Most Americans (at least before the current depression) retired in their late 60s or early 70s, or not at all. Baseball players, even those with the most longevity, retire while they are still young.

Mickey Mantle retired in 1968 at the tender age of 36. Like old generals, old players never die, but unlike old generals, Mickey Mantle never fades away.

A few years before he passed away, in an interview with a New York newspaper, Mantle revealed that somewhere in the recesses of his brain he never really retired.

Shortly after the end of his career, Mantle had the same dream almost every night. He was in a taxi on his way to the real Yankee Stadium, and he was late.

”I could hear them saying, ‘Now batting, No. 7, Mickey Mantle,’ and I’d try to crawl through a hole into Yankee Stadium, and I’d always get stuck. “Looking through the hole, I could see Casey Stengel and Whitey Ford and all them out there and I couldn’t get in. And I’d wake up, and I’d be sweating like hell. I had that dream a long time.”

That dream went away, but it was replaced with another one which was even more disturbing. The saving grace was that it was sporadic.

“…I dream like I’m trying to pinch hit, and I can’t. I just can’t hit, and if I do hit the ball, I can’t get to first. I don’t even know the guys I’m playing, but I know one thing: they keep waiting for me to hit one out, and I never do. I’m thinking, ‘Jeez, I could at least hit one here,’ and everybody’s saying, ‘He’s really gonna hit one in a minute, boy!’ And then—phtt—I pop up or something. Well, baseball was my whole life. Nothing’s ever been as fun as baseball.”

Mantle is not alone. Almost any retired baseball player would express the same sentiments, at least older retired players.  Money was important, but for many, it was less important than being a baseball player.

In 1968, Mickey’s salary was $100,000, which is equivalent to approximately $627,000 today, an amount that is not much more than today’s minimum salary for players.

To put things in perspective, Derek Jeter’s 2010 salary was $22,600,000, which has the buying power of over $3 million in 1968. Think Mickey was underpaid?

Many modern players love the game. Huge salaries, most of which are deserved, and free agency, which has resulted in few players remaining with one team, has resulted in most recently-retired players not missing the game as much as players of the Mantle era missed it.

They have made enough money to keep them busy for the rest of their lives.





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