When We All Wanted To Be Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway, just days before turning 60, steps out of the swimming pool at the Davis family villa where he spent the summer o 1959. (From 'Looking for Hemingway' (Lyons Press)

Ernest Hemingway, just days before turning 60, steps out of the swimming pool at La Consula, the Davis family villa in Malaga, Spain, where the world’s most celebrated writer at the time spent the summer of 1959. (From Looking for Hemingway: Spain, The Bullfights and A Final Rite of Passage, Lyons Press)

A CHILD OF THE boomer generation, I grew up in the 1950s desperately wanting to be Ernest Hemingway. To run with the bulls in Pamplona. To hunt big game in Africa. To roam the streets of Paris with the Lost Generation. To live the adventurous life of Nick Adams. Years later, I would learn that I was hardly alone among young people of my age. We all wanted to be Ernest Hemingway.

Today, those of us who have survived can take great pride. We are Hemingway.

Sadly, though, we likely are the Ernest Hemingway that I’ve written about in my new book, Looking for Hemingway: Spain, The Bullfights, and A Final Rite of Passage. It is the Hemingway at that age we all dread of being: Old, losing our train of thought, unable to do what once came so easily, too quick to show our frustration at our slowness but still holding on to the hope of one last glimmer of youth.

I recently read a quote – I can’t recall by whom (that thing about losing our train of thought perhaps) – that you can’t really face getting old without having the courage for it. And I thought that was such a Hemingwayesque thing to say: grace under pressure and that whole Hemingway credo about life.

Hemingway entertains two young women he added to his entourage traveling from bullfight to bullfight in Spain, 1959. (From 'Looking for Hemingway,' Lyons Press)

In Pamplona, Ernest Hemingway entertains two young women he added to his entourage that traveled with him from bullfight to bullfight in Spain, 1959. (From Looking for Hemingway: Spain, The Bullfights and A Final Rite of Passage, Lyons Press)

And there was another quote, this one from Dame Muriel Spark, the Scottish novelist, that “being over 70 is like being engaged in a war — all our friends are going or gone, and we survive amongst the dead and the dying as on a battlefield.”

Ernest Hemingway undoubtedly would have loved all that talk about war, the dead and those dying on a battlefield.

So you get what I’m driving at. Getting old was no more kind to the author of The Sun Also Rises, For Whom The Bell Tolls and The Old Man and The Sea than it is to most of us. And most of us still here are now older than Hemingway when he was found dead of a self-inflicted shotgun wound in the head at his home in 1961, just 19 days shy of his 62nd birthday.

51huzvrohyl-_sx329_bo1204203200_Looking for Hemingway is about the Nobel Prize laureate two birthdays earlier, set in Spain where he celebrated his 60th birthday in a magnificent celebration attended by actress Lauren Bacall and many of his other famous friends. He was, after all, the most celebrated literary figure of his time and few saw him as being in the twilight of his life. Hell, he was Ernest frigging Hemingway.

Hemingway was there on a quixotic quest to recapture the sentimental Spain of his youth in the 1920s when he had written The Sun Also Rises, his breakthrough novel that made him fabulously famous. His plans were to write an epilogue for a reissue of his bullfighting nonfiction classic Death in the Afternoon. But it turned into a summer-long extravaganza following the two greatest matadors in the world — the young, dashing Antonio Ordoñez and his much older brother-in-law Luis Miguel Dominguín — who were facing off in a mano a mano, a bullfighting World Series and Super Bowl rolled into one.

The adventure would be Ernest Hemingway’s last hurrah. And it would almost kill him — and possibly contributed to his end.

At 59 years of age, Hemingway had the stamina if not the strength of his youth. He and his entourage criss-crossed mountainous Spain numerous times traveling from one corrida to another, partying and drinking themselves to exhaustion each night, as he tried to pick up every pretty girl he met.

Hemingway was traveling with his fourth wife Mary, but you can sense he might have been looking for wife No. 5. He treated Mary cruelly in front of his friends who allowed it. Traveling across Spain, he forced her to ride in a following second automobile while he gave a seat in his car to the attractive young women who had joined his cuadrilla. By the end of the trip, Mary returned to America alone, seriously thinking of leaving him.

But she sensed what no one else did. That while Hemingway sought to catch an inspiring last taste of the past, he had a tragic short life ahead. And that is the unexpected twist of Looking for Hemingway as it became a portrait of a prismatic vision of the dying artist, a complex and profoundly dramatic story of a man’s extraordinary effort to stay alive.

For me, there has always been in the story of Hemingway and Spain an allure so sharp and fresh that there was never any question of writing this book. There was, from the start, the joy of rediscovering the world in which he walked and traveled, both in the 1920s and again in 1959. Here was a canvas as generous, colorful, and grand as any in Hemingway’s life. As the story pushed forth, there was at every turn the excitement of history never told, of connections hidden for decades, of old mysteries answered.

My friend Teo Davis chats with Ernest Hemingway pool side at the Davis family villa in Spain, La Consula, where the author lived for months in 1959.

My friend Teo Davis chats with Ernest Hemingway pool side at La Consula, the Davis family villa in Spain, where the author lived for months in 1959.

The story of Hemingway the icon was well known. The story of Hemingway the man on this last romantic journey had been largely buried. Getting that story was slow work. After a good while, I felt I had become the crypt of Hemingwayolé en España. As my patient wife Renee used to say (but seldom aloud – for which I thank her) about this project, great effort went in but nothing came out until now.

For me, too, as a child of the 1950s who read The Old Man and The Sea thinking I was the boy Manolin in the story, I suppose I have been looking for Hemingway all my life, and perhaps it seems fitting that I found him at an age when I now see myself in the novel’s old man Santiago. For some this is not an easy age to face, publishers in particular. More than a few just flat out said they didn’t think any readers, especially Hemingway fans, wanted to read about him as an old man, pathetic at times, feeble and paranoid.

Being a life-long Hemingway lover, I found that hard to believe, unless it’s just simply old age some of us don’t want to face, whether Hemingway’s or our own. For those who fear this life stage, I can only say that I found it inspiring in the research to learn that Pablo Picasso in his sixties was having affairs with gorgeous youthful women more than forty years younger – young enough to be his granddaughters.

Today, the aging, dying Hemingway is one I have come to love and appreciate as much as the young romantic Hemingway, for in his mortality lie the same fears, regrets and self-recriminations that all of us face in our own way as we reach that stage in our lives.

Hemingway’s final adventure would produce his posthumously published book The Dangerous Summer, and that mano a mano bullfighting circus proved to be a story made to order for the dying man’s need not to die.

Not surprisingly, Hemingway would end up creating the two brave matadors – and, by extension, himself — as more than just heroic. He portrayed them as immortals, of course, for isn’t that the way famous people avoid the reality of old age and death?

Tony Castro, a former political reporter and columnist, is the author of five books, the most recent being Looking for Hemingway: Spain, The Bullfights and A Final Rite of Passage (Lyons Press).

‘DiMag & Mick’ Reveals Mickey Mantle’s True Love

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Young lovers Holly Brooke and Mickey Mantle out on the town in Manhattan in 1951, his rookie season chronicled in DiMag & Mick. (Mickey Mantle Museum)

 

“Above Grand Central Station, there used to be this incredibly fabulously opulent apartment that looked like a palace that the original architect built as part of the original design, and in 1951 I knew someone — I knew a lot of people even then—who arranged for me, for us, to stay there one night that summer. And so Mickey and I spent one of the greatest nights of our lives there. It was a romantic, magical evening. We made love all night. We were both young and in love, and he wanted to marry me and spend the rest of our lives together.”

                                                                           — Holly Brooke in DiMag & Mick

MICKEY MANTLE FANS, memorize the name Holly Brooke.

In his new book DiMag & Mick, author Tony Castro reveals that the Yankees’ switch-hitting icon proposed to New York actress Holly Brooke during his 1951 rookie season and that they carried on a torrid love affair for years even after he married his high school sweetheart just to please his dying father.

Holly’s existence had been known since the 1950s and for decades, sportswriters and authors tried unsuccessfully to interview Brooke –but were never even able to track her down.

But Castro, the author of the critically acclaimed biography Mickey Mantle: America’s Prodigal Son, not only found the elusive Holly Brooke but interviewed her exhaustively about her relationship with Mick and her recollection of Mantle’s time in New York — including the friendship he shared with Joe DiMaggio but which few others knew about.

“What led to this book, DiMag & Mick, was an e-mail I received a few years ago from a man thanking me for having written so favorably in my Mantle biography about his aunt, an actress named Holly Brooke, who has been described in most books about Mickey as a showgirl who had been his girlfriend in 1951,” Castro said in an interview about writing the book.

