Monday, October 29, 2007
Bobby Richardson's Eulogy for Mickey Mantle
Today's Teddy effort in The Times concerns former New York Yankee second sacker Bobby Richardson, who spoke in Monroe, La. Saturday. Much of his talk was about his teammate Mickey Mantle, and much of what he said Saturday, he said at Mantle's funeral...
August 15, 1995
I want to make a transition now from crying and sadness to laughter because if you know Mickey, he was always laughing. And he enjoyed playing football in the back yard with the boys. He enjoyed golf games at Preston Trails with the boys, and their traveling to autograph sessions with him. But the teammates that are here today will also know that he always kept all of us laughing. I remember the Mongoose in Detroit in the clubhouse. I remember the snake that he put in Marshall Bridge’s uniform in Kansas City before he was dressing that day. He always ran out of money and he borrowed money from Yogi and Yogi would charge him 50%, no, that’s not in there. I’m sorry. I take that back Yogi. Yogi flew in today on Bob Hope’s plane and he’s flying out tomorrow with President Ford’s plane.
But Yogi was a manager in 1964. The Yankees lost four games in a row in Chicago. Tony Kubek had bought some harmonicas. He gave one to Phil Linz. Phil didn’t play in any of those ballgames but on the bus, with Yogi in the front, he chose this time to learn how to play his harmonica. Well, he played for a while and Yogi took as much as he could and finally he jumped up and he said, “Put that thing in your pocket!” He didn’t use those words but something to that effect and Phil was in the back of the bus and he didn’t hear what he said and he said, “What did he say?” And Mickey was sitting over across the isle and he whispered back, “He said he couldn’t hear you. Play it again!”
And Yogi was the manager in ’64 when Whitey Ford and Mickey started talking about how good they were in other sports, basketball in particular. And it ended up, we played the cadets at West Point. Whitey was to have the pitchers and catchers and Mickey was to have the infielders and outfielders and there would be a great game at the gymnasium at West Point after the regulars got out of the lineup. Well, Yogi said, “Somebody’s gonna get hurt.” Well, Mickey did it right. He had uniforms for his players, he had a limousine, he had a chauffeur. He did like this, and they took players on Mickey’s team over to the game and came back. And it was a great game. Mickey’s team won! Tommy Tresh was voted most valuable. Yogi was right. Steve Hamilton, the only one that played professional basketball, turned his ankle, and he was hurt.
But you know so many good things that Mickey did that people never heard about. I remember that he flew across the country for Fritz Packel when he was dying with cancer. In this church, right here, he did a benefit for Missions Outreach. And over the years he very seldom said no. He came to my hometown on numerous occasions but in particular for the YMCA. We had a great banquet. There was a highlights film. And then we went out to the ballpark and Mickey was to give a batting exhibition. Something you just can’t imagine him doing. Tony Kubek was there. Tony throws straight overhanded, same speed all the time. He was chosen to pitch to Mickey. Everything was all set but Tony changed up on Mickey on the first pitch, and he swung and missed and pulled his leg and if he could have run he would have chased Tony around the outfield. Tony made up for it though. He (Mickey) hit one in the light towers in right field in the old-timers game that followed that.
But underneath all of Mickey’s laughter and kindness there was a fear of death and an emptiness that he tried to cover and fill, sometimes with harmful choices. Remember Bob (Costas) when he said on his interview, “There’s still an emptiness inside.” The last game that Mickey and I played together was on October 2nd, 1966. It was in Chicago and we were at the Bismarck Hotel. And I had invited a friend, a friend of mine, a friend of Mickey’s to come over and speak to the ball club. His name was Billy Zeoli, president of Gospel Films. I remember standing in the back of the room that was set aside and most of the players where there in attendance. And looking over their shoulders at the fine, efficient, professional baseball players were there. And yet I knew that all of us had problems. Some financial. Some marital. Problems of various natures. And yet my friend, that day, gave the answer to each one of these problems in the person of Jesus Christ. He held his bible up and he said, “The bible says three things. 1) the bible says there’s a problem and the problem is sin. 2) the Bible gives the answer to the problem in the person of Jesus Christ and 3) the Bible demands a decision.” And then he turned around and he had a blackboard and a piece of chalk and he wrote this question up on the blackboard, “What have you done with Jesus Christ?” And then he went on to give three possible answers. Number one was to say ‘yes’, to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and savior. And I remember looking around that room at some of my teammates that I knew had said ‘yes’ to Christ. The second possibility was to say ‘no’. And I knew there were some of us that were unwilling to give up perhaps what we had going at that time. And the third possibility was to say ‘maybe’, to put it off to a more convenient time with good intentions. But my friend made this statement. He said saying ‘maybe’, because of the “x” factor of death, automatically puts you in the ‘no’ category. I didn’t really understand that then, but some years later, not too many years ago, we had a reunion of the 1961 New York Yankees in Atlantic City, NJ. The players were there in attendance. It was a wonderful time of thinking back and remembering. But in my room that night, I realized that three were not there. Roger Maris, who broke Babe Ruth’s home run record and a battle with cancer. Elston Howard, that fine catcher on the ball club with a heart condition. And a young pitcher by the name of Duke Maas. And so I understood what he meant when he said, “Because of the “x” factor of death, it’s really ‘no’”. So really only two choices, one to say ‘yes’, the other ‘no’.
