Synopses & Reviews
Jane Leavy, the acclaimed author of the New York Times
bestseller Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy
, returns with a biography of an American original—number 7, Mickey Mantle. Drawing on more than five hundred interviews with friends and family, teammates, and opponents, she delivers the definitive account of Mantle's life, mining the mythology of The Mick for the true story of a luminous and illustrious talent with an achingly damaged soul.
Meticulously reported and elegantly written, The Last Boy is a baseball tapestry that weaves together episodes from the author's weekend with The Mick in Atlantic City, where she interviewed her hero in 1983, after he was banned from baseball, with reminiscences from friends and family of the boy from Commerce, Oklahoma, who would lead the Yankees to seven world championships, be voted the American League's Most Valuable Player three times, win the Triple Crown in 1956, and duel teammate Roger Maris for Babe Ruth's home run crown in the summer of 1961—the same boy who would never grow up.
As she did so memorably in her biography of Sandy Koufax, Jane Leavy transcends the hyperbole of hero worship to reveal the man behind the coast-to-coast smile, who grappled with a wrenching childhood, crippling injuries, and a genetic predisposition to alcoholism. In The Last Boy she chronicles her search to find out more about the person he was and, given what she discovers, to explain his mystifying hold on a generation of baseball fans, who were seduced by that lopsided, gap-toothed grin. It is an uncommon biography, with literary overtones: not only a portrait of an icon, but an investigation of memory itself. How long was the Tape Measure Home Run? Did Mantle swing the same way right-handed and left-handed? What really happened to his knee in the 1951 World Series? What happened to the red-haired, freckle-faced boy known back home as Mickey Charles?
"I believe in memory, not memorabilia," Leavy writes in her preface. But in The Last Boy, she discovers that what we remember of our heroes—and even what they remember of themselves—is only where the story begins.
"Bob Costas eulogized the Yankee great as 'a fragile hero to whom we had an emotional attachment so strong and lasting that it defied logic.' The 'we' in Costas's remarks--with author Leavy (Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy) as stand-in--is as much the subject of this fascinating biography as the ballplayer himself. Mantle, who succumbed to cancer in 1995 at age 63, was justly famous for his baseball exploits, but what Costas described as Mantle's 'paradoxical grip' on a certain generation of baseball fans is exactly what Leavy tackles in this book. She should know. She spent much time in her childhood in the shadow of Yankee Stadium, a tomboyish 'Mickey guy' listening to the roar of the crowd from across the Grand Concourse. While a sportswriter for the Washington Post, she won a 1983 assignment to interview Mantle for his upcoming golf tournament in Atlantic City. What happened that day and night between the fading, embittered Mantle and the former fan girl trying to do her job is the drama that structures Leavy's narrative--she has never reported the truth till now, and she does so without judgment. Instead, she proceeds with steely determination to understand what brought this onetime golden boy from the zinc mines of Oklahoma to center stage at Yankee Stadium and made him into America's quintessential tragic hero, a freakily gifted athlete haunted by a deadly genetic inheritance, including alcoholism. With storytelling bravado and fresh research, Leavy weaves around her own story the milestone dates in 'the Mick's' career, which as often burnishes the legend as tarnishes it. Leavy concludes that Mantle cavorted in a more innocent time, when people believed in sports heroes and would not hear otherwise. That's hardly a new idea, but no matter: by the end of this book, readers will know what made Mantle rise, fall, and survive into recovery for his last 18 months. In Leavy's hands, the life of Mantle no longer defies logic: it seems inevitable. She's hit a long home run. 8 pages of color and 8 pages of b&w photos. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
“Leavy shows Mantle at his unfathomable worst and unrecognized best. For even the most ardent Mantleologist, The Last Boy, is an education.” Time magazine
“The only thing about this book that is better than Jane Leavys vivid prose is her astonishing reporting. To my knowledge, no one has ever investigated the life of an American athlete with Leavys rigor and thoroughness.” Daniel Okrent, author of Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition and Nine Innings
