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COLUMN: CORRALES WRITERS GROUP

Mickey and Me
By Joe Brown
Following my successful 1962 baseball season as a freshman in high school in my hometown of Cushing, Oklahoma, my dad arranged for the family to see my hero Mickey Mantle and the New York Yankees play the Kansas City Athletics in August. Dad got the family seats a few feet away from the locker room door where the Yankees came out to go down to the field. He wanted me to see “The Mick,” up close.

Gameday, I took the seat nearest the locker room door, eagerly awaiting the Yankees. The first Yankee I saw was my hero Mickey Mantle. I hollered, “Hey Mick, I’m an Okie.” Mickey laughed, he came over, his right hand out. “Well, I’m an Okie, too, and I'm Mickey Mantle.”

Taking his hand, I gushed, “Yeah, I know, and I'm Joe.”
Mickey asked me, “Where’s home? How old are you? Do you play baseball?”

I know I answered his questions, but I can’t remember what I said.
Mickey pulled over teammates as they came out and introduced me. “My little Okie buddy, Joey,” he told them. I met Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, Bill Skowron, Bobby Richardson, Tony Kubek, Roger Maris and all the team. After a while, Mickey said, “Joey, I better get down to the field and warm up.”

As he turned to leave, I hollered, “Mick, hit me a homer.”
Mickey looked back smiled again. “Joey, I’ll sure try.”

In Mickey’s first at-bat, he hit a homer to left field that flew out of the ballpark. I saw the entire flight of the ball and marveled at the distance the ball traveled. Mickey seemed as excited by the homer as I was. As he rounded second base, he looked directly up above third base, toward me, took his ball cap off and twirled it. After the game, we hung around for a while. I wanted to see Mickey again and tell him how excited I was about the homer.

Dad said, “Joey, Mickey is probably being interviewed by reporters. We leave early tomorrow morning for New Orleans, let’s go.” I hated to leave, but I was smiling from ear to ear because Mickey had hit a home run for me.

In 1970 I was living in Lubbock, Texas. I saw a full-page ad in the newspaper about Mickey Mantle coming to attend the grand opening of the “Mickey Mantle’s Country Cooking” restaurant. On opening day, I arrived at the restaurant and saw a line of fans out the front door and down the street. I went and got in line.

A table was set up for Mickey to sign autographs. Mickey was smiling as he made everyone feel special. He was being the Mickey I remembered from Kansas City. He looked up at each fan, asked their name and what they wanted on the picture. When Mickey looked up at me, he gasped, and did a double-take. To my complete surprise, he said, “Joey, how are you, and where were you after the game?” It took me a moment to realize what he had said. Then it hit me, and I was shocked. “I wanted to say goodbye, Mickey. We waited a while, but we had to go, and prepare to leave early the next morning for Louisiana.”

"Okay. Now where have you been for all these years?”
I mumbled, “Mick, you remember me?”
Mickey smiled and said, “Sure do, it was August of 1962 in Kansas City, right?”
I said, “Well, yes, but how…?”
Mickey stopped me, “Joey, you had no way of knowing this, but I tried many times to hit a home run for a kid, but that night was the only time in my career I did it. That was an amazing night for me.”

I saw the emotion in his face and heard it in his voice.
“Joey, what do you want on this picture?”
“Well, To Joe, Mickey Mantle, I guess.”
“Now come on, how about “To my Lil Okie buddy Joey?”
“Oh no, just To Joe, Mickey Mantle is fine with me,” and that’s what Mickey put on the picture.
“I better let you get to all these people,” I said as I turned to leave.
Mickey said, “Oh no, you come back here behind the table. We have a lot of catching up to do.” Mickey continued to sign pictures and was very nice to everyone, but for the next couple of hours, Mickey and me did a lot of catching up.

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