I turned 38 today. All things considered, I feel pretty much the way I did when I was 37. Naturally, though, with turning a year older I have been thinking about mortality (and yes, I know 38 is young) and how it has been 20 years since I was 18 – unbelievable! While checking out my sites today I saw this write-up on the passing of Duke Snider. The article naturally mentions Mays and Mantle, and I was startled to read that Mantle was only 63 when he passed away. I remember reading the referenced SI article when I was in college. He mentioned in it how exciting it was to order a diet Pepsi instead of a drink when he was out. The next week a recovering alcoholic wrote a letter (must have been two weeks later – I think that was the lag time back then in the snail mail days) saying that Mantle would not enjoy ordering diet tonic after a while when the honeymoon of not drinking ended. He never got to that point, I guess – he had a much-publicized and controversial liver transplant and then he died not much more than a year after the article.
What a sad story. He seemingly had it all – talent, fame, adulation, money, goodwill, championship rings – but in reality he never realized his potential both as a player (despite the stats and the rings, which were astonishing) and as a person, with his life derailed by chronic infidelity and boozing (all of which would have been exposed immediately in this era of Deadspin and TMZ – Mick’s tale would have played out very differently today. It is quite a contrast to the story of the Duke, whose one blemish, according to the article, seems to be that he had some tax issues (I think the quoted judge, in his assessment of Snider’s character, is a little over the top).
So there you have my 38th birthday musings. I suppose it is appropriate, since baseball cards, trivia, playing ball and watching baseball games dominated my life until I went away to college, and following the game and its history is still a huge part of my everyday existence.