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WANDERING WEST WORD

   Growing up playing baseball, like many young boys at that time, I idolized number 7, Mickey Mantle, centerfielder for the New York Yankees.  Seven times, he and his team were world champions.  Considered by many to be the best home run switch hitter to ever play the game, his praise and accolades didn’t follow outside the baseball diamond.

Mantle’s drinking and womanizing did a number on his family, not to mention his own well-being.  He disappeared into the darkness of alcoholism during the 1980’s, losing much of his purpose and meaning in life and describing it to friends as his own internal hell.  When he finally entered Baylor Medical Center for a liver transplant in 1995, doctors gave him just days to live if he didn’t have the transplant.

A few weeks after his transplant surgery, Mantle walked into the crowded press conference at the hospital and made what would be his last public statement.  Sadness and regret marked his words as he described the life he had squandered: “God gave me a great body and an ability to play baseball,” he said.  “God gave me everything, and I just…pffft!…I’d like to say to the kids out there, if you’re looking for a role model, this is a role model: don’t be like me.”

When questioned by a reporter if he had signed a donor card, Mantle replied, “Everything I’ve got is worn out…Although I’ve heard people say they’d like to have my heart, it’s never been used.”  He spoke also of his selfishness at the same conference: “I want to start giving back because all I’ve ever done is take.”  Four weeks after he had spoken those words, Mantle died.

The liturgy at his funeral included a song he had requested, written and sung by country western star  Roy Clark.  Titled “Yesterday When I Was Young,” the words epitomize the disappointment Mantle held for himself and his sense of an unholy existence from which he saw no escape:

I teased at life as if it were a foolish game, the way the evening breeze may tease a candle flame.  The thousand dreams I dreamed, the splendid things I planned, I always built to last on weak and shifting sand….I ran so fast that time and youth at last ran out; I never stopped to think what life was all about….There are so many songs in me that won’t be sung.  I feel the bitter taste of tears upon my tongue.  The time has come for me to pay for yesterday, when I was young.

When the day comes when you wake-up that there is more to life than baseball, will there be time to move past the regrets?  Are you willing to bet that there will be sufficient time?  What will it take to arrive at such a point before it’s too late?

See you Sunday,

Gary