Micky Mantle/Carl Hubbell and Athletics
If I knew I was going to live this long, I'd have taken better care of myself. Mickey Mantle
I was aware of the world when Mickey Mantle was still playing baseball. I wasn’t really a baseball fan but I knew who he was. My family (way extended) produced Carl Hubbell, a Hall of Fame pitcher for the New York Giants…before those scoundrels in San Francisco stole the team. I heard about baseball at home, a lot. My Daddy always wanted one of us to grow up and be a baseball player. I played pool pretty well. Daddy was always disappointed in my athletic bent. No “Meal Ticket” as Carl was called by history and his immediate family.
Anyway, as I got older, I became even less interested in professional baseball. I was a hippie type. I listened to rock and roll, had long hair, wore bell bottoms and hung around with a crowd of similarly disinterested non-athletic types. When I was in college I did play goalie for an intermural soccer team made up of myself and a group of foreign exchange students from Thailand. They were great. I never saw the ball kicked my way the entire season. I could have brought a book to read. They picked me because none of them wanted the boring job of goal keeper and I played foosball with them.
The summer between junior high school and ninth grade I grew from 5 feet 7 inches to 6 feet 7 inches. You could just feel the eyes of the basketball coach watching me from several blocks away. However, I grew all at once. I didn’t gain a pound. I could barely stand up and walk. The coordination of running while dribbling a basketball just wasn’t happening. The wind was troubling. To round out my basketball skills, I couldn’t drop the ball through the net from a stepladder. It took some convincing for the coach, but I was certain from the start that I wasn’t going to become a player. I could play ping pong fairly well.
I went out for track, mainly due to pressure to do something remotely physical. That’s where I discovered that being tall didn’t lend itself to running…or jumping…or throwing anything. I became the team manager and walked around carrying clipboards, stop watches and a couple of starter pistols. I looked like a geek on the way to a gunfight between the accounting club and the statistics guys. With the exception of the soccer experience of sitting at one end of a field, I didn’t do any sportsing.
In high school, if you had a job you could get out of school early. I got a job at a railroaders’ hotel washing dishes and running the old crank elevator. It paid $1 an hour and I worked 48 hours a week. This old hotel had once been a fancy place but time had reduced it to housing railroad crews between the Fort Worth, Texas and Arkansas City, Kansas train yards. They pronounced it AR CAN SIS. A leftover from better