High Noon Ethics, 8/13/2022: Where Have You Gone, Mickey Mantle?

Mickey Mantle died on August 13, 1995. The baseball icon who may have been the most gifted player of all time started teaching ethics lessons after his career had ended as he began belatedly learning them himself. Believing that he would die young (both his father and an uncle had perished of illness in their 40s), Mantle hurtled through his prime drunk, selfish, often mean, unfaithful to his wife and promiscuous, determined to live fast and leave a good-looking corpse. Then, as he said ruefully later, he found himself entering his 50s an alcoholic, breaking down physically, and ashamed of how he had treated fans, family and friends. Mantle resolved to make amends, but was stalled in his efforts by a failing liver, then embarrassed when his name popped up quickly at the top of the transplant waiting list. Doctors swore no special favors had been granted to the idol of millions, but nobody believed it. Cancer claimed Mickey almost immediately after he had his new liver. He had waited too long to realize the importance of caring about others.

The most touching story about Mantle in his latter years was one he told about meeting a stranger who explained to him passionately and with tears in his eyes how much “Number 7” had meant to him growing up. Mantle said that he teared up too, because for the first time in his life it hit him that he had an obligation to the people who loved and cared about him.  He said he had always thought it was crazy that anyone would admire someone like him, and suddenly he understood that trying to live up the idealized image so many held of Mickey Mantle was a crucial part of his legacy, and what sports idols must do to keep ideals alive.

1. He needs to study Mickey Mantle...One of today’s most gifted young baseball stars, San Diego Padres phenom Fernando Tatis Jr.,  tested positive for Clostebol, a banned performance-enhancing substance. He’s been suspended for 80 games without pay, effective immediately. Tatis had already missed the first part of the season because of injuries he sustained in a motorcycle accident in the off-season, and this came after an injury-marred 2021 campaign.  The Padres General Manager’s comments on the news might have been made about Mantle in his playing days:

“Over the course of the last six or seven months, I think (trust has) been something that we haven’t really been able to have. I think we’re hoping that from the off season to now, that there would be some maturity. And obviously with the news today, it’s more of a pattern and something we’ve got to dig a little bit more into. I’m sure he’s very disappointed, but at the end of the day, it’s one thing to say it. You have to start by showing it with your actions.”

It is not a promising sign that Tatis claims that he took the banned steroid accidentally.

2. This never occurred to me! U.S. District Judge Thomas Ludington held this week that it is unconstitutional for police in Saginaw, Michigan to chalk automobile tires in order to enforce parking violations. The judge held that the practice, while “relatively harmless,” is still a violation of the Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches. “No reasonable person would argue that something as trivial and transitory as chalk on a tire offends a reasonable expectation of privacy. But the Fourth Amendment protects more than those expectations that society deems reasonable,” Ludington said. Then he decreed that the city should pay out one dollar in damages to all 4,800 Saginaw drivers who had paid $15-$30 fines after being “chalked.”

3. Back to the cheating theme, we have the Inflation Reduction Act, now headed to the President’s desk. You will recall that President Biden said it was important to pass the Inflation Reduction Act to fight inflation, though literally no economists agreed that the massive bill would do a thing to reduce inflation. Mainstream media pundits accused Republicans of hypocrisy because they were complaining about inflation but weren’t supporting the inflation reduction act, as with this tweet by  journalist and political analyst Jack Cocchiarella:

Then as soon as the bill was passed, it wasn’t an inflation bill any more, because it never was an inflation bill.  That was just a fake label to fool the public, because inflation is on its mind. Now…

4. “Diversity and Inclusion”= Racial discrimination. (But we knew that…) The University of Utah has a doctoral program, the “African American Doctoral Scholars Initiative,” that is only open to black students. It has been going on for five years, and the Dept. of Education Office for Civil Rights has a pending investigation under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin in programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance from the Department of Education. Well of course it’s a violation of that law! The program “provides a scholarly community and educational services for African American doctoral students,” according to the university. The program also provides scholarships to “full-time African American” students who “demonstrate a commitment to understanding Black life, history, and culture in the United States.”

It sure looks as if the Department’s investigation will try mightily to let the course slip through. An OCR investigator asked the professor who first flagged the discriminatory course if he was “aware of any individuals who attempted to apply to or participate in this initiative and were not permitted to do so on the basis of their race or color.” What an obvious dodge: that’s like arguing that public accommodations with signs saying “Only Whites Served” outside are innocent as long as no blacks who attempt to be served are turned away.

All of the program’s directors, faculty, and students are black. That professor who first filed the complaint, Mark Perry, made the obvious point (which apparently the DOE needed to be reminded of) that “if there were a white-only equivalent program ‘White American Doctoral Scholars Initiative’ (no non-whites need apply) that OCR would correctly consider that to be a facial, per se violation of Title VI.”