“Candid, compassionate...the best of the Mantle biographies.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“With storytelling bravado and fresh research...[in] Leavys hands, the life of Mantle no longer defies logic. She hits a long home run.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“[The Last Boy] is a tale deftly told, rich in detail, unvarnished and unsparing, researched to a fare-thee-well, alternatively fluid and florid, and without staleness because Leavy has found a new angle from which to come at a well-worked-over subject.” Philadelphia Inquirer
“Definitive.” Sports Illustrated
“The Last Boy is stunning. Jane Leavy captures the beautiful, imperfect Mickey Mantle with equal measures of depth and empathy. She finds the buried answers to the riddle of what drove and haunted the Mick.” David Maraniss, author of Clemente and Lombardi: When Pride Still Mattered
“Part biography, part memoir, and part fans note, The Last Boy is the most complete book ever about Mantle.” Salon.com
“Do not walksprintto the bookstore to get a copy of The Last Boy.” Boston Globe
“A masterpiece of sports biography.” Booklist (starred review)
“This is one of the best sports biographies I have ever read. Beautifully written and thoroughly researched, it reveals with stunning insight both the talents and the demons that drove Mickey Mantle, bringing him to life as never before.” Doris Kearns Goodwin, Pulitzer Prize winning author of Team of Rivals
“In sharp detail and graceful style, Leavy cuts through the myth and treats us to a rarely known Mantle: more flawed, more human and more likeable. A terrific read.” Tom Verducci, Co-author of the #1 bestseller The Yankee Years
“Every kid growing up in New York in the ‘50s wanted to be Mickey Mantle, including me.... Jane Leavy has captured the hold he had on all of us in this gripping biography.” Joe Torre, bestselling author and former manager of the New York Yankees
“Engrossing.… The Last Boy is a fresh, thorough examination of Mickey Mantles life.” New York Newsday
“The Last Boy is something new in the history of the histories of the Mick. It is hard fact, reported by someone greatly skilled at that craft...and presented so that the reader and not the author draws nearly all the conclusions.” Keith Olberman, The New York Times Book Review
andquot;Energetically reported and skillfully written, the book is enormously entertaining. Without pretension, it explores the question whether a baseball lifer can actually be a tragic figure in the classic senseandmdash;a man destroyed by the very qualities than made him great.andquot;
andmdash;The Wall Street Journal
andldquo;Through interviews with Martinandrsquo;s long-silent widow, his son and others who knew and played with and for him, we get a complete picture andmdash; womanizing, drinking, fighting and the rest.andrdquo;and#160;
andmdash;New York Postand#160;andldquo;Sprawlingandhellip;thorough research.andrdquo;and#160;
andmdash;Chicago Tribuneand#160;andldquo;Itand#39;s all here, copiously reported, including interviews with more than 200 people, many of whom have since died, making this a one-of-a-kind work.andrdquo;and#160;
andquot;All the notable moments are here...Baseball (and Yankees) fans will devour this like ballpark popcorn, and all will muse about the many what-ifs of Martinand#39;s motley life.andquot;and#160;
andmdash;Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEWand#160;
andquot;Martinandrsquo;s life was a rollicking one, and as with the life, so with the book. Penningtonandrsquo;s take is great fun, and the authorandrsquo;s drive to talk to everyone who may have known Martinandmdash;from the most arrogant star to the humblest bartenderandmdash;is impressive.andquot;and#160;
andquot;A motley cast of baseball Hall of Famers, including Casey Stengel, Mickey Mantle, Rod Carew, Ricky Henderson, Reggie Jackson, Tommy Lasorda, and Earl Weaver, make appearances in this must-read for fans of the great American pastime.andquot;and#160;
andquot;[Pennington] provides what is likely to be the definitive profile, which, as such, belongs in most library sports collections, especially those where Yankee fans cluster.andquot;
andmdash;Mark Levine, Booklistand#160;
and#160;andquot;His study of Martin is comprehensive and detailed, offering the reader rich details on his early years and his time as a player for several teams...Pennington expertly combines material from his subjectandrsquo;s personal and professional life, leaving the impression of a complicated and flawed but unforgettable man.andquot;and#160;
