After Manny Ramirez passed the great Mickey Mantle for sole possession of 15th place in career home runs, the venerable Twins great and Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew told the MINNEAPOLIS STAR-TRIBUNE that “to see his name above Mantle’s on the list . . . that’s a shame.”
Killebrew was a contemporary of Mantle’s; each terrorized the AL en route to well over 500 home runs and both are members of the Hall of Fame, but there the similarities end. While Mantle’s well-known as a prolific party animal, Killebrew eschewed the lifestyle, telling SPORTS ILLUSTRATED back in 1963 that for fun, he “like[s] to wash dishes.”
So it’s that disconnect from Mantle’s world that provides the only possible justification for the ignorance displayed by Killebrew with that statement.
The fact of the matter is that performance-enhancing substance abuse is nothing new for major league baseball. Until steroids struck in the early 1990s, as a matter of fact, Killebrew and Mantle played in the heyday of PEDs in baseball.
No, hormonal adjustments weren’t exactly being performed like today, and it’s pretty evident that there are greater effects by taking HGH than by taking anything used in the ’60s.
But back then, usage of amphetamines, or “greenies,” was so widespread that playing while not under their influence was referred to as “playing naked.” Lord only knows what was running through Mantle’s veins in the outfield, but it was more than just plain old American red blood.
Moreover, Mantle was more than a bit of a lout, though (usually) humorously so. When asked to provide his favorite Yankee Stadium memory by his old club, for example, and his answer was completely and totally unrepeatable (pops to .pdf with ludicrously NSFW language) (via ROTOWORLD).
Meanwhile, Manny used steroids. He was caught, he served his suspension, and now he’s back and still raking. So let’s keep this straight: the difference between Manny and Mantle isn’t PED use, it’s the scope to which they were effective. If Mantle had access to steroids, does Killebrew actually think Mantle would have said “no”? The real Mickey Mantle, we mean, not the lionized baseball card hero that never really existed outside the imaginations of children.
If Killebrew really thinks that, well, that’s probably a very foolish proposition.