Mickey Mantle, whose major league career was noted for home runs and late nights, has checked into the Betty Ford Center for treatment of alcohol abuse.
Mantle, 62, a Hall of Famer since 1974, entered the clinic about three weeks ago and is expected to complete treatment next month, according to his business manager, Roy True.
His Friday statement said treatment was for “a 43-year battle with alcohol abuse.” It added that Mantle was “prompted by brief periods of blackouts, suffering from memory loss over the past six years and concerned about possible liver damage.”
“Mickey began using alcohol early in his life, perhaps a casualty of his early professional success,” True said in the statement.”
“It (alcohol) has been a celebration all his life,” he added during a telephone interview Friday night from his home in Dallas. “I think when it started impacting his health, his short-term loss of memory--he couldn’t remember things that were discussed, events that had occurred--he was beginning to realize it was time to take care of himself.”
Mantle, eighth on the all-time home-run list with 536, retired at age 36 in 1968 after 18 seasons with the New York Yankees. He won four American League home run titles.
His career was hampered by injuries to his knees, thighs, shoulders, fingers and hip, and by osteomyelitis, which nearly crippled him. Mantle is the only male member of his family to live past 41. His father died at 41 of Hodgkin’s disease, a lymphatic cancer; his grandfather died at 40 with the same ailment.
“If I’d known I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself,” he once said, adding that he might also have tempered some of the evenings out with close friends and teammates Whitey Ford and Billy Martin.
Some of Mantle’s former teammates and opponents gasped when they heard the news.
“I hope this helps him,” said Yogi Berra, the Yankees’ catcher during most of Mantle’s career. “Anything that could help him is good, because we want him around for a long time.”
“I’m glad he went in if he had the problem,” said Joe Garagiola, a former catcher and broadcaster who frequently helps former players through the Baseball Assistance Team.
The Betty Ford Center, located in Rancho Mirage near Palm Springs, is a clinic at which many high-profile individuals have been treated for drug and alcohol dependency. Among them are actress Elizabeth Taylor, singer Liza Minelli and television newswoman Linda Ellerbee. It also treats lesser-known people.
The clinic was founded by former first lady Betty Ford.