I was sitting in the school cafeteria complex enjoying and loathing a candy bar and an order of fries, respectively, when I happened to glance up.  There in a glow of an Asteroid game was the man himself – Mickey Mantle.  Old Number 7 in you programs.  The Mick.

Incredibly, astoundingly, no one else noticed him.  I couldn’t believe it!  The man hit over 500 official into the seats and no one cared enough to even say “Hi ya Mick.”

Well I, for one, was not going to let an opportunity such as this pass me by.  Choking down one last potato, I sidled over to “the man.”  “The franchise.”

“Say, aren’t you –“ I began.

“Sure am, “ Mick finished, thrusting to avoid a small asteroid fragment.

“Better hyper-space, Mick, I advised.

He did, and none too soon.  “Thanks, kid.”  Mick’s quarter lasted for about twenty more minutes.  I was impressed.  No doubt about it – a true champion on the diamond and off.  After the game (and after gathering my courage), I invited Mickey on a guided tour of the community college campus.  He gladly accepted.  As always, more than gracious.

If I live to be a hundred I’ll never forget the look of astonishment on the Mick’s face when he first laid eyes upon the Dental Science Building.  “That’s some building, kid.”

“Wait till you see inside,” I enthused.

Ten minutes and twenty classrooms later, the Mick summed it up: “I guess teeth are mighty important.”

“Sure are,” I agreed, beaming form ear to ear.

Next we toured the Library.  Top to bottom.  Inside and out.  Mick was impressed.  “You mean the kids can actually check books without paying for them?” he asked, incredulously?

“Biggern hell,” I said, playfully cuffing him on his chin.

About this time, nature called upon Mickey.  “Where can a fella wring his root around here?”  Like a fool I started telling him about all the fine restrooms we have at the community college.  Enough for a school three times it size.  I was about to give him the per capita urinal count when he interrupted.

“One is plenty, kid.”

Nature appeased, we directed our feet to Furniture Hall.  There, in respectful silence, we watched as ten diligent, dedicated students gave birth to a foot rest.  Awe engulfed us.  I suddenly felt immortal.

We then headed south to the Commercial Arts department.  En route to one of several fine galleries, Mickey told me how much he loved and appreciated art – especially the ‘poker-playing dogs.”  He was truly amazed at all the great talent we saw displayed.  “Damn,” he said, more than once.  I had to agree.  “Some of these kids can really stroke ‘em, huh, Mick?”

“You betcha,” said Mick, full of vim.

After that, we visited several other points of interest.  Went to the Service Careers Building and looked on anxiously as seventeen nursing students worked diligently to save the life of a transparent mannequin.  We even dropped by Machine Hall and watched them de-gunk a battery terminal.

The tour ended where it began – the cafeteria.  Munching 5th Avenues and socking down Tabs, we talked.  Some of the stuff Mick told me was incredible.  For instance, during a two-week period in 1954, Yogi Berra was gay.  But, he soon snapped out of it and went on to become one of the game’s all time greats.  And the things Mick said about Casey Stengel.  His drinking, his gambling, his sadomasochistic love affair with Irene Ryan.  I could hardly believe it.  Had anyone else been saying these things I would’ve bonked their breezer.

All too soon, Mick glanced at his digital and said, “Gotta go, kid.”  The hours had seemed like minutes.  Seconds, even.  As Mick rose to leave, I felt like I had to say something.  Something other than “so long.”  My mind swirled with possibilities.  Finally, and even though it was only September, I blurted out, “Merry Christmas, Mick!

Mick stopped at the glass exit doors and turned to face the cafeteria.  “And to all a good night!” he shouted.  Then, he was gone.  Down the walk, into his car, and gone.  But not forgotten .  Good Old Number 7.

-Steve Cooper


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