Mantle Needs Liver Transplant to Live : Baseball: Hall of Famer has cancer; surgery could be done as soon as today.

From Times Wire Services

A new liver that could save the life of baseball great Mickey Mantle may have been found, and a transplant could be done as soon as today.

Jeff Place, an administrative supervisor at Baylor University Medical Center, said late Wednesday night that if the liver is suitable, it will be implanted immediately.

"A possible liver has been found," Place said. "We are in the process of prepping him for the possibility of surgery, but nothing has been confirmed."

Place said he did not know the source of the liver.

At a news conference earlier Wednesday, doctors revealed Mantle has liver cancer. They said the Hall of Famer needed a new liver because his has been eroded by a small malignant tumor, years of alcohol abuse and a long dormant hepatitis C infection.

Mantle, 63, is severely jaundiced, in pain and too weak to get out of bed at the medical center. Doctors said his condition is deteriorating.

"I can tell you he will not get out of the hospital without getting a transplant," transplant surgeon Robert Goldstein said.

Roy True, Mantle's lawyer and longtime friend, spoke with him Wednesday night.

"He was in a lot of pain. He had a real bad day today," True said. "Up until today, his spirits were real high.

"He has not eaten anything in days. I've never see Mickey's face look so thin--he's emaciated. . . . He knows he has to eat, but he just can't. His stomach is so swollen. . . ."

Mantle checked into the hospital May 28 complaining of abdominal pain. He was found to be suffering liver failure.

Doctors said that they also found a small, malignant tumor blocking the bile duct but that there was no indication the cancer had spread. Heavy drinking is also thought to contribute to liver cancer.

"It is our opinion that the tumor cannot be removed safely, that his condition continues to worsen, and that the only alternative to save his life is a liver transplant," said his attending physician, Kent Hamilton. "He's got fluid retention, he has an infection that causes him considerable pain and he's weak."

Another problem for Mantle may be the toll his weakened liver is taking on his kidneys. Should they continue to deteriorate, Mantle also may need a kidney transplant, Goldstein said.

Mantle was the centerpiece of the New York Yankee dynasty in the 1950s and '60s and one of baseball's premier sluggers. The Oklahoma boy who replaced Joe DiMaggio in center field retired in 1968 with 536 home runs, which ranks eighth on the all-time list.

"Mickey Mantle was an athlete that transcends the game," Yankee owner George Steinbrenner said. "He's a very unique, courageous guy. I hope there's that same determination and willpower that pulls him through this that pulled him through in baseball."

Mantle is the victim of a particularly deadly combination of alcohol abuse and hepatitis, which together are devastating for the liver.

"The two together are much more deadly than one or the other alone," said Dr. Jeffrey Crippin, a liver specialist at Baylor.

Goldstein said there is no doubt the star's drinking was a major factor in his liver problems. Mantle's off-the-field drinking exploits, notably with pitcher Whitey Ford and infielder Billy Martin, were almost as heralded as their on-the-field heroics.

Doctors speculated the hepatitis resulted from blood transfusions Mantle received during past athletic-related surgeries. Hepatitis C is a particularly insidious form because it can persist for years without producing any symptoms.

Goldstein said he spoke to Mantle and his wife Tuesday night and told them a transplant was necessary to save his life.

"His reaction was, as he said, 'Do what you have to,' " Goldstein said.

Mantle is older than most liver transplant recipients. Only about 10% of liver transplants go to people older than 60, Goldstein said.

The five-year survival expectancy for someone who has received a liver transplant is about 70%. But because of his age and alcohol-induced liver problems, Mantle's chances probably would be about 60%, Goldstein said.

Nationally, the normal wait for a liver transplant is 130 days, but Mantle obtained one of the highest priorities because his condition is serious, Goldstein said.

Mantle grew up in Oklahoma not expecting to live long because no male member of his family had lived past 41. Mantle's father died at 41 from Hodgkin's disease, a lymphatic cancer; his grandfather died at 40 from the same ailment.

One of his sons, Billy, also had a long struggle with the disease, then died of a heart attack last year at age 36.

In January 1994, Mantle checked into the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage for treatment of his alcohol problem.

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