MLB: Frank Gifford is Incapable of Understanding Mickey Mantle’s Societal Impact

A former New York Giants football player who used Mickey Mantle’s locker when the baseball season ended, usually after Mantle helped lead the New York Yankees to another World Championship, opened his mouth and proved Abe Lincoln’s brilliance.

“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

Frank Gifford once asked what Mickey Mantle ever did to help society. Such a question reveals how little Gifford understands about sports and society.

Tom Molito, the great videographer (Freebird… the Movie; Billy Martin: The Man… The Myth… The Manager) became Mantle’s friend and has written a wonderful book that chronicles their friendship.

Molito is merely one of millions of members of society whom Mickey Mantle influenced. For them, Mickey Mantle transcended reality. An image in black and white on a 12 inch screen affected their lives almost as much as their parents.

Mickey Mantle taught Tom how to deal with tension, success, joy and failure.

Tom was in elementary school in Yonkers, New York on the afternoon of Oct. 3, 1956. Mrs. Yochinfloster, his fifth grade teacher, allowed her class to listen to the first game of the World Series.

Fidgeting in his seat, Tom was as nervous as a kid waiting for his mother to come from work, knowing that she would discover that he had broken their neighbor’s window with his baseball.

Vin Scully’s voice made Tom even more tense. Scully told him that Mickey Mantle was at the plate with Enos Slaughter on first.

“Maglie checks Slaughter at first. Now the Dodgers right-hander peers in to get the signal from Campanella. He nods assent, checks the runner again and delivers.

“Mantle swings and sends a drive to deep right field. Furillo going back, looking up. Forget it.”

If someone told Tom that he didn’t have to go to school anymore, it wouldn’t have approached his happiness.

His favorite player, the player he always emulated when he played stick ball on the empty lots in Yonkers, the player all kids not Willie Mays or Duke Snider fans idolized, did what Tom was afraid to allow himself to hope he would do.

But Tom had watched Mickey Mantle many, many times after he hit a home run. He knew that as he rounded the bases, he tilted his head slightly toward the ground. Mantle never would embarrass his opponent.

Tom allowed himself an almost imperceptible smile and then returned to the business and hand.

Yes, Mr. Gifford, Mantle attempted to teach society modesty by his actions.

It ended badly that day.

Although by this time he was watching the game at home on television, Tom had turned the volume off. He was listening to the radio and Mel Allen. He loved Scully, but Mel was the Yankees announcer

Mantle was batting in the ninth inning, again with Slaughter on first and again with one out, but the Yankees trailed, 6-3.

Maglie induced Mantle to hit the ball on the ground. He hit it hard, but right to second baseman Junior Gilliam who flipped to PeeWee Reese for the force on Slaughter. The nimble shortstop leaped out the way of a sliding Slaughter and fired to first to end the game.

Tom’s first inning jubilation was a distant memory. To Tom and to Mantle, the home run was meaningless because the Yankees lost.

The gloom of defeat lasted a few minutes. Mantle helped teach that to society. Don’t dwell on disappointments.

Even in 1960, when he cried after the Yankees lost the World Series to the Pittsburgh Pirates, Mantle knew that fact. There was tomorrow, even if, sometimes, tomorrow was six months away.

In 1961, Mantle had one of his finest seasons as he and Roger Maris assaulted Babe Ruth’s single season home run record.

Mickey Mantle didn’t make speeches. He impacted society by his actions on the field.

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