And then my big thrill in baseball when a young, teammate of mine who played for the next seven or eight years came up and said, “You know, I’ve never heard that before, a personal relationship with a living savior that gives to us in abundant life. I would like to receive Jesus Christ as my savior.” And that’s the excitement but there’s more excitement. I came here to Dallas during the All-Star break this past month. Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford and I serve on the BAT board and I was here because of that. And I had gotten the number from Whitey and I called Mickey and we had a great conversation together. And then the next morning, about six o’clock, he called my room and Betsy answered the phone and he said, “Betsy, is Bobby there? I would like for him to pray for me.” And we had a wonderful time, on the telephone that morning, praying and I remember that I used the verse of scripture. I said, “Mickey, there’s a great verse in Philippians 4. It says, “delight yourself in the Lord. Find your joy in him at all times. Never forget his nearness”. And then is says, “tell God, in details, your problems, your anxieties. And the promises of peace of God which passeth all understanding shall keep our hearts and minds as we rest in Christ Jesus”.
We talked two or three more times and I went on back to South Carolina and I received a call from Roy True, his friend and lawyer, and he said, “Mickey’s not doing very well and the family would like for you to consider the possibility of coming out and being in the service.” And I asked Merlyn if it would be alright if I could come on out and she said ‘yes’. Well, I came in on, I guess it was last Wednesday night. Friends picked me up at the airport and I spent the night with them, it was late. And the next morning, I drove over to Baylor Hospital. Whitey Ford was just walking out at the time and Mickey had really perked up with Whitey’s visit. And as I walked in and went over to his bed, he had that smile on his face. And he looked at me and the first thing he said was, “Bobby, I’ve been wanting to tell you something. I want you to know that I’ve received Christ as my savior.” Well, I cried a little bit, I’m sure, and we had prayer together and then in a very simple way I said, “Mickey, I just want to make sure.” and I went over God’s plan of salvation with him. That God loved us and had a plan, a purpose and a plan for all of us and sent his son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to shed his precious blood and promise in his word that if we repent of our sins and receive the Lord Jesus that we might no only have everlasting life but the joy of letting him live his life in us. He said, “That’s what I’ve done.”
Well, the big three came in that afternoon. That’s Moose Skowron and Hank Bauer and Johnny Blanchard. And they had a wonderful visit again with Mickey. My wife and I came back later that afternoon and I remember that Mickey was in bed but he wanted to be in the reclining chair. And David and Danny and a couple of the others I think helped him over. He was laughing then. When David grabbed him, he said, “Do you want to dance?” But he sat in the chair and my wife, Betsy, sat down by him and shared her testimony. And then she asked him a question. She said, “Mickey, if God were here today and you were standing before him and he would ask the question, ‘Why should I let you in my heaven?’, what would you say?” And as quick as a flash, he said, “For God so loved the world he gave his only begotten son and whosoever believeth in him should not parish but have everlasting life.” Well, I guess it was a little bit later and I said, “Mickey, you remember your day in New York? You had heard me use a little poem called ‘God’s Hall of Fame’. You talked about using it that day”. He said, “Yea, I should have.” I said, “No. I’m not sure that was the right time Mickey. But you know I think it is the right time today. It says it all. It says:”
Your name may not appear down here
In this world's Hall of Fame.
In fact, you may be so unknown
That no one knows your name;
The headlines here may pass you by,
The neon lights of blue,
But if you love and serve the Lord,
Then I have news for you.
This Hall of Fame is only good
As long as time shall be;
But keep in mind, God's Hall of Fame
Is for eternity.
This crowd on earth they soon forget
The heroes of the past.
They cheer like mad until you fail
and that's how long you last.
But in God's Hall of Fame
By just believing on His Son
Inscribed you'll find your name.
I tell you, friend, I wouldn't trade
My name, however small,
That's written there beyond the stars
In that Celestial Hall,
For any famous name on earth,
Or glory that it shares;
I'd rather be an unknown here
And have my name up there.
Mickey’s last press conference, he once again mentions his struggle with alcohol and a desire to be a dad to his boys. He also mentioned his real heroes, the organ donors. I hope you will all support the Mickey Mantle Foundation that addresses these issues and join his team.
But, if Mick could hold a press conference from where he is today, I know that he would introduce you to his true hero. The one who died in his place to give him not just a longer physical life but everlasting life, his savior, Jesus Christ. And the greatest tribute that you could give Mickey today would be for you to receive his savior too.
Let’s bow for prayer.
Thank you God that you loved us so much that you gave and your only son willingly came and died for our sins, according to the scriptures. And then he was buried and rose again on the third day, according to the scriptures. May each of us today honestly answer the question, “What have I done with Jesus?” I’m so glad that someone shared with me years ago and perhaps you’d like to pray now as I did then. God, thank you for loving me and sending your son to shed his precious blood and right now, I’m sorry for my sin. And I receive you as Lord and savior. Thank you for coming into my heart. To God be the glory.
-- Bobby Richardson