photo manipulation by nacrowe
for some reason out of all the falls from grace that have occurred over the years during the TRUMP ADMINISTRATION, the recent late-JULY photo opportunity with legendary NEW YORK YANKEES pitcher MARIANO RIVERA really hit me hard. yes i am a YANKEES fan, but this goes so far beyond that.
when i was living in VENEZUELA, i brought with me a pinstriped, nameless (as is the tradition), home YANKEES jersey emblazoned with the number 42. baseball is a religion in VENEZUELA and they are fanatical about it like the rest of the continent is about futbol. even though RIVERA was from PANAMA, VENEZUELANS took pride that a LATIN AMERICAN pitcher was so dominant on such a big stage. to say the guy was respected is putting it lightly, he was more folk hero.
i remember when RIVERA was set to retire. unlike his equally legendary teammate DEREK JETER, who made his announcement before his last season and thereby was showered with praise and gifts at every game (yes, even BOSTON), RIVERA opted to avoid such an award tour and if my memory serves me correctly made that decision before the all-star game of his final season (roughly the midway point). rather than meeting with owners and media members at each stop, it was reported at the time that RIVERA sought out the people that worked at the stadiums like the janitors and food prep workers.
he met with these people and thanked them individually by name for their years of service making the game possible. he did this away from the cameras and the media. reports were that he made lots of people cry. just the thought of having an unskilled, under-appreciated worker being thanked for doing a thankless job for many, many years by arguably the greatest pitcher of all-time on his final visit to their stadium... i mean how could you not love the guy.
MARIANO RIVERA was my favorite YANKEE and arguably one of my favorite athletes ever partly because of such undisclosed efforts and charitable work. and now to learn that he supports TRUMP, someone who has done such damage to the rich fabric of AMERICAN SOCIETY, including LATIN AMERICANS. it just sucks. it really does.
maybe PEDRO MARTINEZ really wasn't that bad after all.
photo by nacrowe
the interesting thing about MICKEY MANTLE on the field is that the guy never reached his full potential and yet still had a singular HALL OF FAME career. in the 1951 WORLD SERIES while getting out of JOE DIMAGGIO's way during a fly ball he suffered a terrible knee injury after tripping on an exposed drain pipe in a freak accident. this was before modern medicine and it insured he played in pain the rest of his career. this was all during his rookie season.
so when i think of MANTLE on the field i think of endurance and pain tolerance. in her excellent biography THE LAST BOY: MICKEY MANTLE AND THE END OF AMERICA'S CHILDHOOD (HARPER PERENNIAL, 2011), WASHINGTON POST baseball reporter JANE LEAVY showcases that a similar argument can be made for a man that was broken spiritually long before he stepped on a major league diamond. its an enlightening yet sober assessment of an AMERICAN icon.
essentially MANTLE was famously groomed from an early age by his father to be a switch hitter, making him hit the metal side of a barn over and over in their rural OKLAHOMA property for much of his youth. his father ELVIN basically nurtured his talent, but at a price. his love for his son was more or less conditioned by his on-field play, such was the vicarious nature of their relationship. the concept of being a potential breadwinner for your family as a child is a damaging to the psyche, just as it was later for MICHAEL JACKSON and others, and it relayed a concept of self-worth that was conditioned on external factors. it lay the groundwork for later womanizing and extreme behavior that was internally rationalized because of his athletic performance.
the other major point given by LEAVY was the previously under-reported fact that MANTLE was sexually abused as a young child (4-5 years old) by his older teenage half-sister. the humiliation endured and internalized over the years informed his sense of self and sexuality, which partly explains his later behavior throughout his adult life.
the idea of being celebrated as the paragon of masculinity during your prime yet feeling inadequate based on actions taken against you for which you have no control is beyond compelling. his life was one of endurance and pain management both on and off the field, and the fact that he was trapped from discussing such pain because such would shatter his public image by discussing a taboo subject like CHILD ABUSE seems to me a uniquely AMERICAN story.
why is it that we can't deal with reality? why do we love our myths? what does that say about AMERICAN culture?
THE LAST BOY is a great read whether you appreciate baseball or sports in general or not. if anything this book is great because the subject under scrutiny is not MANTLE himself but rather our collective needs as AMERICANS to hoist up athletes and public figures as ICONS and DEMIGODS, depriving them of their own humanity. MANTLE is a case in point.