Remembering The Death Of “The Last Boy”

Lisa and I were on our honeymoon in Anaheim, CA having only been married two days prior.  That Sunday, I turned on the TV to ESPN’s Sportscenter when an image of Mickey Mantle dominated the screen with the caption “1931-1995” below.

It was twenty years ago today that Mickey Mantle died.  “The Last Boy” was the title of Jane Leavy’s Mickey Mantle biography which was published in 2010.  It is considered to be the best biography on the iconic slugger. 

As Lisa and I went out that day, I could not help but notice grown men and grown women in their late 40’s and early 50’s that were sullen and/or were or had been noticeably emotional.

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Their sadness was profound.  Naturally, their condolences were with Mantle’s family, teammates, and friends – but they were also struggling with the fact that Mantle’s death was PERSONAL.  It was personal because Mantle’s death was a measurable portion of loss from THEIR childhood innocence, one where their myopic hero worship of an immortal Yankee was a by-product of the 1950’s and early 1960’s.

Mantle’s off-field escapades and personal foibles were of little or no concern to the youngsters of the time, nor were most of them even known in common circles.  To the children that saw Mickey Mantle play in his prime, he was THEIR idol whose on-field exploits and mannerisms THEY emulated. What many of them didn’t know was that “their” idol was often uncomfortable and often belligerent with this dynamic for most of his life, stating on numerous occasions “I’m just a ballplayer.”  

But all of this is well-chronicled, and I am not of this generation being born in the mid 1960’s.  Nonetheless, as a diehard Yankee fan and avid sports historian my loss was measurable as well.  When I heard the news, I turned to my new bride, gave her a hug, and said “you’ll never see the likes of his kind ever again.”

There are too many things that I could recount on a personal level, so for the purposes of keeping this article concise – it started with my decision to enter the sports card and memorabilia market in 1985 as a 19-year-old college sophomore.

While attending my first sports card and memorabilia show, I purchased my first 1968 Topps Mickey Mantle cards.  For an additional $5.00 per card, I got to handpick twenty examples from a small cache of mint-condition cards that came from a recently-purchased collection.  My coin collecting skills served me well, for it allowed me to pay special attention to attributes such as centering, corner sharpness, color, and focus just to name a few.

I would quickly learn many more lessons and became a party to many more unique circumstances when ANY transaction (buying, selling, and trading) involved a Mantle card and it wasn’t just that because they were considered cardboard gold and in high demand.

The thrill of purchasing a lower-grade and slightly damaged example of his 1952 Topps card, the most iconic card of the post-World War II era was one of the greatest thrills in my time as a collectibles dealer.  That’s because the man whom I had placed it with, an individual who was not exactly known as a nice guy – displayed the demeanor of a young boy in front of my eyes and thanked me for giving him first shot at purchasing the coveted item.  It wasn’t necessarily a question of money, because I had 10+ buyers willing to pay the strong price that I was asking.  I felt that having the card in HIS collection would mean more to him than the other prospective buyers, and I was right. 

Knowing that I had this article planned, I called my former customer last week.  He told me that even though he upgraded the card with a problem-free and sharper example, he still owns the original example I sold him in 1989.  His first 1952 Mantle is officially an official family heirloom, which will be passed down to his oldest son.  I cannot think of any better way to end this piece with that sentiment.

 Greg Heim has been a lifelong, Central NJ resident, and a resident of South Plainfield for over 13 years.  Greg’s wife Lisa has almost 20 years of full-time experience as a high school science teacher, and has worked at South Plainfield High School since 2005.  Greg and Lisa’s daughters Rosalind, 17, and Stephanie (“Steffi”), 16, also attend SPHS.  Their 10-year-old son Michael (“Mikey”) has special needs as a high-functioning autistic student.  He attends Kennedy Elementary School where he has made tremendous progress.

Autism is something that Greg Heim knows a lot about.  Even though he was not diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome until the age of 40 in 2006, Greg and pretty much anyone who has ever met or corresponded with him, even remotely knew that he was very different. The “label” proved to be a positive, life-changing event not only for him, but for his family and close friends as well.

Providing discussions and presentations about Asperger’s is only one area that Greg offers our communities free of charge.  Greg is also a well-known and respected numismatic researcher with over 40 years of experience.  His interest in coin collecting began in second grade after carefully examining a large bag of Lincoln “Wheat Ear” Cents coined from 1909-1958.  In addition to his scholarly contributions in the numismatic community, Greg’s involvement in the governance of numismatic clubs on the local, state, and national levels began and has continued since his junior year of high school in 1982.  Greg’s numismatic presentations are applicable for those with or without numismatic experience.  His most popular programs geared towards non-numismatists come in the areas of selling a collection and avoiding fraud when purchasing precious metals for investment.

Greg received his Bachelor’s in mathematical sciences from then-Kean College in 1996.  Greg’s specialties lay in the areas of reinforcing the importance of basic, arithmetic operations, and out-of-the-box thinking that goes beyond standardized tests – especially when it comes to the mathematics and psychology related to games of chance.   Greg’s career as a professional poker and video poker player and author for more than a decade is something that he enjoys sharing with others, especially high school students as an educational primer. When Greg was asked why his passion to lecture on this subject was so high, he stated “because there is an incredulous lack of knowledge and misinformation about the reality of gambling to which race, gender, education level, income level, geography, and any other societal dynamic one can think of have little or zero influence. “

Greg is also an avid sports historian and enthusiast in the areas of football, basketball (college and professional), baseball, hockey, and boxing to a lesser extent.  Greg is a lifelong New York Yankee fan, and spent over eight years in the sports card and memorabilia business from 1986-1993, and he has been a stalwart fan of Nebraska Cornhuskers football since 1982.  His most popular sports programs come from zeal as a diehard, New Jersey Husker fan.

Greg’s approach to providing presentations usually relies on a cooperative effort with the person who has the most contact with his potential audience in order to optimize the number of people in said audience while providing them with the presentation that they most likely want to hear.

But sometimes it does not even have to be all that complicated.  Greg loves to be grilled and put on the spot for 60-90 minutes with a basic “Q&A” format, or one to which he just sits in a chair and plays the role of a raconteur.

For more information, please go to Greg’s community Facebook page “Gregory S. Heim.”  He can also be reached via e-mail at gynandroidhead@yahoo.com, or on his cell at 908-405-6408.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TAPinto.net or anyone who works for TAPinto.net. TAPinto.net is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer. 

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TAPinto.net or anyone who works for TAPinto.net. TAPinto.net is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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