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Created by Marti Graham on: 14 Aug 2013
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Updated: 01 Sep 2009

Daily Oklahoman, The 
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
August 11, 2009


Merlyn and Mickey Mantle, the Yankee icon, were high school sweethearts whose storybook marriage saw plenty of tough times.


Mickey Charles Mantle (October 20, 1931 – August 13, 1995) was an American baseball player who was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974.

He played his entire 18-year major-league professional career for the New York Yankees, winning 3 American League MVP titles and playing in 16 All-Star games. Mantle played on 12 pennant winners and 7 World Series Championship clubs.

Mickey Mantle was born in Spavinaw, Oklahoma, the son of Elvin Charles Mantle and Lovell (née Richardson) Mantle. He was named in honor of Mickey Cochrane, the Hall of Fame catcher from the Philadelphia Athletics, by his father, known as "Mutt," who was an amateur player and fervent fan. According to the book Mickey Mantle: America's Prodigal Son, by Tony Castro, in later life, Mantle expressed relief that his father had not known Cochrane's true first name, as he would have hated to be named Gordon. Mantle always spoke warmly of his father, and said he was the bravest man he ever knew. "No boy ever loved his father more," he said. His father died of cancer in 1952 at the age of 39, just as his son was starting his career. Mantle said one of the great heartaches of his life was that he never told his father he loved him.

Mantle announced his retirement on March 1, 1969, and in 1974, as soon as he was eligible, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame; his uniform Number 7 was retired by the Yankees.

On December 23, 1951,[5] Mantle married Merlyn Johnson in Commerce, Oklahoma; they had four sons. In an autobiography, Mantle said he married Merlyn not because he loved her, but because he was told to by his domineering father. While his drinking became public knowledge during his lifetime, the press kept quiet about his many marital infidelities.

The couple's four sons were Mickey Jr. (1953–2000), David (1955-), Billy (1957–94), whom Mickey named for Billy Martin, his best friend among his Yankee teammates), and Danny (1960-). Like Mickey, Merlyn and their sons all became alcoholics,[6] and Billy developed Hodgkin's disease, as had several previous Mantle men.

Mickey Mantle had four grandchildren. Mickey Jr. had a daughter, Mallory. David and his wife Marla have a daughter, Marilyn. Danny and his wife Kay have a son, Will, and a daughter, Chloe.

Mantle died on August 13, 1995, at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas. During the first Yankee home game after Mantle's death, Eddie Layton played "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" on the Hammond organ because Mickey had once told him it was his favorite song. The Yankees played the rest of the season with black mourning bands topped by a small number 7 on their left sleeves.

Mantle was interred in the Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery in Dallas. In eulogizing Mantle, sportscaster Bob Costas described him as "a fragile hero to whom we had an emotional attachment so strong and lasting that it defied logic." Costas added: "In the last year of his life, Mickey Mantle, always so hard on himself, finally came to accept and appreciate the distinction between a role model and a hero. The first, he often was not. The second, he always will be. And, in the end, people got it.

image from FindAGrave September 2009

NEW YORK -- Merlyn Mantle, the widow of Yankees Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle, passed away Monday at a hospice facility in Plano, Texas. She was 77.

The cause of death was announced as the effects of Alzheimer's Disease. Mantle made her last public appearance on the eve of Bobby Murcer's memorial service in Oklahoma City on Aug. 5, 2008.

Mantle married the switch-hitting great on Dec. 23, 1951, after a two-year courtship and following his rookie season with the Yankees. They were married for 43 years at the time of his death from cancer on Aug. 13, 1995.

In 1996, Merlyn Mantle co-authored a memoir, "A Hero All His Life," in which he recalled how she met the future pinstriped icon.

Mantle was attending Commerce High School in northeast Oklahoma, and Merlyn was a cheerleader at the arch-rival Picher High School when they met. They had their first date in 1949, at the historic Coleman Movie Theatre on Route 66 in Miami, Okla.

"I developed an instant crush on Mickey Mantle, and by our second or third date, I was in love with him and always would be," she wrote.

The Mantles had four children: Mickey Jr., who died in 2000, David, 53, Billy, who died in 1993, and Danny, 49. She also leaves behind four grandchildren and is survived by her sister, Pat LaFalier, and by a daughter-in-law, Kay.

Merlyn Louise Johnson was born in Cardin, Okla., on Jan. 28, 1932, one of two daughters of Giles and Reba Johnson. She is survived by two sons, David of McKinney, Tex., and Danny of Plano, Tex.; her sister, Pat LaFalier of Miami, Okla.; and four grandchildren.

Her passing was announced by a family spokesperson, Marty Appel. After a private funeral, she will be buried next to her husband and children at Sparkman Hillcrest Memorial Park in Dallas.




Complied and transcribed by Marti Graham, 2009.
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