Mickey and Bobby: An Unlikely Pairing

This incredible photo was taken on September 18, 1965, at Mickey Mantle Day in Yankee Stadium. The Mick is with New York Senator Bobby Kennedy who had come to the Stadium to take part in the event honoring the Yankee legend. The photo was signed by Mantle and given to my friend who had worked on the RFK presidential campaign in 1968. My friend had read my book Mickey Mantle’s Last Home Run and understood the metaphoric connection between Mickey and Bobby. Kennedy had won the New York Senate seat the previous November.

Mickey and Bobby. Also, with Mrs. Lou Gehrig. September 18, 1965.

On that September day Mickey Mantle and Bobby Kennedy were probably the two most popular people in New York and the entire country. Though Mantle was on the downside of his playing days he was at the pinnacle of his fame and New Yorkers were coming to appreciate what he meant to the city and to baseball. And Mickey Mantle Day was a time to show it.

Bobby Kennedy was carrying the torch of optimism once held by his deceased brother and was happy to have the opportunity to bask in Mickey’s glory.

In just a few short years Mickey Mantle’s remarkable career would fade away in retirement and Bobby Kennedy’s valiant life of public service would end tragically.

Though their paths would never again cross Mickey and Bobby would forever be etched on the soul of America.

Mickey Mantle’s Last Day

A Tribute to #7

I will never forget this day 27 years ago when Mickey Mantle passed away at the age of 63. Growing up in New Jersey in the late fifties and early sixties Mantle was more than a star, more than an icon, he was a constant—a force of nature binding together the scattered remnants of the big bang.

If you were a kid in those days, who liked baseball, Mantle was everything—the best slugger with the best smile and the best name—the best baseball player period. He was always there, and we never knew a world without him. His presence was transcendent, and it seemed it would never change. Summers were endless, playing ball was ceaseless. And Mickey Mantle’s roughed elegance was timeless.

I thought about all of this the day the Mick died, but most of all I thought about how much he meant to my childhood, and it brought tears to my eyes as the hero of my youth would now be left only to my memories.

Mickey Mantle’s First Home Run

Seventy-one years ago today, the New York Yankees squared off against the Chicago White Sox on a cool day in Comiskey Park. Yankee starter Vic Raschi was matched up against Chicago lefty Bob Cain. Nineteen-year-old Mickey Mantle was batting leadoff and playing right field. Jackie Jensen was in center field for the injured Joe DiMaggio.

The Yankees got off to an early 5-2 lead and Cain left for a pinch hitter. His replacement, the grizzled right hander Randy Gumpert, took over in the top of the sixth. With one out and Raschi on second after a double, Mantle stepped to the plate batting lefty. Gumpert had faced many sluggers in his day, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio and he knew the expectations placed on the young Mickey Mantle. He realized the rookie was under intense pressure to perform and he thought he would be overanxious at the plate. So Gumbert served up a changeup. But the talented phenom wasn’t fooled and blasted the ball more than 400 feet into the center field bull pen.

It was Mickey Mantle’s first home run and according to the Mick his most memorable. Yankee backup catcher Charley Silvera was in the outfield bullpen where the ball landed and thoughtfully retrieved it. The Mick would inscribe the ball:

“My first home run in the majors May 1,1951 4:50 PM in Chicago 6th inning off Randy Gumpert.”

Mantle would later display the ball in his Holiday Inn in Joplin Missouri. The town of Joplin was significant to Mickey because it was there that he launched his career with a scorching .383 batting average in 1950 that caught the eyes of the Yankee brass. Mantle went on to hit 535 more home runs and 18 additional home runs in the World Series. When he hit his last home run in September 1968, he was number three on the all-time home run list behind only Babe Ruth at 714 and Willie Mays at 587.

In honor of Mickey Mantle’s first home run and his iconic #7, I will be giving away 7 copies of my novel Mickey Mantle’s Last Home Run. My book has been described by Kirkus Reviews as “an emotionally satisfying story of friendship and a well written sports tale with excellent, detailed scenes of characters observing and playing the game, and will appeal to fans of good sports writing.” 

Just contact me via email safalc6@gmail.com or the comment section and I’ll mail you the book postage free.



James P. Dawson THE NEW YORK TIMES Associated Press (1951, May 02).

“This Book is Exceptional”

I recently received this book review for my novel Mickey Mantle’s Last Home Run. This is from OlineBookClub.org and is currently posted on their website.

Mickey Mantle’s Last Home Run by Steven A. Falco deserves a 4 out of 4 stars. There are different positive aspects of this book to justify this rating. First, the book is a product of good research and personal experience of Steven. This inference is made from the brief profile of the author on the last page of the book, which reveals that Steven had played baseball while growing up. Also, this book is professionally edited; I could only spot one error in it.