“However, no biographer had been able to interview her or even locate her. I think most of us had assumed she was dead. Holly’s nephew, though, said not only was she still alive and well but that she was also willing to talk to me.

“That began a series of almost daily visits and conversations that proved to be incredible. She convinced me with her stories and some strong documentation that her love affair with Mickey lasted beyond his marriage in 1951 and carried on well into the 1960s.”

Holly had lived with Mantle much of his rookie year, even when he was sent down to the minors to play in Kansas City, which had a Yankees’ minor league team at that time. She was also the reason Mickey asked to have his uniform number changed from 6 to 7 when he returned to the majors, a number that was her date of birth.

In the book, Castro writes:

On August 22, 1951, the Yankees’ new prodigal son returned to New York, arriving with Holly on a Super Chief train at Grand Central Station and passing through what was then known as the “Kissing Room,” where travelers once embraced their sweethearts, friends, and family, and offering cozy access to the Biltmore Hotel above. That was where Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald had honeymooned, she whispered to Mickey as they snuggled arm and arm with the crowd.

“I don’t know if Mickey knew who F. Scott Fitzgerald was,” said Holly, smiling as she dreamily remembered that day. “I shouldn’t say that. He was a very smart man. He just didn’t like to show it, but his mind was like a steel trap. Once he heard or saw something, he knew it by heart. I suspect that’s what helped make him such a great hitter and ballplayer. But I think he enjoyed being seen as that good ol’ country boy.

“We had a drink at the Kissing Room. We had come in a day early, and Mickey didn’t have to report back to the team until the next day. He didn’t want to go to the Concourse Plaza where they had a room for him. That was all the way out in the Bronx, and we were in Manhattan and at Grand Central Station, and we had the day to ourselves, and I had come to think that we would have the rest of our lives together as well.

“‘Holly, I want you to marry me,’ Mickey said to me that night. He had said it earlier, but I think, returning to New York, he knew he now had it together. The Yankees wanted him back in the majors, and this time he knew he was going to stick with the team for good, and that he would live up to all they were expecting of him. We had talked about marriage. He had talked about marriage. He had talked about wanting to marry me and about adopting my son. But this time was different. He was so insistent. And when he asked me to marry him this time, it wasn’t like the other times. He knew the only person who could stand in our way was his father. But Mutt had seen us together in Kansas City, just as he had seen us together here in New York before Mickey was sent down. And in Kansas City, I think he saw in Mickey’s face his determination to be with me. There in front of me, Mickey said to his father, ‘Dad, so what if she’s older than me? She’s seven years older than me. Mom was ten years older than you when you married her, and she had been married before as well. If it can work out for you and Mom, why couldn’t it work out for Holly and me?’ I thought Mutt was going to cry. He left our room, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he did shed a tear later. You could tell that Mickey had hit a soft spot. So that night back in New York, Mickey says to me, ‘Dad won’t like it. You saw what he’s like. He wants me to marry Merlyn, but I can’t. I’m not in love with her. I’m in love with you.’ So I’ll bring him around.’ And, of course, I said, ‘Yes, Mickey, I’ll marry you. I love you.’ And he told me he loved me, too. ‘You’re the love of my life, Holly.’ And that’s how we left it. Mickey was going to talk to his father—‘Come hell or high water,’ I think is how he said it—and we were going to get married as soon as the season ended. Mickey said the only thing that would be more perfect was if the Yankees won the World Series as well.”

Holly also had a toddler son that Mantle wanted to adopt as his own, and Mickey proposed to her and likely would have married her if it hadn’t been for his father.

After the 1951 season, Mickey’s father learned he was dying, and he demanded that Mickey marry his hometown sweetheart as his dying wish. Of course, it was just part of the unusual hold that Mickey’s father held over him.

Of Henry Cisneros, Dreams and Mortality

Henry Cisneros, housing secretary under President Clinton is battling early stage prostate cancer, it was announced Tuesday.

MY FATHER NEVER said so, but I always got the impression that he wished Henry Cisneros had been his son.

Henry and I grew up at the same time in Texas in the 1960s, each of us attending Catholic schools in our respective hometowns and sometimes competing against each other in interscholastic league speech and drama contests.

The only time my father attended one of those competitions, he saw Henry deliver an interpretation of one of Abraham Lincoln’s addresses — the one appealing to the better angels within us — while I did two soliloquies from Hamlet using a Welsh accent I nailed from listening to a recording of Richard Burton.

My father was blown away — by Henry’s performance.

When he learned Henry was going to Texas A&M, my father asked me to reconsider my choice of colleges. In the 1950s and 1960s, A&M was the place all Mexican-American military veterans wanted their sons to attend — the school where they could join the corps, graduate as second lieutenants and serve their country as officers.

“Dad, Henry’s the son of a general,” I said, lying. I had no idea what Henry’s father did. “He’ll be an officer. Heck, he’ll probably be president one day. I’m the son of an enlisted man. I can’t lead men on a football team, much less on a battlefield. I’m a rebel and an outlaw. You said so yourself.”

My father had once said writers were all rebels and outlaws, and I wasn’t about to let him forget it.

All this came back to me today as I read about Henry having prostate cancer. I pray and hope he’ll beat it. But what the news about Henry did was shake my foundation of well-being and forced me, for the first time, to seriously confront the mortality not only of someone so close to my dreams as a youth but also of myself as well.

Over the years, Henry’s life and mine have passed each other in Texas, Washington, Los Angeles and anywhere there were political conventions of any significance. I’ve interviewed Henry numerous times and, in our own ways, we’ve praised each other on our successes as well as consoled one another on our falls from grace, personally and professionally.

People who grow up together invariably have nicknames for each other, monikers that we use behind their backs. I don’t know what Henry’s was for me — I’ve heard them all from other friends and I imagine it might be something similar. Mine for Henry was Manolete, the Spanish bullfighter who rose to glory in the years after the Spanish Civil War.

I called him Manolete because I have never seen a picture of Manolete smiling. He always seemed so serious, almost sorrowful and tragic. Henry struck me that way, even when he was smiling, as if something very sad was going on in his life. I’ve never thought of myself as a playboy, but, in contrast, you would have thought I was the life of the party.

“Henry, it’s only words,” I recall saying to him after a debate tournament. His team hadn’t won, but neither had mine. Henry, though, wore that game face, as if blaming himself or as if he were facing a firing squad or some fierce 2,000-pound animal in a bullring. “You’re a great debater. You’ll win the next tournament.”

I think we all sensed that Henry was destined for true greatness, if anyone we knew ever was. He became mayor of San Antonio and the rising Latino star of the Democratic Party. In 1984, Democratic Presidential Nominee Walter Mondale considered Henry as a running mate before choosing Rep. Geraldine Ferraro. In 1992, President Bill Clinton named Henry to his Cabinet. But we all have our secrets, and Henry’s doomed him. He was found to have lied to the FBI about a mistress, hush payments to her and a sordid affair that destroyed his dreams.

My father kept up with news reports of the investigation as if… well, as if Henry were his son. My father learned Henry had been betrayed by a journalist to whom he had confided about his affair, and you would have thought I was that writer who ratted him out.

“You work in a profession full of s— of b—— and Judases,” my father said to me at the time.

“And rebels and outlaws,” I reminded him.

A few years later, as my father lay on his deathbed, I wasn’t sure what else to say. We had made our peace, what we could anyway. I just wanted to say something more that would ease his final hours.

“Dad,” I said. “I’m sorry I wasn’t more like Henry Cisneros. I’m sorry I couldn’t fulfill your dreams. If it’s any consolation, I haven’t fulfilled my dreams either.”

My father shook his head, as if to protest. He had tears in his eyes, and I thought we would just sit there for a while longer.

“I don’t care about Henry,” he said, finally. “I care about you and what you did or tried to do. A father’s dreams for his son are never fulfilled. They’re just that — dreams. The important thing, and what I’m proud of you for, is that you had the courage to chase your own dreams. Your dreams — not someone else’s.”

Q&A With Tony Castro About ‘DiMag & Mick’

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Tony Castro is the author of the new book DiMag & Mick: Sibling Rivals, Yankee Blood Brothers. He also has written Mickey Mantle: America’s Prodigal SonThe Prince of South Waco, and Chicano Power. He is a former staff writer for Sports Illustrated, and his work has appeared in a variety of publications, including The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times.  

Q: Why did you decide to write a book looking at both Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle?

A: Dating back to my childhood, I’ve long had an undying interest in both Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle.

My father was a New York Yankee fan and returned home from World War II with a huge poster — off an old New York market calendar, I believe – of DiMaggio in that classic swing of his. A few years later, the DiMaggio poster in my bedroom was joined by one of Mantle finishing off his own powerful swing.

Those two posters covered most of an entire wall in my bedroom, and it used to upset my mom because they dwarfed the crucifix that hung between them.

