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
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, 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, 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
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.
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
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
Complied and transcribed by Marti Graham, 2009.