The school counters that the program “creates a multidisciplinary, critical mass of African American scholars dedicated to the eradication of institutional and systemic racism and oppression by addressing the inequities endured by African American people”…through the device of creating inequities for white students. [Pointer and Facts: College Fix]

5. And finally, this pronoun note…Ken Burns in forms us that several Western Indian tribes had no singular pronouns for individuals, only plurals. In their case, that practice was a rejection of narcissism, whereas today’s similar practice is the zenith of it.

7 thoughts on “High Noon Ethics, 8/13/2022: Where Have You Gone, Mickey Mantle?

  1. 5: In the Star Wars Expanded Universe books, there’s a species, the Gand, that doesn’t use personal pronouns to refer to themselves. They always use the third person, and change their label as they age. Young Gand only refer to themselves as “Gand”, After a big milestone they refer to themselves by their surname. After the next big milestone they use their first name. It’s considered the height of arrogance to refer to oneself as “I” or “me”, and only big celebrities get away with it, because they’re so famous everyone is supposed to already know their names.

  2. I’m going to give The Mick a pretty big pass. All kinds of dad issues and substance abuse issues throughout the family for at least three generations.

    From his wiki page: Mantle allegedly took his first drink of alcohol at age 19, when teammate Hank Bauer gave him a beer that he “chugged as if it were soda pop,” according to baseball historian Frank Russo. Before Mantle sought treatment for alcoholism, he admitted that his hard living had hurt both his playing and his family. His rationale was that the men in his family had all died young, so he expected to die young as well. His father died of Hodgkin’s disease at age 40 in 1952, and his grandfather also died young of the same disease. “I’m not gonna be cheated,” he would say. At the time, Mantle did not know that most of the men in his family had inhaled lead and zinc dust in the mines, which can cause Hodgkin’s disease and other cancers. He outlived all the men in his family by several years. As the years passed, Mantle frequently used a line popularized by football legend Bobby Layne, a Dallas neighbor and friend who also died in part from alcohol abuse: “If I’d known I was gonna live this long, I’d have taken a lot better care of myself.”

    Mantle’s wife and sons all completed treatment for alcoholism and told him that he needed to do the same. He checked into the Betty Ford Clinic on January 7, 1994, after being told by a doctor that his liver was so badly damaged from almost 40 years of drinking that it “looked like a doorstop.” The doctor bluntly told Mantle that the damage to his system was so severe that “your next drink could be your last.” Also helping Mantle decide to enter the clinic was sportscaster Pat Summerall, who had played for the New York Giants football team at Yankee Stadium, by then a recovering alcoholic and a member of Mantle’s Dallas-area country club. Summerall himself had been treated at the clinic in 1992.

    Shortly after Mantle completed treatment, his son Billy died on March 12, 1994, at age 36 of heart problems brought on by years of substance abuse. Despite the fears of those who knew him that this tragedy would send him back to drinking, Mantle remained sober. Mickey Jr. later died of liver cancer on December 20, 2000, at age 47. Danny later battled prostate cancer.

    Absolutely Shakespearean tragedy stuff. Or maybe Biblical tragedy stuff. All that talent came at a cost. And by the way, he married his wife because his father told him to.

    • Don’t forget that he was sharing a hospital room with his dad Mutt when Mutt was dying. Mickey was being treated for his first of many serious injuries to his legs, this one when he stepped in a drain in the Yankee Stadium outfield.

      • Nice work, drain guys. I think he played the majority of his career on bad legs well before reconstructive knee surgery was even dreamed of. Which makes his career even more remarkable. I suspect all the beers dulled some of the knee pain. And ultimately, high performance athletes are just wired differently. Which creates problems for them when they’re not playing their game. Plus, having Billy Martin as a running mate sure didn’t bode well for anything. I’d say Billy Martin is second only to Charlie Hustle in terms of being a largely undesirable baseball playing human being.

        • And anyway, those Yankees, love them or hate them, and there was no other option, were all gods to us growing up in the ’50s and early ’60s. Mickey Mantle might as well have been from a different planet. And what a great baseball name. Mickey Mantle. I’ve always thought Clint Hurdle was perhaps the greatest and most under rated baseball name.

  3. #2 I’m a bit surprised the news article doesn’t mention why the city stopped the chalking of tires in 2019… A much older court case https://mynorthwest.com/1359423/car-tire-chalk-parking/

    Paying damages prior to the vey common practice was ruled unconstitutional is interesting… Especially since technology via digital photography being available as an alternative to chalking was cited in the earlier case.

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