Our parish priest used to come over for dinner once a month or so, and my mom once tried to shame me by showing him the signs of what she saw as my sacrilege.

I don’t think she realized that our parish priest was the coach of our CYO baseball team because he looked at the juxtaposition of the posters and the crucifix, and he said, “Señora Castro, I think these are all just innocent representations of the role models close to Tony’s heart, each with their symbolic pieces of wood on which their great stories have lived and died.”

b10411_e2281795fe9e4f0ebcbba977693c73f2My mom never brought this up again. I suppose there’s Roman Catholicism and then there’s Baseball Catholicism.

Years later, I had the good fortune to meet and befriend Mickey Mantle. It was 1970. I was a young newspaper reporter, a few months out of college, working in Dallas; and Mickey was a couple of years into his retirement, virtually an exile in Dallas, a retired baseball legend in what was then and still is a big pro football city.

He was also a pariah among sportswriters because of his horrendous behavior among them, which had worsened toward the end of his career.

As I go into in the book, Mickey and I hit it off that first afternoon getting drunk over hamburgers and golf. Perhaps he was longing for the attention he’d had at the top of his career, and I was someone who could play golf any afternoon and could drive him home because he was usually too drunk to drive and then help [his wife] Merlyn retrieve his car. I was a decent golfer and, working on an afternoon newspaper, I could usually sneak off to play 18 holes early in the day.

And DiMaggio I met in 1978 in San Francisco through his longtime friend Reno Barsocchini.

But I never thought about writing a book about either of them or any book, for that matter. I’d written a book early in my career, a civil rights history about Cesar Chavez and Chicano movement of the 1960s and 1970s – Chicano Power: The Emergence of Mexican America (Dutton, 1974) – that basically killed my first marriage, and I’d sworn not to do that again.

But when Mantle was dying in 1995, I wanted to read my sons a book about Mickey — and that’s when I discovered that all those books I’d read about him years ago were not very good.

That’s when I decided to write my Mantle biography, Mickey Mantle: America’s Prodigal Son (Brassey’s, 2002).  I had hoped to follow that with a biography of Joe DiMaggio, but the Richard Ben Cramer book of 2000 pretty much saturated the market and with its brutal one-sidedness killed for the time what was left of the DiMaggio image.

What led to this book, DiMag & Mick, was an e-mail I received a few years ago from a man thanking me for having written so favorably in my Mantle biography about his aunt, an actress named Holly Brooke, who has been described in most books about Mickey as a showgirl who had been his girlfriend in 1951.

Mickey Mantle with actress Holly Brooke, his girlfriend in New York during his 1951 season.

Mickey Mantle with actress Holly Brooke, his girlfriend in New York during his 1951 season.

However, no biographer had been able to interview her or even locate her. I think most of us had assumed she was dead. Holly’s nephew, though, said not only was she still alive and well but that she was also willing to talk to me.

That began a series of almost daily visits and conversations that proved to be incredible. She convinced me with her stories and some strong documentation that her love affair with Mickey lasted beyond his marriage in 1951 and carried on well into the 1960s.

She had lived with Mantle much of his rookie year, even when he was sent down to the minors to play in Kansas City, which had a Yankees’ minor league team at that time. She was also the reason Mickey asked to have his uniform number changed from 6 to 7 when he returned to the majors, a number that was her date of birth.

Holly was older than Mickey, had a toddler son that he wanted to adopt as his own, and Mickey proposed to her and likely would have married her if it hadn’t been for his father.

In 1951, Mickey’s father learned he was dying, and he demanded that Mickey marry his hometown sweetheart as his dying wish. Of course, it was just part of the unusual hold that Mickey’s father held over him.

With this material, especially since Holly had also known DiMaggio, it just seemed tailor-made for a book centered around Mickey and Joe, set around 1951, the only season they played together and using all that as a backdrop to destroy that longstanding myth that DiMaggio and Mantle had been bitter enemies. It just wasn’t true.

Q: Why were they portrayed as bitter enemies, and how would you characterize the dynamic between them?

A: In spring training of 1951 – Mantle’s rookie year and DiMaggio’s final season – sportswriters made Mickey out to be the next coming of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio rolled into one.

The Yankees’ manager, Casey Stengel, largely championed this, talking openly to writers about it in a way that was ridiculous because of the pressure that talk like this can place on an unproven rookie – a 19-year-old rookie, at that. Still, Mantle had a spring training performance for the ages.

DiMaggio, who had already announced he was retiring at the end of the season, was preparing to play with tremendous daily pain from heel spurs that continued to bother him even after a couple of operations.

DiMaggio also wasn’t a very open person or teammate. Sometimes people forget or don’t know that he was the son of Italian immigrants who didn’t speak English and didn’t become citizens until after World War II.

Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle as rookies on the 1951 New York Yankees team.

Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle as rookies on the 1951 New York Yankees team.

Joe was also a high school dropout who, until his death, was insecure about his education and his background. When he came up to the Yankees in the mid-1930s and being Italian, about the only way he might have otherwise gotten into Yankee Stadium was as a hot dog vendor, if he hadn’t been able to hit incredibly well. We sometimes forget about the anti-Italian discrimination that was rampant in America in the first half of the 20th century.

There was tragedy from that for DiMaggio even after his crowning moment. In 1941, he hit safely in 56 consecutive games, perhaps the most remarkable record in baseball. He was the prince of New York and a hero in America.

But in December, Pearl Harbor was bombed, and soon America was at war with Japan, Germany AND Italy. And what does the country do? It sends Japanese Americans into internment camps, and there were even plans to do the same with Italians.

Fortunately, for DiMaggio’s immigrant parents, the U.S. does not do this, but it does place strict restrictions on their mobility. His parents have a fishing boat and a restaurant in Northern California that they’re not allowed to travel to, and they eventually wind up losing their means of income.

This is all happening just months after Joe DiMaggio’s greatest season. Lesser men might have begun rioting. Even in 1951, the bias and discrimination was there. Consider how Casey Stengel referred to DiMaggio behind his back: He regularly called him “Dago.”

A big deal has been made about the racial slurs some ballplayers and managers used against Jackie Robinson, and some lost their livelihoods because of that. But Stengel calling DiMaggio “Dago” was hardly a term of endearment, and little has ever been made about the discrimination that DiMaggio had to endure. And Joe, like Jackie, was just too classy and turned the other cheek.

But it was part of the climate in 1951, as was just the resentment among some of the Yankee teammates as well as some in the press.

DiMaggio was the highest paid Yankee of the era before free agency. He made more money as a rookie in 1935 than Mantle did in his rookie season in 1951.

And unlike Mickey, who was known as a “great teammate” – which is even written on his Yankee Memorial Park plaque at the Stadium – DiMaggio was a loner whose close friends were non-Yankees. In fact, none of his teammates from that 1951 team had been around when he broke into baseball or even in 1941, DiMaggio’s greatest year.

That spring training of 1951 sportswriters were extolling the virtues and talent of Mickey Mantle and how he was being groomed to succeed Joe in center field and as the star of the Yankees, especially since DiMaggio had been slowed by his injuries and age.

And there was intense competition among those writers covering the Yankees. Remember that at the time there were about a dozen daily newspapers in New York, and you’ll find in old newspaper clippings the seeds of a feud between DiMaggio and Mantle in 1951, making it seem that Joe’s usual aloofness was caused by some kind of resentment of Mantle for being there to replace him in center field and stealing his thunder in what was to be his farewell season.

After 1951, after DiMaggio’s retirement and absence from the Yankee clubhouse, this imaginary feud took on a life of its own, fueled in part by some of Mickey’s Yankee teammates and their loyalty to Mantle.

And there was no one to challenge this, except, of course, for DiMaggio and Mantle who went to their graves denying there was any animosity between them, as well as the two women most prominent in Mickey’s life –his wife Merlyn, and Greer Johnson, who was Mickey’s companion the last 10 years of his life.

Their denials were always reported, but I suspect no one took them seriously. Especially after Billy Crystal’s 2001 HBO film 61, about Mickey and Roger Maris’ chase in 1961 of Babe Ruth’s home run record.

The irony or paradox in the film is that while it is about the friendship between Mantle and Maris, it also bursts the myth of the alleged rift between them that writers had effectively made up – while it still promotes the equally false myth of a feud between Mantle and DiMaggio.

There’s even a scene of Mantle becoming physically sick and being driven to a drunken binge because of an appearance by DiMaggio in the Yankee clubhouse. It was absolute fiction, perhaps typical juvenile fan behavior believing that you can somehow enhance your childhood hero by tearing down some competitor to his legacy.

Well, Mickey Mantle doesn’t need that kind of help. The newer analytics used in baseball today seem to indicate that Mickey was far the greater ballplayer, as if you can truly compare different eras.

