Product description More than any other athlete, Mickey Mantle was the American hero whose life personified the great expectations and unfulfilled dreams of the twentieth century. Hailed by Casey Stengel as the next Ruth and successor to DiMaggio, Mantle would become the first true sports icon of the television age. In Mickey Mantle: America's Prodigal Son, former Sports Illustrated writer Tony Castro recounts a story of fathers and sons, rebels and heroes, and a youth's rite of passage. He interviewed over 250 of Mantle's friends, teammates, lovers, acquaintances, and drinking partners, producing an explosive biography of one of the world's most fascinating sports heroes and a telling look at the American society of his time. Review " ... the best biography ever written of the Yankee legend." The New York Times "Brilliant... a valuable contribution to the understanding of our time..." Publishers Weekly "Tony Castro is the definitive expert on Mickey Mantle... He knew Mickey as his boyhood idol, later played golf with his retired hero, drank with him and drove him home when he was passed out. Heck, how could he not write about him better than anyone else!" Pete Rose "Tony Castro's powerful, touching song of praise and lament for Mickey Mantle defines the the forces that made the Oklahoma miner's son an American icon." Dave Kindred, The Sporting News "A terrific insight into the life and tribulations of a true American icon. An extremely well-researched book with stories that that only someone who really knew Mickey would know." Tom Catal, Mickey Mantle Museum From the Inside Flap F MICKEY MANTLE HADN'T lived, broadcaster Mel Allen once said, he would have been invented. In a sense, then, Mickey Mantle, like most heroes, was a construction; he was not real. He was all that America wanted itself to be, and he was also all that America feared it could never be. The post-war America of the mid-twentieth century was like all societies with the need for heroes not because they coincidentally made them up on their own but because heroes like Mantle express a deep psychological aspect of human existence. They can be seen as a metaphor for the human search of self-knowledge. In his time, Mickey Mantle showed us the path to our own consciousness through the power and spectacle of his baseball heroics, particularly his prodigal home runs often backlit by the cathedral solemnity of Yankee Stadium. In the atomic age of the 1950s, the tape-measure blasts in our national pastime took on the form of peace-time symbols of America's newly established military dominance. After all, Hank Greenberg, the first Jewish slugger in the game, said that when he had hit his home runs from the mid-1930s into the 1940s, he was hitting them against Hitler. In the 1950s, Mickey Mantle came to reflect the appearance and values of the dominant society in the world. He was the hero of America's romance with boldness, its celebration of power, a nation's Arthurian self-confidence in strength during a time when we last thought might did make right. Mickey Mantle was a figure through which an America profoundly affected by nuclear fear, by a dizzying plethora of atomic panaceas and proposals, and by endless speculation on the social and ethical implications of the new reality, reconciled the conscious and unconscious aspects of the national psyche. People feared the bomb itself, yes, and such fears were probably overstated by authorities who wanted every new home to be built with fall-out shelters. The bomb made mid-century Americans fear more acutely what they already had feared: that things that had been whole in their lives would now split, and that such splitting could not be controlled. The evolution, or maybe revolution, in technology, race relations and the very fabric of national culture that Americans could whimsically reassure themselves every time they looked at a Norman Rockwell painting on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post -- all of that was changing; and it affected a nation that naively had believed its world had been made safe when Hitler had been defeated. But as the poet Rolf Humphries noted, in the profession of anxiousness, there is an element of fashion. In the 1950s, that fashion was also a last vestige of stability: pinstripes, the New York Yankees and baseball. Thus, when Mantle hit a home run, he was not only slugging a tape-measure dinger in the real world, but also facing an aspect of the unconscious. "When I was playing," Mantle said looking back from retirement, "I used to feel like everything was happening to some other guy named Mickey Mantle, like I was just me and this guy called Mickey Mantle was another person." Or as Mantle's close personal friend George Lois put it: "Mickey Mantle was the last American hero. He was a walking shrine to an age of innocence and a symbol of a time when all was right with the world." Even had he not reflected the times, Mantle would have been walking Americana. He failed at what he set out to do, at what his father groomed him for: to be the greatest player who ever played the game. Still, his career was storybook stuff, hewing more to our ideas of myth than any player since Babe Ruth. Mantle himself came to realize that Ruth and Joe DiMaggio represented a state of mind that never existed beyond the abstract. They were a mirage, just as he, too, would become an icon. A lesson to be reaffirmed, sportswriter Richard Hoffer once suggested about Mantle and perhaps heroes altogether, is that we don't mind our heroes