The book is a story of a 15-years old boy popularly known as T.J. who has a near-obsession with baseball. This book contains subplots that teach lessons against racial prejudice and discrimination. T.J’s obsession for the Mick makes him frequent Yankee Stadium, sometimes alone, with Jonathan, Frankie, and Phil, or at other times, with his father and brother. However, he breaks this practice when he has to wait at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, together with Jonathan, Maggie, and her friend, to pay his last respects to the slain Robert Kennedy.

Meanwhile, Jonathan devices ways to ease the pain of other students during boring classes by creating school clubs for interested students. The strife between the Blacks and the Whites is heightened when T.J mistakenly hit a Black kid named Darrell during baseball practice and when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. T.J’s life is endangered as it seems that the Black kids would like to take revenge for both incidents on him. Will he survive this plan, or will he be assassinated like Robert Kennedy?

This book is exceptional, and it is recommended to young adults because there are lessons contained in the book that would be of help to them. Lovers of fictional books would also have a fantastic time reading this book.

Review of Mickey Mantle’s Last Home Run. – by Fine Brand – OnlineBookClub.org

Mickey Mantle’s Last Home Run: Falco, Steven A: 9781532052088: Amazon.com: Books

Our Salute to the Negro Leagues: James “Cool Papa” Bell

By guest blogger, baseball historian and author Gary Livacari

“Bell was so fast he could turn off the light and be under the covers before the room got dark!”-Satchel Paige, speaking of “Cool Papa” Bell.

“We played a different kind of baseball than the white teams. We played tricky baseball. We did things they didn’t expect.” -“Cool Papa” Bell

“Bell was an even better man off the field than he was on it. He was honest. He was kind. He was a clean liver.” -Teammate Ted Page, speaking of “Cool Papa” Bell.

James “Cool Papa” Bell was an eight-time All-Star center fielder who played in the Negro Leagues from 1922 to 1950. He’s considered by many baseball observers to have been one of the fastest men ever to play the game. Legends about the “fast as lightning” Bell and his remarkable speed are still widely circulated many years after his playing days.

Cool Papa Bell

Bell was born May 17, 1903, in Starkville, Mississippi, the fourth of seven children. At age 17, he moved to St. Louis to live with older brothers and attend high school. Bell spent most of his time playing baseball instead of studying. In 1921 he signed as a

knuckleball pitcher with the Compton Hill Cubs, a black semipro baseball team. He played with Compton Hill on Sundays and holidays while working for a packing company during the week. For 1922, Bell moved to another semi-pro team, the East St. Louis Cubs, which paid him $20 weekly to pitch on Sundays.

Bell signed with the St. Louis Stars of the Negro National League as a pitcher in 1922. He earned his nickname in his first season. Teammates referred to him as “Cool” after striking out Oscar Charleston, and then he added “Papa” because he thought it sounded better. At first, Bell made only occasional appearances in the outfield. By 1924 he began working on his defense and utilized his great speed. Pitchers tried to avoid issuing him walks as he often stole both second and third. Bell was known to score from first after a base hit.

Bell bounced around to many teams, typical of Negro League stars. Teams included the Kansas City Monarchs, Santo Domingo of the Dominican League, the Mexican winter leagues, the Homestead Grays, and finally the Pittsburgh Crawfords of the reorganized Negro National League.

The 1932-36 Pittsburgh Crawfords, named after the Crawford Grill, are considered some of the greatest teams ever. Cool Papa Bell, along with teammates Ted Page and Jimmie Crutchfield, formed possibly the best outfield in Negro League history. On the 1936 team, Bell was one of seven players who was later inducted into the Hall of Fame. Check out these names: Oscar Charleton, Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Bill Foster, Judy Johnson, and Jud Wilson. The team also included stars Sam Bankhead, Jimmie Crutchfield, Leroy Matlock, and Ted Page. Bell finished his career with a .341 batting average and hit .391 in exhibitions against major leaguers.

Satchel Paige liked to relate stories about Cool Papa’s speed, especially a famous one from a hotel. Due to faulty wiring, there was a short delay between flipping a light switch off – and the lights actually going off. This was enough time for Bell to jump into bed after flipping the switch, and Paige’s famous quote about “Cool Papa’s” speed was born.

Another legend held that Bell once hit a ball up the middle and was struck by the ball as he slid into second base! He once circled the bases in 13.1 seconds on a soggy field in Chicago, claiming he did it in 12 seconds in dry conditions.

Amid all the tales of Bell’s speed, one aspect of his personality was never in doubt: his outstanding character, attested to by many who knew him.