As for the “feud,” Richard Ben Cramer’s biography of DiMaggio, nasty as it was toward Joe, bolstered the idea of its existence, as did one major biography of Mickey Mantle, which claimed that the first time DiMaggio and Mantle ever spoke was Oct. 5, 1951, the second game of that season’s World Series.

That was the game in which Mickey suffered a terrible knee injury when he slipped on a sprinkler cover in right center field as he tried to avoid running into DiMaggio as he caught a fly ball.

Mantle went down “as if he’d been shot,” according to some of his teammates and in horrible pain. DiMaggio, after catching the fly ball, ran over to check on Mickey, supposedly initiating the so-called first conversation between the prize rookie and the old pro.

Of course, that’s pure fiction, too. In researching the book, I found an audio tape recording that proved that claim to be an utter lie.

On the morning of April 16, 1951, DiMaggio and Mantle were with their New York Yankees teammates about to board a train to Washington for the season’s Opening Day against the Senators.

They were being detained for a few minutes for recorded interviews for CBS Radio’s famous news program Hear It Now when a remote microphone picked up DiMaggio and Mantle’s unrehearsed conversation, a conversation that unfortunately would soon be overlooked and forgotten.

On the recording, the veteran DiMaggio — who only weeks earlier had announced he would retire at the end of the 1951 season — sounds enthusiastic and supportive, engaging Mantle in a genuine manner that is both refreshing and surprising. It’s a wonderful exchange, and it may not even have been the first conversation they had.

And they had many more long friendly exchanges during that season, according to Holly Brooke who was present several times when Mickey and Joe spoke at restaurants or had dinner together. So much for that so-called authoritative story that they didn’t speak until Mickey’s injury in the World Series.

Q: How did you research the book, and what surprised you most in the course of your research?

A: In recent years I spent countless hours talking to Holly Brooke, getting her to recall the details and dialog of anecdotes she remembered. I revisited sources from my Mantle biography and rechecked clippings from numerous magazines and newspapers.

I also had folders full of notes from my conversations with Mantle in the early 1970s in Dallas and in the 1980s when we reconnected while he was traveling for memorabilia shows, and my conversations with DiMaggio and his friend Reno Barsocchini in the late 1970s and 1980s.

The most surprising thing that I found had to have been the CBS radio audio tape because it leaves no doubt that right after spring training where their animosity supposedly bloomed they were, in fact, talking like friendly teammates, and Joe was giving Mickey advice and Mickey was talking as if he were awe-struck of Joe DiMaggio.

Q: What do you see as each player’s legacy today?

A: They were if not the greatest players of their era, then certainly among the top two or three during their time.

Of course, they went about it differently. DiMaggio never left anything on the field. He had a passion for always being at his best. Mantle, unfortunately, didn’t always take all his talents on to the field.

DiMaggio retired almost at the right time. He may have wished he had left at the end of 1950. As it was, he still left having been part of a World Series championship team in 1951.

Mickey went to his grave second-guessing his decision to play as long as he did, long past when he could run well and when it hurt his fans just to watch him swing the bat. Not to mention that the Yankee teams near the end of his career were mediocre at best.

At their prime, DiMaggio and Mantle were as good as any ballplayer has ever been, with the possible exception of Babe Ruth. But at their time, DiMaggio and Mantle were the greatest players on the greatest baseball team during arguably the greatest era of the game.

 

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I have a dual biography of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig — Gehrig & The Babe —  to be published in April by Triumph Books. I’m currently working on a biography of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: I wouldn’t be surprised if some time in the future — based on the evolution of analytics in baseball, on his incredible statistics during the golden age of the game, his injuries notwithstanding, and because of his ability to do this as a switch-hitter – that Mickey Mantle doesn’t become widely acclaimed as having fulfilled those great expectations once placed of him: being recognized as the greatest player of all-time, greater than Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and all the rest.

Looking for Hemingway

Young Teo Davis chats with Ernest Hemingway pool side at the Davis family villa in Spain, La Consula, where the author lived for months in 1959. (Teo.Davis.muchloved.com)

Young Teo Davis chats with Ernest Hemingway poolside at La Consula, the Davis villa in Spain, where the author lived in 1959. (Teo.Davis.muchloved.com)

IN THE FALL OF 1975, WHEN MY WIFE decided she wanted a divorce, I moved into a quaint though dilapidated cottage in an obscure rain forest corner of River Oaks, Houston’s poshest neighborhood, where our home’s only amenity was being awakened each morning by a family of raccoons rummaging through our kitchen.

The address was fittingly pretentious, 8 Asbury Place, and it belonged to a fashion writer named Peter Heyne, who through his connections at Women’s Wear Daily was forever entertaining young debutantes with double last names and lineages to names in Texas history books.

I was too depressed with self-loathing, pity and half-baked plans about moving to Paris in search of Hemingway or, at least, a reasonable facsimile of personal oblivion. To his credit, Peter didn’t try to dissuade me and instead indulged my delusion. His previous roommate who had inhabited my bedroom, he enlightened me, had once sat on Hemingway’s lap in some grand villa in Spain. His parents had been wealthy American expatriates who entertained Hemingway, his longtime literary pal A. E. Hotchner and the entourage that followed Hemingway for an enchanting summer of running with the bulls.

“His name is Teo Davis,” said Peter. “He was educated in Cambridge, married a contessa who later divorced him, and he moved in here with me.”

“So where is he now?” Yes, I wanted to know, where do mended broken-hearts go when they haven’t shot their brains out.

“Teo? Teo’s now in Hollywood. He’s out there writing screenplays.”

Having just seen Sunset Boulevard for the first time in my life, and with the image of slain screenwriter Joe Gillis in Norma Desmond’s swimming pool lurking in my head, this was not what I wanted to hear.

Teo Davis, though, would remain indelibly on my mind, if for no other reason than that he had left behind notebooks and parts of an unfinished novel. The most interesting of his notes were in Spanish: References to “Papa” and “Hotch” and “Málaga.” His handwriting was so bad, however, that making sense of his ramblings proved to be an exercise in fiction and futility.

51huzvrohyl-_sx329_bo1204203200_One afternoon, I actually found a library in Houston and checked out several biographies of Hemingway. To my surprise, what Peter had said was true. Bill and Annie Davis were rich, beautiful people in Málaga who, though they did not know Hemingway very well, had invited him and his fourth wife Mary to stay with them in 1959 at their elegant estate called La Consula. Their house was filled with a lot of servants and cars, and they were parents of a son and daughter. One of the biographies even mentioned Hemingway playing in the mornings with young Timoteo.

Peter didn’t seem to know much more. “To be honest,” he said. “I thought he might have been making it all up.”

Fifteen years passed. Instead of Paris, I decided to go to Spain. I don’t know whether I was searching for Hemingway or for Timoteo. I found neither. I wound up in Los Angeles. One day I finally sobered up. I was still alive, writing for an NBC prime-time cop show and sharing an office overlooking Sunset Boulevard. Peter had been right. When you’ve been to hell and back, you go on to Hollywood to make things up.

I moved into an old Spanish villa apartment in West Hollywood whose claim to fame was that F. Scott Fitzgerald had once lived there. I would soon learn that in Hollywood someone famous has always lived where someone not so famous now lives. It’s like reverse reincarnation: you were always someone famous in a past life. One day when we were in a story meeting at my office, a guy popped his head in the door looking like he had seen better days. He was there to paint our offices, he said, but he was the most unusual looking painter you will ever find. He was wearing a rumpled, navy Armani blazer, soiled linen slacks that none of us could afford, and he had a slight upper class English accent that was both unexpected and intimidating.

“My name is Teo,” he informed us like some waiter at LeDome, the elegant restaurant up the street, “and I’m your painter.”

I don’t believe Teo ever finished painting the office. He spent most days chain-smoking unfiltered Camels on our terrace overlooking the Sunset strip while we watched young actresses walking their composites and headshots to the agency across the street. Teo would regale us with reminiscences about Ernest Hemingway that, on the one hand, seemed implausible considering he was not even ten when Hemingway had spent several months under the same roof.

But who was to argue with a man from Eton. Peter hadn’t given him his proper props. Teo had been educated at Eton, not Cambridge, and he had married a woman of lofty status — not a countessa but the daughter of an English marchioness —  who had broken his heart. He also had vivid memories of the time Hemingway had visited. Hemingway had met Teo’s father in Mexico some years earlier, before Teo was born and when the author was still married to his third wife Martha.

Bill Davis’ given name was actually Nathan, an American of enormous wealth although Teo wasn’t certain how he had made his money. Or, if he knew, he never said. His father was a quiet, laid-back, balding man with a self-effacing sense of humor who was the complete opposite of Hemingway. He didn’t intrude on his famous guest, who at times treated his host almost like a servant. Hemingway called Bill Davis “Negro,” using the Spanish pronunciation, possibly because he had thick lips and swarthy features.

