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Playing Catch in Heaven with Mickey Mantle

Friday, May 17, 2024

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“If I’d known I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.” – Eubie Blake

James Hubert “Eubie” Blake was an American pianist and composer of ragtime, jazz, and popular music. Two of his most famous songs are Memories of You and I’m Just Wild About Harry. Along with Noble Sissle, his longtime collaborator, Blake wrote and directed Shuffle Along, one of the first Broadway musicals produced by black Americans. The 1978 Broadway musical Eubie! showcased his works and in 1981, Ronald Reagan presented Blake with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Not a bad life’s work!

Sadly, Blake was the only one of his many siblings to survive childhood, living to the ripe old age of 96… which makes me wonder how long he would have lived had he “taken better care” of himself. But I’m guessing that Eubie was just pulling everyone’s leg when he said that.

Another famous person who is credited with saying something similar was Mickey Mantle. When he broke into the majors in 1951, the “Commerce Comet” was both the fastest and the strongest player in the American League, if not all of baseball. A knee injury suffered in that year’s World Series slowed down “the Mick,” but he remained the game’s premier power hitter for most of his career, slugging 536 home runs in the regular season and another 18 in the Fall Classic.

Mantle’s dad, Elven Clark “Mutt” Mantle, died young at the age of just 39 as did his grandfather, Charles, both of whom were coal miners. Because of that, Mickey thought that he would also die at an early age and so, once he was signed by the Yankees, he took full advantage of all the nightlife New York City had to offer. As a result, Mickey became an alcoholic and later, developed liver cancer which claimed his life on August 13, 1995.

Unlike his father and grandfather, Mickey lived to be 63 and who knows how long he might have lived if, as Eubie Blake suggested, he had taken better care of himself. Thankfully, while in the hospital recovering from his second liver transplant, Mantle repented of his sinful lifestyle and trusted Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior. His former Yankee teammate, second baseman Bobby Richardson, had the privilege of leading Mickey in reciting the Sinner’s Prayer.

As important as it is to take care of one’s body, which is referred to in I Corinthians 6:19 as “the temple of the Holy Spirit,” it is even more critical to take care of one’s spirit, which lives and lasts forever. Tragically, the world is full of people who jog, lift weights, and watch what they eat, but never attend church or crack open a Bible.

I don’t know if I’ll see Eubie Blake in heaven, but I’m sure that “the Mick” will be there. Hopefully, he and I can have a catch or take a little batting practice someday.

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Instead, fear the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28 (BSB)

- Rev. Dale M. Glading, President

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