One of the proudest achievements I’ve had in my 30 plus years as a comedian in show business was getting friendly with my boyhood hero, Mickey Mantle. I was hired to emcee a birthday roast for him in the mid-80’s, after which he invited me to participate at no cost in his New York Yankee fantasy baseball camp. This was a dream come true, not only getting to be friends with The Mick, but also to play ball against the players I idolized as a kid. Although I performed with and met some of the biggest stars in the entertainment field, from Johnny Carson to Bob Hope, befriending Mickey Mantle was clearly the top of the chart, according to my many comedian friends.
But one negative incident that occurred impressed my friends more than anything else. About 6 months after I played in Mickey’s camp, I was hired to host the release of his home video, “The All-American Boy,” at his restaurant in New York City. When the event was over and everyone was schmoozing, I started asking Mickey about attending another camp. Apparently I asked him once too often, and he seemed to get a bit irritated.
“Ask Whitey Ford,” snapped Mickey. Whitey, another Yankee legend, was his partner in running the camp. After that I just dropped the subject. But the next day I got a call from my friend who was the publicist for the event, Ira Silverman.
“Mantle’s pissed off at you,” he said over the phone. I couldn’t believe it. Mickey Mantle angry at little ole’ me? I asked why. Ira said it was because I bugged him about going to the camp. At first I was kind of despondent that I angered Mickey, but then I began to giggle to myself about how amazing this actually was!
When I went home and called to tell all of my friends, including John DeBellis and Larry David, two of my closest ones, they were effusive in their compliments.
“That’s the best thing you’ve ever accomplished in your life,” said Larry. “Getting Mickey Mantle pissed off at you. It’s better than all of your Tonight Shows put together!” You see, to them the fact that this iconic baseball player, one of the biggest legends of all time, actually cared enough to acknowledge my existence and get mad at me was a badge of honor. It was a singular accomplishment: how many of us could ever hope that our boyhood sports idol would be irked at us later in life?
And to this day it remains at the top of my list for lifetime achievements. I got Mickey Mantle mad at me!