So there’s this novel written in the voice of Mickey Mantle, and because Judith Regan is the publisher, people are up in arms about how the book is “tantamount to pornography” and “likely to evoke charges of bad taste and questionable ethics” when it comes out next March. Why? Because the ghost of Mantle, or maybe it’s the dying Mantle setting down his memoirs, I dunno, tells dirty jokes (like the one that ends “now you’re screwed”) and talks frankly and at length about how he likes having sex. Frankly, I’m amazed that this could possibly be viewed as controversial: Who doesn’t know that Mantle was a womanizing alcoholic for most of his life? When the HBO movie 61* had Mantle uttering the immortal line “I like women with small hands, they make my d—k look big,” where was the outrage then? And as you can see from the online excerpts, Peter Golenbock’s prose isn’t much cruder than that.
Here’s the thing: If anybody else in the industry had published this book, I’ll bet you good money that people would be calling it “quirky,” maybe even “experimental” if the press was small enough, and they’d say it shatters the hagiographic image a handful of baseball fans might still have about Mantle, but branding it a moral disaster? That’s just more kneejerk dogpiling on Regan, and it’s getting a bit ridiculous at this point. I mean, really, when Anne Rice put out that narrated-by-Jesus thing, maybe some of your hardcore Christians got bent out of shape over it, but did you see mainstream America calling her taste and ethics into question? Or asking what the hell Sonny Mehta was thinking? And isn’t Jesus Christ just a teensy bit more significant in the grand scheme of things than Mickey Mantle, even if He never took the Yankees to the World Series? So what’s good enough for Jesus is good enough for the Mick, is what I believe.