Davis accepted it as a term of endearing friendship and enjoyed playing chauffeur for Hemingway. Bill Davis loved to drive cars and in Mexico was driving a taxi cab, for inexplicable reasons, when he met Hemingway. Valerie Danby-Smith, who as a young Irish journalist in Spain had befriended Hemingway and later married Ernest’s youngest son Gregory, would recall that Davis “let the Hemingways use the house as if it were their own house. He didn’t do the big thing of ‘I’m the host, I’m hosting the Hemingways.’ He really took a back seat, and his wife Annie was just the most delightful person, just a wonderful, warm person.”

“We called him Papa — everyone did,” said Teo. “He was like a big teddy bear who was larger than life. When he was there, life revolved around him. Being quite young at the time, and a bit on the precocious side, I knew who Ernest Hemingway was — that he was an author of some importance — but just how important he was is something that I wouldn’t even begin to comprehend until years later.”

Teo Davis, top left on the wall with his young sister Nena and household staff from his family home, La Consula, and its 1959 guests, Ernest and Mary Hemingway. (Photo courtesy of the Estate of Teo Davis)

Teo Davis, top left on the wall with his young sister Nena and household staff from his family home, La Consula, and its 1959 guests, Ernest and Mary Hemingway. (Photo courtesy of the collection of Teo Davis)

Teo recalled that the day the Hemingways arrived at the La Consula, which was actually in the countryside west of Málaga, his mother had their cook make turkey sandwiches that his father had taken with him as a snack for the guests on their drive back from the port of Algeciras across from Gibraltar.

The Hemingways’ arrival at the estate had signaled a flurry of activity by the servants. Ernest and Mary had brought 21 pieces of luggage, and Teo remembered that for a few moments the entry of the estate had resembled a busy hotel lobby with servants acting as porters. The Hemingways were pleasantly surprised by what they saw. The Davis’ nineteenth century mansion rose gracefully behind twin iron gates. The doors alone were over fifteen feet high and were made of heavy carved oak. It was filled with Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko paintings and hundreds of first edition books. Outside the rich vegetation that included palm and acacia trees, pines, lilies and vines reminded the Hemingways of their finca in Cuba.

Hemingway did not sleep well and usually was awake before dawn, Teo recalled. Often he would find Hemingway at daybreak working at the stand-up desk on a veranda overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Malaga, the birthplace of Pablo Picasso, is Spain’s second largest seaport, and La Consula offered a panoramic view of the historic Andalusian landscape.

Hemingway was almost religious in his morning ritual of writing. He began work each morning around 6 a..m. and finished by 10 a.m. Later, Teo was to learn that in those first ten days at La Consula, Hemingway roughed out the preface for a new school edition of his short stories. But Hemingway had gone to Spain on assignment for Life magazine which had contracted with him to write a short article about the series of mano a mano bullfights between Antonio Ordoñez and Luis Miguel Dominguín, two of Spain’s greatest matadors.

From the Davis estate, Hemingway spent the summer travelling with the bullfighters to gather material for the article. Later, however, Hemingway’s article grew to some 120,000 words. Tortured over trying to shorten his work, Hemingway asked his friend Hotchner to help edit the piece. Eventually they cut the article to 65,000 words, which Life published as “The Dangerous Summer” in three installments in 1960. It would be the last work that Hemingway would see published in his lifetime.

For little Teo, the experience would forever influence his life. He became a writer because of Hemingway, whose few moments of fatherly-like attention lavished on Teo affected him enormously.

Some mornings, Teo’s childish squealing as Papa chased him down the long halls of the estate awakened the other guests, who delighted in seeing Hemingway’s increasingly grumpy demeanor soften, even if only for a few fleeting moments. For Teo, these were much-needed displays of emotion that were sadly missing from his relationship with his parents. Neither Bill nor Annie Davis were affectionate with their children, and Teo would lament that “I cannot recall my parents ever telling me they loved me.”

Mary Hemingway would later write in her memoirs that the Davises had indeed been unusual people. Annie Davis, she said, was “an American who had lived abroad so long she seemed to us European.” The Davises also did not permit a telephone or radios in their home, so their only means of communicating with the outside world was by mail or telegram.

Nonetheless, La Consula was filled with commotion the nearly six months that the Hemingways were guests. Teo recalled that life on the estate during that period centered around Papa. He loved Fats Waller, and the Davises always had Fats Waller songs blaring from their loudspeakers by the pool. Hemingway’s favorite was “Your Feets Too Big.” He did not really sing in tune but instead loved to encourage other people to perform.

Often the commotion was simply the departure and return of Hemingway and his cadre of friends and bullfight aficionados. With Bill Davis at the wheel, Papa was on the road often, following that season’s bullfights. At various times, the group chasing after the bulls with Hemingway included Noel Coward, Lauren Bacall, Ava Gardner, and Beverly Bentley who would later marry Norman Mailer.

That summer, Hemingway turned 60, and little Timoteo was awestruck by the extravagant birthday party his parents hosted on July 21. Mary Hemingway summoned guests from all over the world and arranged the party with fireworks, champagne from Paris, Chinese food from London, Spanish musicians and flamenco dancers.

When a fireworks display set a palm tree on fire, the local hook and ladder company — led by bullfighter Antonio Ordoñez, joined the party. Hemingway enjoyed himself immensely, but the celebration produced some indications that all was not well with him. Among them was a nasty flash of ill temper directed at his frontline friend from World War II, General Charles Trueman “Buck” Lanham. Having come from Washington, D.C., for the party, he left Spain certain that Hemingway was an extremely troubled man.

To all but a few, Hemingway’s public persona had become almost a self-parody. A child could be excused for not seeing it. Most in Hemingway’s entourage, however, either excused it or refused to see it. Teo took it all in, delighted with the bafoonish Hemingway acting out fits of anger, rage and neurosis as if in a cartoon.

Within two years, Hemingway would be dead.

“I remember learning that he had died,” Teo recalled, “but I don’t think it was until later that I learned how he had died. I don’t know if it matters. He had lived a long, rich life and obviously, from his point of view, it had reached its end.”

Today, in a sense, there is still a bit of that irrepressible Hemingway spirit in the young boy who once looked up to him in that enormous villa in Spain. The boy, in fact, has now become a man just a few years younger than Hemingway had been when he visited La Consula.

“I’ve been looking for Hemingway for so long,” says Teo, “for a sense of who he really was, that at times I feel as if I’ve almost become Hemingway. Does that make sense?”

To an entire generation, of course, it does.

 

EPILOGUE: Timothy Logan Bakewell Davis, known to his friends as Teo, died March 1, 2016, in Pasadena. He was 64. His sister Nena has set up a memorial at http://teo.davis.muchloved.com.

 

This story is part of a new biography of Ernest Hemingway, Looking for Hemingway: Spain, the Bullfights, and  a Final Rite of Passage, to be published by Lyons Press in November 2016. To pre-order, go to Amazon.com.

 

New Book Renews Debate: Who Was Greater, DiMag or Mick?

Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle at spring training camp in 1951.

Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle at spring training, 1951, DiMag’s last season, Mick’s rookie year.

 

Since 1951, Joe DiMaggio‘s last season and Mickey Mantle‘s rookie year, fans have been debating which of the two New York Yankee icons was the greater ballplayer.

Until his death in 1999, four years after Mantle’s passing, DiMaggio had a contractual deal at every appearance that he would be introduced as “the greatest living ballplayer,” even in the presence of Mick, Ted Williams, Hank Aaron and others.

But a new book, DiMag & Mick: Sibling Rivals, Yankee Blood Brothers, has produced a retrospective on baseball’s legends, in particular DiMaggio and Mantle.

“If you could magically teleport him to today’s game,’’ says John Thorn, the official historian of Major League Baseball, about DiMaggio, “he would not be the same player. In 1969 he was voted baseball’s greatest living player. Today we would find that hilarious, considering that Ted Williams and Willie Mays were alive at the time.”

What makes this re-assessment possible, says author Tony Castro, is the evolution of analytics in baseball, particularly defensive metrics in this case.

“There is this image of the Yankee Clipper sailing so gracefully in the outfield that he never had to dive for a ball,” says Thorn. “But the reality is that his contemporaries recorded more putouts.

“There is a trend toward baseball analytics now and the more you apply them, the more you chip away at the DiMaggio myth,” continued Thorn, elaborating on DiMaggio who would have turned 100 last year. “On his 100th birthday you can still call him an all-time great but he was not the peerless center fielder he was made out to be.”

On the other hand, says Thorn, under sabermetrics, Mickey Mantle “looks great” and possibly closer to Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in a different era.

“Their reality is closer to the myth,” says Thorn. “They were all greater players than DiMaggio in my estimation.”

