If Mickey Mantle's recent confession that he has abused...

Q&A

May 05, 1994

If Mickey Mantle's recent confession that he has abused alcohol all his adult life sounds familiar, it might be because Jim Bouton was writing about Mantle's drinking problem -- and the foibles of other major-leaguers -- 25 years ago in his celebrated book, "Ball Four."

These days, Bouton is a lecturer and is co-author of a forthcoming novel, "Strike Zone." Bouton spoke about Mantle's revelations this week with Sun staff writer Mark Hyman.

Q: Mantle details his alcoholism and personal failures in a recent cover story in Sports Illustrated. What did you think when you read it?

A: Any time somebody comes out and is that honest, you can't help but feel very warm toward them. He comes across as having learned a lot and been through a lot of pain. This may be the most courageous thing he has ever done. They talk about Mantle playing in pain all those years, but I don't think that was nearly as courageous.

Q: The Mantle in the SI article . . . different from the Mantle you played with?

A: That's what was most surprising, and makes me think he has really changed as a person. Mickey was basically a shy guy. He could be funny for the sportswriters, but he didn't enjoy the spotlight. It was so unlike Mickey to confront a problem.

Q: You've been an outcast among the old Yankees since "Ball Four" came out. Excluded from old-timers' games. Shunned by some former teammates, Mantle included. Any chance you and Mickey might patch things up?

A: From the article, I got a sense a lot of things are going to change in Mickey's life. He certainly isn't going to invite me over for dinner, but if we're both at a charity golf outing, I wouldn't be surprised if he nodded, or didn't shout me out of the place. It never happened, but I always thought it might.

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