flawed, or even doomed. In America, failure is forgiven of the big swingers, in whom even foolishness is flamboyant -- and that the world will always belong to those who swing from the heels. "Ted Williams was a real hitter," Mantle himself once observed. "Me, I just got up there and swung for the roof ever' time and waited to see what would happen." Long before baseball Ruth and DiMaggio, long before baseball became an industry of multi-national owners and millionaire players, Walt Whitman wrote, "Well, it's our game. That's the chief fact in connection with it: America's game. It has the snap, go, fling of the American atmosphere. It belongs as much to our institutions, fits into them as significantly as our Constitution's laws, is just as important in the sum total of our historic life." Baseball is, to be sure, an American cultural declaration of independence. It has come to express the nation's character - perhaps never more so than during the intense, anti-Communist, post-World War II period, when a preoccupation with defining the national conscience might be expected, particularly defining the national self in a tradition that is so culturally middle of the road. As American Studies authority Gerald Early put it: "I think there are only three things America will be known for 2,000 years from now when they study this civilization - the Constitution, jazz music, and baseball..." "We knew there was something poignant about Mickey Mantle before we knew what poignant meant," recalled broadcaster Bob Costas. "We didn't just root for him. We felt for him. Long before many of us ever cracked a serious book, we knew something about mythology as we watched Mickey Mantle run out a home run through the lengthening shadows of a late Sunday afternoon at Yankee Stadium." "The view of Mantle as a Homeric hero is correct, I think," Bryan M. Davis, a specialist on heroes in pop culture, said in an interview discussing Mantle as a heroic figure. "He reminds me much more of Achilles or Hector -- heroes we revere for their ability to overcome the shortcomings of simply being human but finally having to succumb to those weaknesses -- rather than an archetypal hero such as Moses or King Arthur. But the religion of baseball tends to deify its greats. Perhaps, in a thousand years, another civilization will look back and remember the hero Mantle, who slew the demon baseballs with a mere stick and led the people in ritual song every seventh inning." Perhaps it is too much to say that, like Arthur, Mickey Mantle was one with his country, unless you believe that the grail Mantle set off to find - greatness in baseball - simply reflected the greatness America believed was its entitlement after World War II. In a sense, though, baseball has been a metaphor for American greatness. Indeed, baseball literature and films historically have been about what America could and should be: Men seeking redemption on the ballfield; baseball spoken of in religious terms, as if it had the power to heal; the nostalgia for lost idealism. In Mickey Mantle, more than any player, we also see that baseball is not only about heroes and rebels but also about fathers and sons. Baseball is about the loving father exposed and vulnerable and about the boy in the father made whole. Mantle is the eternal youth playing catch, forever trying to play with the father. "The only thing I can do," Mantle was to ultimately conclude about his reason for being, "is play baseball. I have to play ball. It's the only thing I know." Excerpt from Mickey Mantle: America's Prodigal Son About the Author AUTHOR TONY CASTRO'S latest book, The Prince of South Waco: American Dreams and Great Expectations, is his touching and provocative coming of age memoir about growing up in Texas in the 1950s and 1960s. The book is already drawing critical acclaim as a powerful Gatsbyesque drama of unrequited love driving a youthful passion to succeed at any cost. "Readers who step into Tony's Time Machine, T he Prince of South Waco, are in for a thrilling, lyrical ride, a true tale of romantic woes and raucous rebellion that will break readers' hearts," writes Preston Kirk, the former United Press International reporter who covered Texas. "Castro's coming-of-age story is a painfully poignant memoir of romance, racism and self-discovery fraught with recollections of lynchings, Jim Crow-ism, no-white-girl speeches, growing up Chicano and excelling as one of the best and brightest of emerging young journalists of his time. 'How do you reclaim your destiny when it has been so connected with a love that has been lost?' asks the author. And therein lies this soulful impasse." Bob Vickrey, a columnist at the Waco Tribune-Herald writes: "Tony Castro's honest and powerful memoir captures the essential American story of the struggle for cultural assimilation. The very best stories are written in blood, and in Castro's finely woven personal narrative, the reader can almost feel his heart beating." Castro is the author of the best-selling Mickey Mantle: America's Prodigal Son and the landmark civil rights history Chicano Power: The Emergence of Mexican America, which Publishers Weekly called "brilliant... a valuable contribution to the understanding of our time." Castro was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. A native of Waco, Texas, Castro is a graduate of Baylor University. Tony lives in Los Angeles with his wife Renee LaSalle and Jeter, their black Labrador retriever. Their two grown sons, Trey and Ryan, also reside in Southern California.