andldquo;Two words of advice: read this. Bill Pennington not only writes the sprawling, brawling, no-punches-pulled narrative Martin deserves, but also deftly illuminates the humanity of one of baseballand#39;s epic characters.andrdquo;
andmdash;Tom Verducci, bestselling author of THE YANKEE YEARS (with Joe Torre)
andquot;The hair on my forearms was standing up by the end of the fifth paragraph of this bookand#39;s introduction. I knew Billy Martin. I covered Billy Martin. But I never knew him like this. Congrats to Bill Pennington for the definitive work on baseballand#39;s flawed genius.and#39;and#39;
andmdash;Dan Shaughnessy, Boston Globe columnist and bestselling author of FRANCONA (with Terry Francona) and SENIOR YEAR
andldquo;Billy Martin has been dead for 25 years? Wow. That means thereand#39;s a generation or two that know nothing about this character of baseball characters, this incandescent ballplayer/manager/jerk/sweetheart, this irrepressible brawler with a grand mind for the game. Bill Pennington cures all that and#160;with and#39;Billy Martin, Baseballand#39;s Flawed Genius.and#39; This is a terrific tale about a roller coaster life. Pour yourself a cocktail and enjoy. The descriptions of the fistfights alone are worth the price of admission.andrdquo;
andmdash;Leigh Montville, bestselling author of TED WILLIAMS, THE BIG BAM and EVEL
andldquo;It has been easy to think of Billy Martin as a cartoon--one created by the media and abetted by the man himself. But he was a great American, as important to understanding our game, and our nation, as Ted Williams or Joe DiMaggio. Youand#39;ll never think of Billy Martin in the same way again, thanks to Bill Penningtonand#39;s masterpiece of a biography.andrdquo;
andmdash;John Thorn, Official Historian, Major League Baseball
Award-winning sports writer Jane Leavy follows her New York Times runaway bestseller Sandy Koufax with the definitive biography of baseball icon Mickey Mantle. The legendary Hall-of-Fame outfielder was a national hero during his record-setting career with the New York Yankees, but public revelations of alcoholism, infidelity, and family strife badly tarnished the ballplayer's reputation in his latter years. In The Last Boy, Leavy plumbs the depths of the complex athlete, using copious first-hand research as well as her own memories, to show why The Mick remains the most beloved and misunderstood Yankee slugger of all time.
From an award-winning New York Times sports columnist, the definitive biography of one of baseball's most celebrated, mercurial, and misunderstood figuresand#8212;legendary manager and baseball genius, Billy Martin
The definitive biography of one of baseballandrsquo;s most celebrated, mercurial, and misunderstood figuresand#160;
Billy Martin is a story of contrasts. He was the clutch second baseman for the dominant New York Yankees of the 1950s. He then spent sixteen seasons managing in the big leagues, and is considered by anyone who knows baseball to have been a true baseball genius, a field manager without peer. Yet heandrsquo;s remembered more for his habit of kicking dirt on umpires, for being hired and fired by George Steinbrenner five times, and for his rabble rousing and public brawls. He was combative, fiery, intimidating, and controversial, yet beloved by the everyday fan. He was hard on his players and even harder on himself. He knew how to turn around a losing team like no one elseandmdash;and how to entertain us every step of the way.
Now, with his definitive biography Billy Martin, Pennington finally erases the caricature of Martin. Drawing on exhaustive interviews with friends, family, teammates, and countless adversaries, Pennington paints an indelible portrait of a man who never backed down for the game he loved. From his shantytown upbringing in a broken home; to his days playing for the Yankees when he almost always helped his team find a way to win; through sixteen years of managing, including his tenure in New York in the crosshairs of Steinbrenner and Reggie Jackson, Billy Martin made sure no one ever ignored him. And indeed no one could. He was the hero, the antihero, and the alter egoandmdash;or some combination of all threeandmdash;for his short sixty-one years among us.
About the Author
BILL PENNINGTON is an award-winning sportswriter for the New York Times. A former syndicated columnist, Pennington was a beat writer who covered much of Billy Martinand#39;s tenure with the New York Yankees. A fifteen-time finalistandnbsp;and six-time winner of the Associated Press Sports Editorsand#39; annual writing award, Pennington lives with his family in Warwick, New York. This is his fourth book.