livid when Reyes, a talented shortstop who came up through the Mets minor league system, left the team in 2011 as a free agent after leading the National League in hitting that season. While it’s understandable that a player will go to the team that gives him the best offer, which in this case was the Miami Marlins, what was bothersome was the Mets, who were in the midst of their Bernie Madoff-induced financial crisis, refused to even make a token contractual offer to his agents.
The Marlins traded Reyes a year later to the Toronto Blue Jays and last July the Jays traded him to the Colorado Rockies as part of the package that landed them Troy Tulowitzki who was a key factor in almost getting the Blue Jays to the World Series. Jose returned many times to CitiField as a visiting player and while he always gave his best to his current employer he made it no secret that the Mets were always in his heart and that he would love to return to Queens.
Jose was arrested in Hawaii last October for allegedly assaulting his wife after a verbal altercation at a hotel. Charges were dropped when his wife refused to assist the Maui district attorney. Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred, well aware of the criticism that this NFL counterpart Roger Goodell had gotten for looking the other way at football players who became violent in domestic disputes, suspended Reyes for 52 games. The Rockies, who have a talented shortstop named Trevor Story, decided that it was in their best interest to cut Reyes even though they had to absorb his salary.
The Mets, who have been plagued by injuries, including what appears to be a season-ending neck injury to Jose’s longtime teammate and friend David Wright, see Reyes as a valuable and versatile player who is frankly not costing them peanuts. Even at age 32, Reyes is probably the fastest Mets runner. He should help sell tickets as well since reports are that Jose is not a fan favorite but can also still play at a high level.
Domestic violence shouldn’t be minimized simply because the assailant is an athlete who plays for your favorite team. Mets general Sandy Alderson stated “He has gone, and continues to undergo, counseling. I believe that he deserves a second chance,” in a press release Saturday announcing the Reyes-Mets reunion. While City Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito was not happy, most observers concur with Alderson that the affable Reyes, who has a reservoir of goodwill in Queens, should get the benefit of the doubt.
One of Reyes’ former Mets teammates was first baseman Ike Davis, who just joined the New York Yankees. Ike was barely recognizable as he was clean-shaven as per the Yankees’ dictum against facial hair. “I always need to have a razor ready because of my constant five o’clock shadow,” he said with a chuckle when I saw him before last Friday’s game with the Twins.
A Yankee who was happy to see Ike join the Bronx Bombers was Austin Romine who was pressed into first base duty during the last homestand because of injuries to Mark Teixeira and Chris Parmelee. “I greatly prefer being a catcher,” Romaine told me.
The Knicks made a big splash the day before the NBA Draft by swinging a trade with the Chicago Bulls that netted them 2011 NBA MVP Derrick Rose. The Bulls apparently felt that Rose would never regain his top form again after battling injuries for the last four seasons. I overheard some waggish reporter joke that Rose is a 27 year-old with 67 year-old knees. Nonetheless Knicks president/general manager Phil Jackson did not give up any draft choices to acquire him and he has only a year left on his current contract so there is no long-term financial commitment if things don’t work out. I will however miss Robin Lopez who was traded to the Bulls in the deal. Lopez was always at his locker and more than willing to talk about the game or anything else with the press.
New Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks managed to get his team a first round NBA Draft pick (thanks to horrendous trades by his predecessor Billy King the Nets were not scheduled to have a first-round pick until 2019) by trading forward Thaddeus Young to the Indiana Pacers for their 2016 first selection, 20th overall in the draft.
The Nets chose Michigan forward Caris Levert who has battled numerous foot injuries. Caris comes from a musical family as he is a cousin of Eddie Levert who is the lead singer of the legendary R&B group, the O’Jays, and the late Gerald Levert who had a big hit in 1987 with “Casanova.”
The Boston Celtics surprised a lot of observers by selecting Cal-Berkeley freshman forward Jaylen Brown with the third pick in the NBA Draft. The conventional wisdom was that Brown would go a bit later in the first round but apparently Celtics general manager Danny Ainge was impressed with both his athleticism and his intelligence.
I asked Jaylen, who is a chess wiz and actually liked attending college classes, if his decision to leave school for the NBA was a difficult one. “It was a lot harder than most people think. I plan on contacting Harvard and MIT to see about taking courses during the NBA off-season.”
Dragan Bender was viewed by many to be the Kristaps Porzingis of this year’s draft. Although Kristaps is from Latvia and Dragan is Croatian, he understood the comparison. Bender played last season in Tel Aviv for Maccabi in the Israel Premier League. “I loved playing in Israel. It’s an incredibly beautiful country and the people are wonderful,” he told me. Bender will be playing for the Phoenix Suns next year and said that he was happy because Arizona and Israel have similar dry heat climates.
Douglaston native Patrick McEnroe has been working hard around town to promote the New York Empire whose World Team Tennis debut season begins July 31 at Forest Hills Stadium. Last Tuesday McEnroe made an appearance at Citi Field while the Mets were taking batting practice while on the following evening he appeared on NY1’s late night sports show, “The Last Word,” and was interviewed by Budd Mishkin.
My favorite sporting event on ESPN, the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, will take place once again on July 4th at Nathan’s original Coney Island location. Nathan’s is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. It will be interesting to see whether Joey Chestnut can wrest back his yellow mustard belt from upstart Matt Stonie.
Last week I wrote about Fanzcall, a mobile app that allows fans to guess what will happen on the next pitch of a baseball game. I wrote how fans can accumulate points for guessing correctly which I thought was a great idea. I assumed incorrectly however that the points could be redeemed for prizes and I subsequently learned that it’s only for bragging rights. That’s rather chintzy in my opinion.
I paid a visit to our neighboring borough last Friday to attend the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce’s annual Brooklyn Eats event. King Solomon Foods has revived Brooklyn Burgers which used to be sold at Barclays Center before the company fell into bankruptcy. Happily, those juicy burgers are as tasty as ever.
Another guilty pleasure was Beigel’s glatt kosher black & white cookies (beigelsbakery.com). They are terrific as a summer treat when they are refrigerated but of course they are tasty served at room temperature as well.
Ford Motor Company teamed with the New York State Department of Tourism last week to promote “Escape from New York.” The idea was to promote the new technical wizardry of Ford’s SUV, Escape, with getaway ideas in the Empire State outside of New York City. The Escape has the capability to basically parallel park itself. I am not sure if I would entirely trust that in tight New York City spaces.