A Very Special Story: Mickey and Me (Part 2) by Joe Brown
Joe Brown, a former sportswriter and big Yankees fan, reached out to us here at Start Spreading the News with the hopes that will will share this great memoir.
After reading this great story, we, of course, agreed.
We will run this story in two parts, on successive weeks. Part 1 was posted on Saturday, October 26. You can read it here.. This is Part 2.
Mickey and Me (Part Two) by Joe Brown
I continued playing baseball in the American Legion league, and in 1966, as I was about to graduate from high school, a chance to play professionally in what was called the Rookie League for the Milwaukee Braves was offered to me. My passion for the game that year had not been as intense as in previous years, and I decided to try a new challenge and accepted a scholarship to Oklahoma State University in Petroleum Engineering. I never played baseball again.
When I was 22 years old, in the sweltering summer of 1970, I had married and lived in Lubbock, Texas. I was a retail store manager and was looking in the Lubbock newspaper for the advertisement my company had placed when I saw a full-page ad about Mickey Mantle coming to Lubbock to attend the grand opening of the “Mickey Mantle’s Country Cooking” restaurant in two weeks. That notice made me feel as nervous and excited as I had eight years earlier in Kansas City.
At lunchtime on the restaurant’s opening day, I tossed my store keys to a fellow worker and said, “I’m going to lunch with Mickey. I’ll be back when I get here.”
As I arrived at the restaurant in the heat of the noonday sun, I could see a line of sweating fans out the front door of the restaurant and winding for at least a block down the street. I went to the end of the line and started my long hot wait.
Eventually, I entered the restaurant. A large table had been set up for Mickey to sit behind and sign autographs. He smiled at everyone he met, shaking hands, and making everyone feel special. I saw him being the Mickey I remembered from Kansas City. He looked up at each fan, asking their name and what they would like on the picture he was signing for them. It took another fifteen or twenty minutes for me to arrive at the head of the line finally.
When Mickey looked up at me, he gasped and did a “double-take.” Then to my complete shock, he said, “Joey, how are you, and where were you after the game?”
It took me a moment to understand what he had said. Then it hit me, and I was startled.
“I wanted to say goodbye, Mickey. We waited a while, and then we had to leave. We had to go to our hotel to prepare to leave for New Orleans early the next morning. “
Mickey then said, “Okay, now where have you been for all these years?”
I mumbled, “Mick, you remember me?”
Mickey said, “Sure do, it was August of 1962 in Kansas City, right?”
I said, “Well, yes, but how…?”
Mickey stopped me and said, “Joey, you had no way of knowing this, but I tried many times to hit a home run for a kid, but that night was the only time in my career I did it. That was an amazing night for me.”
I saw the emotion in his face and heard it in his voice.
“Joey, what do you want on the picture here?”
I said, “Well, To Joe, Mickey Mantle, I guess.”
Mickey said, “Now come on, how about “To my Lil Okie buddy Joey?”
I replied, “Oh no, just To Joe, Mickey Mantle is fine with me,” and that’s what Mickey put on the picture.
“I better let you get to all these people,” I said as I turned to leave.
Mickey said, “Oh no, you come back here behind the table. We have a lot of catching up to do.” Mickey continued to sign pictures and was very nice to everyone, but for the next couple hours, Mickey and Me did a lot of catching up.
Mickey and baseball impacted me in very positive ways. “Mickey and Me” shared special times. What a gift it was to know that I was an individual, a person, to Mickey, and that I could be impactful to others, even my hero.
As I have gone through life, I have been privileged to have many special, even unique experiences. I have also had issues arise which have challenged my confidence. But Mickey Mantle and baseball prepared me for “just about” anything life throws at you, and for that, I am forever grateful. But I do have one regret. I still have that picture of Mickey in my home office today. When I look at it and think back to that moment in that restaurant in Lubbock, I wish I had told him it was okay to write “To my little Okie Buddy,” on it.
(Note – Joe Brown can be reached at: jbrown2452 (at) yahoo (dot) com)