[published originally as a Facebook Note on November 7, 2015]
Mickey Mantle, the famous Yankee slugger-center fielder was born On October 20, 1931. He died August 13, 1995. His funeral was held in Texas on August 18th. Fate had the night of his funeral as the same night The Yankees were playing at Fenway Park against The Red Sox.
My friend Vitas got tickets for the new Sky Box seats located directly over The Red Sox on-deck circle. It felt like we were right on top of the on-deck batter.
In those days the Sox, though improving, still struggled. The Yankees were then supreme. My theory remains that The Yankees always did well because New York City’s bars were open all night thus thrusting great temptation for visiting teams and turning their games into: Yankees vs. The Hangovers — lol!
Anyway, on this baseball night fate was in the air. Going for beers, we encountered a very emotional Phil Rizzuto, long-time Yankee shortstop who had became their broadcaster. When we saw him he had just quit his broadcasting job in the fifth inning. We overheard him express his anger that WPIX made him broadcast the game instead of letting him attend Mantle’s funeral. He was an emotional wreck with tearful eyes. For us, it became an instant stop and stare moment. We overheard his angst and sorrowfully watched him wander away. Phil Rizzuto was right — he should have been given the night off so he could attend the funeral!
We get back to our seats and The Yankees were drubbing the Sox. I think the Sox were down 9 to 3. But few cared about the score as everywhere the vibe of the night was Mantle’s funeral. You could even sense that this was all the ball players were talking about on the field.
For any baseball purist, given what Mantle meant to the game, it didn’t matter the Yankees were playing the Sox — it was a very sad day for baseball!
Now comes the 7th inning and seemingly an obvious defeat is in the mill for The Red Sox. Although deep in our hearts and within our emotional psyche, we both knew clung to the notion that “The Yankees Sucked,” we began chatting how we thought The Yanks’ deserved to win, it being the night of Mantle’s funeral.
Then, out of nowhere, something very amazing happened. Suddenly, a praying mantis fluttered from the air and landed directly on the right rail of my seat. Motionlessly, it clung to the rail, almost as though claiming a ticket and a rights to my chair.
I said, “Hey, Vitas — Check it out!” I pointed to the praying mantis and quipped, “It’s Mickey Mantis the Praying Mantle!”
Incredibly, our new insect friend stayed with us for the rest of the game. Everyone in the seats around us were thrilled and marveled that Mickey Mantle had visited the Fenway Skybox in the form of a praying mantis. I think it sensed our enjoyment over its presence — we were even talking to it. Don’t tell anyone, but I swear it talked back to us— lol!
Mickey Mantis — The Praying Mantle! I’m not sure if we adopted it, or it adopted us. But it stayed with me in my seat until the the very last out of the game!
So The Yankees won and we were sitting in a daze, out of beer.
Vitas finally said, “Let’s hit The Cellar (our Cambridge Mass. Ave bar) for last call.” It closed at midnight. The next bar in line would be the Plough & Stars with a 1:00 am last call, and then on to The People’s Republic of Cambridge (formerly Drumlins) for the ultimate 2 pm last call.
I said, “What about Mickey Mantis The Praying Mantle?” Vitas said, “Bring him with us, put him in your cup!”
So I wiped my cup as clean as possible, then softly nudged the praying mantis into what for him would become his travel cup. He entered willingly, almost wantingly … certainly fatefully. Using my Red Sox program I kept the cup covered, allowing air. We exited the Skybox of Fenway, found the car and crossed the river into Cambridge, me talking to a praying mantis — lol!
In the company of Mickey Mantis The Praying Mantle we entered the bar like heroes, proud of who we brought with us for everyone to meet. First it was Guinness at The Cellar, then at The Plough and finally to The People’s Republic. Everyone we encountered got to meet Mickey Mantis.
Interestingly, many folks in the bars discovered it was the night of Mickey Mantle’s funeral from a praying mantis. We steadfastly claimed that Mantle had become reincarnated into a praying mantis, that he arrived at Fenway specifically to meet us and to become a new Red Sox fan.
You’d be amazed what a few folks, with a few drinks in them, would believe — lol!
Intellectually, I likened the praying mantis experience into a parallel of Babe Ruth’s daughter who had became a Sox fan, wanting The Red Sox to “Break The Curse!” We believed that Mickey Mantle, in his afterlife, had morphed into rooting for The Red Sox. The Sox eventually broke “The Curse of The Bambino” in 2004.
You see, in baseball lure, the word was out that Babe Ruth cursed The Red Sox when he learned he got traded from The Sox to The Yankees.
When the very last of last calls were had, we released Mickey Mantis The Praying Mantle into a nearby field of brush and trees. Like his namesake, he definitely had to have had a buzz! Indeed, Mickey Mantle The Praying Mantis was “The Great Teammate” for all if us that night. R.I.P. Mickey Mantle!