The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood by Jane Leavy
It ain’t often that I go choosing a book because I’m instantly infatuated with the guy on the cover. But it ain’t every book that has the grinning Mickey Mantle looking back at you. Normally I’m not this bossy on the blog, but I need for you to do this:
Click this link to the book cover.
Then return here. OK? I’ll wait.
Now—see what I mean? Is that not the most alluring cover ever?
We’ve previously established that I’m no sports fan.*
In fact, last month, if you’d said, “Tell me what you know about Mickey Mantle,” I’d’ve said, “Baseball player. During the 1940s or ’50s, I think?” I’m not kidding you. That’s all I had, and part of it was part-wrong. (1950s-1960s was his era as a pro.)
So now I know lots more, and some of it is so good it makes a person get a little weepy. And some of it is so unpleasant it makes a person wish it weren’t true.
And all of it, as written by Jane Leavy, is even better than the book cover.
Leavy’s a former sports writer for the Washington Post, and her writing is pure wonderful.
Each chapter of this book addresses a significant date in Mantle’s life. At first, I was disappointed that this wasn’t the plain old biography treatment, and then, as I read on, I was really glad the author chose this format. It works.
The other thing that really makes this book amazing is that Leavy dices up her description of her 1983 (semi-disastrous) interview with Mantle, and sections of that story are scattered throughout the book.
While I was reading it, this was the book I didn’t want to put down, and for which I neglected the other books I was reading.
Yes, I’m talking about a sports biography.
Even if you care nothing for baseball, you can believe me when I say that this book is one of the best biographies of 2010.
Full disclosure: Then I had to haul out the old tape of That Touch of Mink, because this book told me that Mickey Mantle had a cameo in it. Who knew?!
* From this book, I learned what a switch hitter is. (Mickey Mantle was one.)