1974 New Hall of Fame Inductees: Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, “Cool Papa” Bell, Jocko Conlan

Bell died on March 7, 1991, aged 87. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974 by the Negro League Committee. In 1999 Bell ranked 66th on The Sporting News list of Baseball’s Greatest Players, one of five players so honored who played most of their careers in the Negro Leagues. He was also named to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.

So today we gladly shine our baseball spotlight on Hall-of-Famer James “Cool Papa” Bell, one of the great stars from the Negro Leagues.

Gary Livacari 

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Photo Credits: All from Google search

Information: Excerpts edited from Cool Papa Bell Wikipedia page.

There is Only One

The Most Iconic Trading Cards of All Time

Artist James Fiorentino has been at the forefront of a developing trend highlighting the magnificent artwork that has always been a part of the trading card industry. He began painting trading cards for Topps in 1999 and was recently contacted by East Coast Sports Marketing to start a project to commemorate the most iconic baseball cards in history.

This new watercolor painting by Fiorentino of the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle trading card captures and enhances the brilliance of this underappreciated corner of the artworld. The painting was on display at the “There is Only One, the Most Iconic Trading Cards of All Time” exhibition in The Philly Show last September. The Philly Show is the oldest baseball card show in America starting back in 1975.

I had the good fortune to visit with James recently and when I saw the 22 by 30-inch painting of the 1952 Mantle card I was blown away. For my generation this is the ultimate prize of the baseball card world. And as a lifelong Mickey Mantle fan the painting is truly heart stopping. I had read recently that this card, in mint condition, sold for almost $3 million dollars in 2018. But what really hit me was the sheer beauty of the painting and the understanding that both the original card and Fiorentino’s recreation are nothing short of and sports-art masterpieces.

Also on display in the show was Fiorentino’s recreation of the 1953 Topps Mickey Mantle trading card. According to James, “For me, this painting is the holy grail of the set because it’s always been the most iconic card (along with the Honus Wagner T206 card), so it was a painting that had to be very accurate. This is such a beautiful card to paint because of how the colors just pop. The aquamarine type background color with the yellow bat just give it that classic look. I have always loved the detail in the logo design, and the shot of Mantle as a young kid from the side is such a great pose, evoking a Paul Bunyan-type hero. This may be my favorite Mantle card of all time because of my affinity with the artist Gerry Dvorak, who originally painted this iconic card in 1953. Gerry was a friend and mentor, so it was an honor for me to work on this card. The entire 1953 Topps set is my personal favorite, with the large faces and classic red label. I have always loved the softer feel of the portraits in this set, as well as the brushstrokes you see on many of the cards. It’s another well balanced image, and great shot of a young Mickey Mantle.”

Fiorentino had several other watercolor paintings on display at the show which included the 2011 Topps Mike Trout card, the 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. card, the 1951 Bowman Willie Mays card, 1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle card and the 1933 Goudy Babe Ruth card.

The Series Two show has also been completed. The paintings displayed in both shows have been sold out. The Series Three show is being developed and should be scheduled soon.

James has been an incredibly talented artist all his life and through years of hard work and dedication has mastered the difficult watercolor medium. When growing up his two loves were painting and playing baseball. He still does both though his baseball playing has recently been limited to coaching little league with his two sons. Painting iconic baseball cards is just a small part of his portfolio which includes spectacular watercolors of super stars from all sports such as Tom Brady, Joe Namath, Michael Jordan, and Kevin Durant. He also does gorgeous wildlife paintings and luscious landscapes.

Check out his work at James Fiorentino 

And his Instagram account:


Don’t forget to check out my books:

Mickey Mantle’s Last Home Run: Falco, Steven A: 9781532052088: Amazon.com: Books

Grandpa Gordy’s Greatest World Series Games: Falco, Steven: 9780595219148: Amazon.com: Books

5 Star Rating for Mickey Mantle’s Last Home Run

Here’s a review I received this month written by Shey Saints and now published on her website, Shey Saints’ Book Reviews

“I enjoyed reading this book! And to think, I’m not American, nor a baseball fan! Nevertheless, I recognize the historical references, and the smooth flow of narrative allowed me to visualize the situations in 1968. It’s been a long while since I read a light and fun book! It was so entertaining, and at the same time, it taught me new things which were mainly about baseball, and refreshed me with some historical events, and even the parts of the cell!

This book brought back my younger days. Those times when you do silly things to make a boring biology class enjoyable, or that time when you experience your first non-adult-supervised trip with your friends. But what I love the most about this book is its casual tone. It suits the setting and coming-of-age genre, as the story is told through TJ’s eyes. The distinct personalities between TJ, Jonathan, as well as Phil, and Frankie, were manifested with such great characterization.

Overall, I’m giving this book 5 out of 5 stars. It’s a great story about baseball, friendship, family, different beliefs, and racial conflicts. I highly recommend this to all readers who love coming-of-age stories, regardless if you’re a baseball fan, or not.”

