- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 23, 2006

During this season of joy and goodwill, it’s disheartening — make that disgusting — to learn that opportunistic author Peter Golenbock has written a book offering lurid and imaginary accounts of Mickey Mantle’s sexual exploits supposedly told in the baseball star’s own voice. Considering how tortured the Mick’s real life was, can’t we at least let him rest in peace?

Alas, this does not fit into Golenbock’s game plan. His 266-page work of fiction, appropriately entitled “7: The Mickey Mantle Novel,” will be published March 1 — just in time to ensnare unsuspecting fans as a new season approaches.

Whatever the book costs, it will be overpriced. And the saddest thing of all is that it probably will be a big seller in an age when prurience far outstrips propriety.

By now it’s common knowledge that Mantle satisfied himself by partaking of wine and women, if not song, far more than he should have. So who cares? Likewise with Golenbock’s most shocking “revelation,” that the Mick bedded Marilyn Monroe behind Joe DiMaggio’s back. (What the heck, when you’ve slept with one superstar Yankees center fielder …)

Of course, no first-hand rebuttals will be forthcoming, because Monroe died in 1962 and Mantle in 1995. Which makes it very convenient for Golenbock.

Just how lurid is “7”? Well, the New York Daily News, not exactly a model of journalistic restraint, called it “shameful” and “blasphemous,” which should give you an idea.

The publishing company, Regan Books, was associated with Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp until Dec. 15, when its boss, Judith Regan, was dropkicked by NewsCorp. This has been a bad month for Rupe and Judy. Earlier, they were jointly embarrassed by the furor that resulted from O.J. Simpson’s “If I Did It,” another Regan semi-expose.

Before she was fired, Regan described the book’s story line thusly: “Mickey finds himself in heaven — much to his surprise — and realizes he’s carrying a big burden around with him. He needs to tell someone all the horrible things he did.”

Gosh, I always thought you had to atone for your sins before you got to heaven.

Why in the name of Babe Ruth did Golenbock do the trashy Mantle book? To make money, naturally, and you have to give Pete baby credit for candor if nothing else. He has written nearly 20 sports books over the years, most of them quote-a-thons, but “7” is his chance to make it big on the ill-gotten gains front.

In the tome’s prologue, according to the Daily News, he imagines himself telling Mantle, “I’ll write the raunchiest book about you, and my guess is it’ll be a smash because no one has ever written a book like this before.”

Actually, people have — and in the old days such smut usually was sold in back alleys by guys in raincoats. I guess Golenbock’s literary goal is to become a hybrid of Kitty Kelley and Henry Miller. No, forget that because the words “Golenbock” and “literary” should never be used in the same sentence.

It’s important to note, though, that the Mick doesn’t come off as a totally bad guy. In one of Golenbock’s imaginary quotes, he says, “I don’t believe in having sex with women against their will the way Billy [Martin] sometimes did.”

Needless to say, Martin also has departed this mortal coil.

Months before publication, the book has people sputtering hither, thither and yon. Mantle’s family has assailed it through a spokesman, and former Yankees teammate and drinking buddy Whitey Ford has ridiculed the Marilyn Monroe malarkey.

“That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard,” Ford told the Daily News. “We met her one time at a ballpark in St. Petersburg, and Joe [DiMaggio] was with her. Mickey was too bashful to say hello to her.”

But enough already. I wouldn’t buy the book at any price, and if the publisher sends me a review copy, it will make its way to the nearest trash can faster than Mantle got down the line to first base when he was 19.

Mickey Mantle endures as a greatly flawed hero nearly 56 years after he appeared at the Yankees’ spring training camp in Phoenix as a rookie phenom displaying the greatest combination of speed and power ever seen on a ballfield. First injuries and then liquor destroyed much of his potential, and shortly before he died of liver cancer 11 years ago, the Mick was telling the youth of America, “Don’t be like me.”

His is a sad, sad story — and now a hack writer is making it even sadder.

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