A Conversation With Tony Castro About Hemingway

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Looking for Hemingway: Spain, The Bullfights and A Final Rite of Passage by Tony Castro is now available at Amazon.com.

 

 

What brought you to this subject and then what compelled you to write an entire book on it?

 I think my lifelong fascination with Ernest Hemingway had its genesis in my youth when an English teacher who had taken a special interest in my insatiable appetite for reading introduced me to The Old Man and The Sea. I quickly found myself devouring that book and in rapid succession every Hemingway short story and novel that I could find – and eventually earned me the reputation of having read every book in my hometown public library in Waco, Texas.

The obsession with Hemingway eventually led to an unauthorized visit to Cuba in the 1960s along with a group of Chicano movement activists and members of the Students for a Democratic Society. The revolutionary romance of Fidel Castro’s Cuba had made it a popular destination for the New Left, but I was hardly the political sort. I was an undergraduate at Baylor University, a conservative Baptist college in the heart of the South’s Bible Belt, and through a Latin American studies professor at the University of Texas made the connection of a lifetime. He had known Fidel Castro in Mexico in the 1950s, and he arranged for me a special tour of La Finca Vigía, the Hemingway home in San Francisco de Paula, Cuba.

So I guess I was a romantic with a destiny of which I wasn’t even aware. A few years after college, I moved into a writer friend’s house in Houston, which had an unexpected connection to Hemingway. Was it simply an incredible coincidence that my friend’s previous housemate had been Teo Davis, the son of the wealthy American expatriates who had hosted Hemingway in his last two visits to Spain before his suicide?

A couple of years later, while on a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard, I shared this story with the two professors with whom I was studying literature – the Mexican writer and future Nobel laureate Octavio Paz and Homeric scholar Robert Fitzgerald. Both urged me to also spend time during my fellowship studying the newly opened collection of Hemingway papers at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. Both Paz and Fitzgerald joined me the first time I visited the collection. Fitzgerald bailed on us afterward, but Paz and I closed down the Faculty Club at Harvard that night toasting Hemingway with shots of tequila.

Then in the 1980s, in yet one more twist of coincidence, I finally met Teo Davis in Los Angeles where we began a friendship that has spanned over three decades. It was Teo who introduced me to Mike Hamilburg, a literary agent who represented me until his illness and death. Mike had known Teo for several years, and he tried for well over twenty years to convince Teo to write a book about his experience as a child with Hemingway when he had stayed in Spain at the Davis villa La Consula in 1959. Mike said he didn’t think Teo had ever written a single word, and if he did, I never read a word of it either. Teo didn’t want to write that book or couldn’t. Finally, after years of trying to coax the story out of him, I gave up. It was then that Teo, somewhat relieved that I was going to stop pestering him about his story, said that I should write the story and that he would help as best he could. This book, though, isn’t the book Mike had envisioned Teo writing, nor is it the book I tried to get him to write. That book Teo took with him to the grave.

 

So what is this book about?

For me, there has always been in the story of Hemingway and Spain an allure so sharp and fresh that there was never any question of writing this book. There has been, from the start, the joy of rediscovering the world in which he walked and traveled, both in the 1920s and again in 1959. Here was a canvas as generous, colorful, and grand as any in Hemingway’s life. As the story pushed forth, there was at every turn the excitement of history never told, of connections hidden for decades, of old mysteries answered.

The story of Hemingway the icon was well known. The story of Hemingway the man and his friendship with Bill and Anne Davis at their magnificent home had been buried. Getting that story was slow work. After a good while, I felt I had become the crypt of Hemingwayolé en La Consula. As my patient wife Renee used to say (but seldom aloud – for which I thank her) about this project, great effort went in but nothing came out until now.

For me, too, as a child of the 1950s who read The Old Man and The Sea thinking I was the boy Manolin, I suppose I have been looking for Hemingway all my life, and perhaps it seems fitting that I think I have found him at an age when I now see myself in the old man Santiago. Looking for Hemingway is about Hemingway at that age we all dread of being: Old, losing our train of thought, unable to do what once came so easily, too quick to show our frustration at our slowness but still holding on to the hope of one last glimmer of youth. And it is not an easy age to face, especially for publishers. More than a few just flat out said they didn’t think any readers, especially Hemingway fans, wanted to read about him as an old man, pathetic at times, feeble and paranoid.

Being a life-long Hemingway lover, I found that hard to believe, unless it’s just simply old age some of us don’t want to face, whether Hemingway’s or our own. For those who fear this life stage, I can only say that I found it inspiring in the research to learn that Pablo Picasso in his sixties was having affairs with gorgeous youthful women more than forty years younger – young enough to be his granddaughters. A dirty old man? Maybe not so dirty if you’re Picasso.

Today, the aging, dying Hemingway is one I have come to love and appreciate as much as the young romantic Hemingway, for in his mortality lie the same fears, regrets and self-recriminations that all of us face in our own way as we reach that stage in our lives.

 

A theme in the book is the Lost Generation. Explain why.

Hemingway made famous the Lost Generation of post-World War I in Europe — American expatriates thought by many to have been drunkenly decadent, wildly self-indulgent, and irretrievably ruined. It was the cultural backdrop for his breakthrough novel The Sun Also Rises, published in 1926. And it’s a theme not that dissimilar from what emerged in the months of Hemingway’s 1959 visit to Spain. Ernest chased young women as unashamedly in 1959 as he had pursued the beautiful and recently divorced British socialite Lady Duff Twysden in 1925, being as insensitive to Mary as he had been his first wife Hadley back in the mid-1920s. And Hemingway in 1959 behaved almost as badly as he and his entourage did back in 1925. But there were other similarities. A writer who visited the Davis villa in Spain in 1959 said Bill and Annie Davis were “the Gerald Murphys of the fifties, transferred to the new high bohemian playground of the Gold Coast of Spain.” The Gerald Murphys were a wealthy American expatriate couple known for their own lavish soirees on the French Riviera where they entertained writers and artists of The Lost Generation in the 1920s. And this was the exact kind of setting surrounding Hemingway in Spain in 1959.

 

You did a lot of research. Tell us about it.

Of course, there were countless interviews with my friend Teo Davis, son of Bill and Anne. But there was a matter also tracking down memoirs, unpublished and published, letters, journals and books, particularly some in Spain. This period of Hemingway’s life was never written about in any depth by anyone but instead it was finding bits and pieces in various sources, mostly in Spain and Paris where the Davises had homes. I was also incredibly fortunate while I was a columnist at the Los Angeles Herald Examiner of being a desk mate to the late Jim Bacon, who was perhaps the most famous print journalist who ever covered Hollywood. He knew a number of people in Hollywood who had known Hemingway and the Davises, people like Lauren Bacall and Orson Welles. Even in the 1980s, as I was playing around with the idea of a book about Hemingway in Spain, Ms Bacall and Mr. Welles were gracious in providing me with their insights.

 

In addition to Hemingway, who was the most compelling figure in the book to you?

Without a doubt Bill Davis. It seems that almost everyone who knew him came away feeling that he remained a mysterious stranger to them, no matter how much time they spent with him. To many of them he was Rick Blaine, the Humphrey Bogart character from Casablanca. It took me a long while to understand that even his children, Teo and his sister, had deeply-seeded personal issues with their father that were never resolved. It is one of the tragedies in their lives that the children never felt as loved by their father, nor their mother, as Hemingway had been. As Teo sadly put it: “We weren’t Hemingway.”

What Eric Garcetti’s White House dreams mean for Latinos

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garretti, here greeting then President Barak Obama, has let it be known that he is thinking of running for the Presidency.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garretti, here greeting then President Barak Obama, has let it be known that he is thinking of running for the Presidency.

IF ERIC GARCETTI RUNS FOR PRESIDENT, what will it mean for Hispanics not only in his hometown but beyond?

For Garcetti is the new face of being Latino in America, even as some of his critics have charged in the past  that he wasn’t Hispanic enough, raising a more serious question in this nation’s multi-ethnic society:

Who is or who isn’t Latino?

As for Garcetti, Los Angeles’ 46-year-old mayor’s grandfather was born in Mexico. His great-grandfather, Massimo Garcetti, was a Mexican judge who was hanged during the Mexican Revolution. Garcetti speaks perfect Spanish. He not only considers himself Hispanic, he has also called himself Chicano.

“I’m just your average Mexican-American Jewish Italian,” Garcetti told the 2016 Democratic Convention where he liberally sprinkled his address with Spanish phrases. In his address he described his Italian-Mexican grandfather’s journey across the U.S. border as an infant and the persecution faced by his maternal ancestors, Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe and Russia.

His Latino critics, though, may have been judging Garcetti as much on his skin coloration. He is as huero as they come in a city and in the Southwest where caramel brown-skinned Mexican Americans make up the majority of Latinos.