Mickey Mantle’s Last Home Run https://amzn.to/2EDRen5

Mickey Mantle’s First World Series Home Run

See related image detail

On this date October 6, 69 years ago Mickey Mantle came to the plate against Brooklyn Dodger pitcher Billy Loes in the eighth inning of game 6 of the 1952 World Series. Brooklyn was ahead 3 games to 2 in the series but the Yanks held a precarious 2-1 lead in game 6. New York was amid a dominant streak having won the last three World Series and four out of the last five. They had the Dodgers’ number beating Brooklyn in their three previous meetings in, ‘41, ’47 and ’49. So Brooklyn was out for revenge. They needed to hold the hated Yankees at bay in the eighth and ninth so the powerful Brooklyn lineup could secure a victory and end the Yankee dominance.

As Mantle stepped to the plate, he was a twenty-year-old phenom who had taken over centerfield from the revered Joe DiMaggio who had retired at the end of 1951. This was Mickey’s second World Series. His first, the previous year, ended tragically in the fifth inning of game 2 when Willie Mays hit a fly to right centerfield. Mantle, who was playing right, charged over for the ball but pulled up when DiMaggio called him off. Mantle’s foot got caught in a drainage ditch and his knee buckled. He left the game and did not return for the rest of the series. It was the beginning of a string of leg injuries that would hamper the Mick’s career. All this was in the past as Mantle dug in from the left side and blasted a Loes pitch over the wall to give the Yanks a 3-1.

Mantle’s first World Series homer turned out to be the deciding run in game 6 as Dodger slugger Duke Snider homered in the bottom of the eighth. New York held on for a 3-2 win knotting the series at 3-3.

In game 7 the young Mickey Mantle once again had the deciding blow when he hit a solo shot in the top of the sixth against Joe Black giving the Yanks a 3-2 lead. New York held on to win 4-2 thanks to miraculous catch by Billy Martin on a short pop up by Jackie Robinson. It was the fourth World Championship in a row for the Bronx Bombers.

Mantle was the unquestioned hitting star of the series batting .345 with two homers, five runs scored, three RBI and a .655 slugging percentage.

I was only two months old at the time so I could only read about the Mick’s early exploits. But like so many others I would soon become a devoted Mickey Mantle fan and enjoyed watching his storied career which included 16 more World Series homers for record of 18 which still stands today.

Mickey Mantle’s Last Home Run

Fifty-three years ago today, September 20, 1968, was not a date of any particular notoriety considering it was a year full of searing historical markers. It was a warm day in the northeast but as evening approached there was a hint of autumn. The Yankees were home playing a meaningless game against the Red Sox. These were the lean years for the storied franchise which was playing out the season heading toward a disappointing fifth place finish. But when Mickey Mantle came up against Jim Lonborg early in the game, he did what he had done so many times before, 535 times before. He hit a home run. To us young Mantle fans this was no biggie. Another home run. Sure. Number 536. So many before, many more to come. But to the more seasoned fans it seemed like something different, and Mantle received a long heartfelt ovation from the sparse but dedicated Yankee fans in attendance. Did they know something I didn’t?

I was fifteen at the time and from my earliest memories always a baseball fan, always a Yankee fan and of course always a Mickey Mantle fan. There really wasn’t that much else that I cared about. That is what I grew up with. To say that I was lucky is a monumental understatement. As a baby-boomer growing up in the fifties my parents’ generation had overcome the grinding Depression, won a World War and like so many others they settled in the suburbs somehow carving out a comfortable life for their children. For me and so many others like me that meant a halcyon existence that consisted of baseball, the Yankees and of course The Mick. Endless hours playing baseball, watching baseball on TV, talking about baseball, scouring box scores, and there was a long string of American League and World Series Championships for the Yanks with Mantle the center of it all. A brilliant career. An infectious smile. A classic name.

But all this would end in 1968, whether we were aware of it or not, because of the other notorious dates in 1968. January 30, the Tet Offensive began in Vietnam and America’s indomitable place as leader of the free world would be severely challenged. So much so that to this day America still struggles with our foreign policy limitations. March 31, when President Lyndon Johnson told the country he would not seek reelection in order to attempt to heal a divided nation which remains divided to this day. April 4, the day the inspirational leader of the civil right movement, Martin Luther King Jr., was assassinated leaving unresolved so many issues of social justice which we still grapple with today. And June 6, the date we lost our young dynamic Presidential candidate, Bobby Kennedy, leaving us with Nixon. I was unaware of any of this on September 20, 1968, the date of Mickey Mantle’s Last Home Run. But the years ahead would be hard for me, my fellow Mantle fans and for our country. Very hard.