SOMERS, N.Y.--After visits with his mom at her then-home in Heritage Hills, Thomas Molito would sit down at the former Tazza Café in the nearby shopping center with a yellow pad and pencil and start writing, putting on paper the memories he had growing up a Yankees fan and about his friend Mickey Mantle. The culmination of that exercise over several months is the new book, “Mickey Mantle: Inside and Outside the Lines,” which offers a fan’s perspective of the life of the Major League Baseball great.
“My generation idolized Mickey Mantle,” Molito, 72, said of the the center fielder and first baseman who had the highest stolen base percentage in history at the time of his retirement, in 1968. “I idolized him. Even after I had the chance to meet him and become friends with him, I was still in awe of him. I wrote this book so other fans could live vicariously through my experiences.”
Molito, a Pound Ridge resident who owned the home distribution company Cabin Fever Entertainment, met The Mick during the company’s production of the “500 Home Run Club” in 1988.
“We got Mickey Mantle, who was part of the club, and Bob Costas to co-host the series,” Molito said. “Costas used to carry around a baseball card of Mickey in his wallet. When asked about it, he would say, ‘I think everyone should have a religious relic on them.’ ”
Over the next seven years, until Mantle’s death in 1995, Molito and Mantle shared a trusted bond that knew no geographic boundaries, from Park Avenue to Las Vegas to Cooperstown. It included television shoots, concerts and Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant & Sports Bar, which was located on Central Park South. Molito even helped Mantle write his deathbed farewell address.
“We used to talk about everything,” Molito recalled. “But we would only talk baseball if he bought it up.”
The two became so close, he said, that Molito even introduced Mantle to country music legend Charlie Daniels. Mantle and Daniels also became good friends. Daniels wrote the foreword of “Mickey Mantle: Inside and Outside the Lines.”
Molito understood that his relationship with Mantle, who was also nicknamed “The Commerce Comet,” was special. To keep the memories with his idol fresh, Molito would jot down the happenings and conversation bits during an outing with the slugger on an index card after each meeting.
“I really did it for myself, because I never wanted to forget any of my time with him,” Molito said. “But it also helped when writing this book, too.”
He also used archival newspaper articles, websites and more than 35 books on Mantle to put the book together.
“There is nothing in this book that I would be embarrassed about if Mickey read it today,” Molito said. “I treasured our friendship and I wanted other people to know. A lot of books have been written about him, but this one is different. It is through the eyes of a fan who had the opportunity to become a business associate and a friend.”
“Mickey Mantle: Inside and Outside the Lines” is published by Black Rose Writing and is available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and local book shops.