Perhaps those critics don’t watch Spanish televisions novelas which is full of hueros speaking Spanish – and on which Garcetti would easily pass.

Just as he easily has passed the test among Latino voters in Los Angeles where, they have largely voted for Garcetti – though in his first mayoral campaign his opponent in a runoff  had the lion’s share of endorsements from Hispanic politicians and leaders, including farm workers co-founder Dolores Huerta, County Supervisor Gloria Molina and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s cousin, Assembly Speaker John Perez.

Villaraigosa, who didn’t endorse in that race, had been mayor and city’s consummate Latino politician – the first Hispanic elected mayor in modern times and at one time the hope of Latino aspirations to higher office.

But he left with those hopes dashed, though he is running for governor next year, and replaced both in office and in promise by Garcetti, who wasted little time in being embraced by all the Latino organizations, especially those that lean Democratically, looking for a fresh face for national leadership.

In his time as mayor, Garcetti has matched or exceeded Villaraigosa’s appointments of Latinos to city boards and commissions — and he has been at the leadership in making Los Angeles a sanctuary city for the undocumented and DREAMers.

“I am proud [that}Los Angeles is the strongest defender of immigrants perhaps of any city in this country,” he told NPR earlier this year. “we absolutely are a city that not only does provide sanctuary to immigrants, but we defend them. I think that’s a step further.

“And instead of getting caught up in terms, it’s important for us to do the work to defend refugees, immigrants, legal immigrants and those undocumented immigrants who haven’t committed serious violent felonies who we should make citizens. And I think the proof is in the pudding. LA stands strong. We are probably the strongest city in the country when it comes to that, and we’re not going to back down.”

In Garcetti, America’s young DREAMers have an ideal role model and candidate: A former Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, one of the few American Latinos so honored; a graduate of Columbia who also studied at the London School of Economics; the son of a former district attorney; a lieutenant in the U.S. Naval Reserves; and scandal-free, married to Amy Wakeland with whom he has a daughter, Maya Juanita, a name after any Latino’s heart.

Add to that a built-in political asset that few other Latino politicians have.

Garcetti is Jewish. Jews in Los Angeles today are celebrating that he has been the city’s first Jewish mayor.

“Weekends involved bowls of menudo at my grandparents’ and bagels at my cousins’ house,” Garcetti says of his childhood with a Mexican and Jewish background. “I think if you’re Latino, you’re very comfortable with the idea of mestizo, being mixed.

“So I kind of joke that I’m mestizo double, double mixed.”

It enabled Garcetti to fashion a coalition built around two of the most powerful political elements in Los Angeles – and in America today – Latinos and Jews.

It is also a natural native constituency for Garcetti that now has almost elevated him to a recognizably national level and the precipice of even higher office in America.

And in upsetting preconceived notions about what being Hispanic and what Latino power is today, Garcetti has shown he may have a unique understanding that Latino voters want more than just pandering to their ethnicity

“My grandparents were from northern Mexico, Chihuahua and Sonora,” Garcetti told a Latino group in Spanish at one of his mayoral campaign stops. “But I don’t want your vote just because I speak Spanish.”

Saving Anne Frank

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For two years, Anne Frank’s family hid in secret rooms in Amsterdam, knowing that a curtain left open by mistake, a wayward noise or a nervous conspirator’s phone call to the Nazis could land them all in concentration camps. Of the eight Jews hiding, seven died before the Holocaust was over, including Anne, whose diary was a testament to the horrors of the Nazi regime. She died of typhus at age 15 at Bergen-Belsen camp in Germany.

By Tony Castro

 

AS A THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD schoolboy I grew up wanting to save Anne Frank.

Allow me to clarify that.

As a young man, the son of a World War II army veteran, I grew up wanting to save Anne Frank.

I’m still not clear, I fear.

As the son of a World War II decorated veteran who told me stories of the horror he saw at Nazi concentration camps, I grew up wishing there was some way I could go back in time and save the six million Jews killed in the Hitler holocaust. And when I read Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 2.45.03 PMThe Diary of A Young Girl.  I wasn’t sure if I’d fallen in love with young Anne and wished I could save this damsel in distress or whether I simply wanted to save mankind.

I must confess that about that time I had also seen Elizabeth Taylor in National Velvet and had fallen even deeper into a trance of fascination with Anne Frank, whom I saw personified in this beautiful young actress.

Anne Frank. Elizabeth Taylor. What can I say? I was a child of the 1950s. I knew no no young Jews in my hometown. I knew of Jews only through my religion, Catholicism, and its claim at the time that Jews had killed Jesus Christ, which I knew in my heart wasn’t true. Each Sunday at my church, with those enormous murals of the Stations of the Cross adorning its walls, I would see Roman soldiers leading Christ to his death and crucifying him. I didn’t see Jews hammering nails into his hands and feet.

So the only other Jews I knew about were those killed in the Holocaust from the stories I heard my father tell. They were more like confessions, as if he were trying to exorcise those scenes from his mind, to rid himself of the worst horrors he had seen in the war.

And, of course, I knew Anne Frank. I knew of Anne Frank. I was among the many millions touched by her story, her fears, her aloneness, her hopes.

She haunted me, her story and her photograph. She looked unlike any young woman I knew at that time. Of course, as I said, there were no Jews in my hometown, though that’s not correct I now realize. There were no Jewish people  who lived in my side of my home town, Waco, Texas. And, to be honest, for the longest time, I had no idea that my side was the wrong side of town, the poorer, working side of Waco where I felt out of place, as if I didn’t belong there or any other place. Like the Jews the Nazis had killed in Europe.

“Are we sure we’re not Jewish?” I asked my family at the dinner table one night.

“No, we are Roman Catholics,” my mother quickly answered me.

“But that bothers me,” I said. “Wasn’t it the Romans who crucified Jesus?”

“No, the Jews killed Jesus,” mom said.

“Who said so?”

“The church said so,” she said.

“No, they’re wrong.”

“The Bible says they did.” Mom was insistent.

“No, the Bible doesn’t say that,” I said. “It says that the Jews turned Jesus over to the Romans and left it up to the Romans to decide.”

“You shouldn’t be reading the Bible by yourself,” mom said. “Father Dols says you should only read the Bible with the guidance of a priest.”

“Why? What’s to understand that I would need a priest to explain?” I said. “Quod scripsi scripsi, Pilate said. What I have written I have written. Jesus was the King of the Jews, Pilate wrote, and Pilate’s Roman soldiers crucified Jesus.”

Mom looked at my father.

“Eat your dinner before it gets cold,” he said.

I looked at my little sister who appeared to be in another world.

“What are you day-dreaming about?” I asked her.

“I’m thinking about how I really love fillet mignon,” she said.

She was crazy, of course.

“This isn’t filet mignon we’re eating,” I said. “It’s spaghetti.”

“I’m imagining it’s filet mignon,” she said.

This was my family. Full of denial. My mom didn’t believe that it was the Romans who had crucified Jesus Christ. My sister wanted her pasta to be steak. And my father would have nothing to say if it weren’t about the Dallas Cowboys.

And I was in love with Anne Frank, a girl my age, once, whom I felt I knew better than anyone else in the world. For what was it she had written?

“Writing in a diary,” she had said, “is a really strange experience for someone like me. Not only because I’ve never written anything before, but also because it seems to me that later on neither I nor anyone else will be interested in the musings of a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl.”

One day all the world would wish it had saved Anne Frank.

 

Tony Castro is the author of  Looking for Hemingway: Spain, The Bullfights and A Final Rite of Passage.

 

The Baseball Presidency: The Making of George W. Bush

This story was originally published in Inside Houston magazine in 2001.

George W. Bush may have symbolized the perennial Baseball Presidency.

George W. Bush’s life and White House years may have best symbolized the perennial Baseball Presidency that has long existed in America.

GEORGE W. BUSH REMEMBERS THE most memorable experience of his freshman year at Yale being the April day in 1965 that he left the campus and boarded a flight for Houston. When his mother Barbara picked him up at Hobby Airport, she could barely contain her own excitement. She was treating her son to the first game to be played at the Astrodome, the world’s first domed stadium billed as the “Eighth Wonder of the World” by the Astros’ original owner, Judge Roy Hofheinz.

“I’ve got the best seats in the house for us,” she told her son. Fittingly, some would say for the Bushes, a family with its roots in Connecticut, the Astros were playing the Yankees. The New York Yankees were the most storied team in baseball, and their aging superstar Mickey Mantle was one of George’s favorite players.

“Great, mom,” said Bush, who was then eighteen. “I can’t wait.”

“They’re called skyboxes.”

Today, Bush shakes his head when he recalls that day and arriving at one of the Astrodome’s 53 luxurious skybox suites. “We got up in the skybox,” he says. “It was the very top of the Astrodome. The players looked like ants. I said, ‘Mom, these may be wonderful seats, but where are the players?’”

It may be that the source of some of President George W. Bush’s greatest political strengths ­ — the unpretentiousness and mellow good nature that warm up voters and are serving him well in Washington –­ goes back to his childhood and to his unquenched and impassioned love of baseball, a game never so rhapsodized in the nation’s capital as it has been since Bush became the country’s 43rd president.

President George W. Bush throws out the first pitch at a Washington Nationals game.

President George W. Bush throws out the first pitch at a Washington Nationals game.

“Baseball,” Bush said in an interview during the 2000 presidential campaign, “has been a part of my life since before I can remember. It is a pursuit for optimists. To come to the park every day, you have to believe you can win.”

Perhaps it is the optimism built on baseball that, in part, explains how Bush became president, surprising critics who said he wasn’t smart enough, defeating a Democratic candidate who had been bred for the presidency, confounding journalists who almost universally opposed him in the sanctity of their own private voting booths. How else is this second Bush presidency to be explained? Had it been not a case of enough Clinton helping Democrat Al Gore’s presidential campaign or of too much Clinton personal hijinks in the public consciousness? How had Bush done what few thought he could do? And if this marks the end of what the historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. once called the “imperial presidency,” as Washington pundits are saying, what will the Bush years be called?

Call it perhaps the Baseball Presidency. What Bush himself might say is that it just goes to show how far the America of soccer moms and hip-hop sports culture mentality has strayed from its traditional national pastime. The America that Bush grew up in ­ and the America that brought major league baseball to Houston and built the Astrodome ­ remains an America with an undying game that has been slowly reclaiming its place as a cultural expression of the national character. As cultural historian Jacques Barzun once observed about the country and baseball: “Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball.”

Perhaps part of understanding Bush is understanding baseball — that the game has the image of stability and conservatism, that it is individualistic but still emphasizes teamwork, that it is anti-intellectual but cannot be won through sheer brute force or strength or emotion but through cleverness, thought, guile, and technical mastery of small details. “Baseball is, to be sure,” as American Studies expert Gerald Early has put it, “an American cultural Declaration of Independence… There is something about baseball’s checks and balances that mirrors those checks and balances of the Constitution.”

And baseball, in the famous words of Saturday Night Live’s mythical baseball great Chico Escuela, has been vetty, vetty good to George W. Bush. It has been, other than his family, the most important aspect of his life. Baseball made him a success after a series of business failures. Baseball made him rich, and baseball launched his political career. Baseball was his vehicle both for embracing a family tradition and for leaving his father’s shadow. Baseball also gave Bush a powerful, if intangible, asset: It made him what he always claimed to be: a “regular guy,” not a president’s son from Andover, Yale and Harvard, but a guy who spit sunflower shells in his box seat while hobnobbing with the on-deck batter.

Indeed, if ever a new American president itched impatiently for baseball’s traditional opening day with its red, white and blue stadium bunting and the innocent expectation of the long season ahead, the day when, as chief executive, he might stroll out to the mound at the heart of a lush, manicured diamond and from there throw out the first pitch of the season — that president is George W. Bush, who when he was the owner and managing partner of the Texas Rangers attended nearly every home game in the old Arlington Stadium, sitting in his front row seat in Section 109, Row 1, behind the Rangers’ dugout, with his cowboy boots perched on the railing, passing out autographed baseball cards of himself to fans.

“I want the folks to see me,” Bush said of his non-skybox persona, “sitting in the same kind of seat they sit in, eating the same popcorn, peeing in the same urinal.”

When he attended the opening day game at the Astrodome’s successor — the new retractable-roof stadium Enron Field

George W. Bush's autographed baseball collection, which once adorned the Oval Office, is now housed at the Bush Presidential Library.

George W. Bush’s collection of baseballs autographed by some of the game’s all-time greats, which once adorned the Oval Office in the White House, is now on display at the Bush Presidential Library.

with a full-size, detailed vintage locomotive that runs on 800 feet of railroad track beyond the left field wall ­ Bush had moved up from the skybox set. Last April 7, two days shy of 35 years since attending the opening of the Astrodome, Bush and his father, former President George Bush, were guests of Enron chairman and chief executive officer Kenneth Lay. It was a union made of money, politics and baseball. Enron, the largest supplier of electricity and natural gas in the United States, was the single largest contributor — more than $555,000 through its employees — to Bush’s political dream. Lay had personally given over $100,000 to Bush’s political campaigns, more than any other individual. He was also one of the “Pioneers” — a Bush supporter who had collected at least $100,000 in direct contributions of $1,000 or less.

Critics have long claimed that Lay and Enron have had Bush and his father in their hip-pocket, pointing to favorable treatment the company has received in deregulation legislation in Texas while Bush was governor and in what may be ahead for Enron’s interests in world markets. For baseball purists, more interesting than the charges of political favoritism may be the metaphor Bush used in dismissing the allegations on the day of the Astros’ 2000 season home opener. “The governor,” said Bush spokesman Scott McClellan, “is an avid baseball fan who has attended games his entire life. And we’re not going to swing at a political wild pitch that’s low and in the dirt.”

In a sense, Bush’s life has been one long baseball metaphor, his personal field of dreams, his connection to a happy childhood when he collected bubble gum baseball cards, played Little League baseball and, like other youngsters of his time, wanted to be Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle. Baseball had also been bred into him. His grandfather, Connecticut Senator Prescott Bush, had played baseball at Yale. His father had been the star Yale first baseman who met Babe Ruth, and George W. attended his first baseball games as a baby when his father played for the Yale team.

As young Bush was growing up in Midland, Tex., his father helped coach his son’s Little League team. “It was the one sport my dad shared with us as kids,” says Marvin Bush, who is 10 years younger than George W.In Midland, young Bush spent long hours playing baseball in a field behind his house and became a catcher on his Little League team, the Cubs. Barbara Bush was the only Little League mother who could keep score at games, and she remembers her son as “the most enthusiastic player” who made the all-star team as a catcher. George Bush, in a letter at that time to his father-in-law, described “Georgie” as “so eager. He tries so very hard.”

“He had trouble,” says Fay Vincent, the former baseball commissioner and a friend of the Bush family who spent a summer in Midland in the 1950s. “I used to tease him about it. I remember him striking out a lot.”

“Well, he was a good catcher,” says his Little League coach, Frank Ittner. “But he was like his daddy. He couldn’t hit.”

George W. Bush played Little League Baseball in Midland, Tex.

George W. Bush played Little League Baseball in the 1950s in Midland, Tex., where his family knew future Commissioner Fay Vincent.

Young Bush didn’t have to hit. His future, financially at least, was secure. Though he might not have known it, he was a stockholder in father’s booming oil company. “Little George,” says Ittner, “had a million shares of letter stock, so he probably was one of the richest Little League players in Midland.”

More importantly, during this period, Bush gained an intangible quality from his family’s competitive nature and from having to overcome his limited physical talent to acquit himself as a Little Leaguer.

“The blind drive to win is a hallmark of the Bush family clan,” says Gail Sheehy, who wrote the controversial profile on Bush for the October 2000 Vanity Fair, claiming he suffered from undiagnosed dyslexia. “One thing that G.W.’s childhood friends told me repeatedly was that he has to win, he absolutely has to win and if he thinks he’s going to lose, he will change the rules or extend the play. Or if it really is bad he’ll take his bat and ball and go home. So I had very little doubt that he would win this election in the end, no matter how long he had to play it out.”

Like countless other youngsters of his time, Bush also collected Topps and Bowman baseball trading cards that came wrapped with a piece of bubble gum in the pre-collectibles rage era. Bush, however, went one step better. He sent cards with self-addressed, stamped envelopes to big league players, asking for their autographs. Most of them obliged and returned the cards. A decade later, he gave the cards in a leather-bound collection to younger brother Marvin. Later Bush tried to get them back only to be told by Marvin that they had been lost, “just to get him off my back.” When informed by a reporter that Marvin admitted still having the collection, Bush’s face lit up. “This is a breakthrough story! I finally found my Willie McCovey autograph!”

Bush’s great-uncle, Herbert Walker, was then one of the original owners of the New York Mets, so George W. and his brothers attended the team’s first spring training. Uncle Herbie even named his dogs Metsie and Yogi, after manager Yogi Berra, the former New York Yankee catcher and another of Bush’s favorite players. “George always wanted to buy a baseball team,” recalls First Lady Laura Bush, “to be an owner like his Uncle Herbie.”

Bush himself, however, was not destined to be even the ballplayer his father had been. At Andover, he still organized an intramural stickball league. At Yale, he was a pitcher his freshman year but didn’t stick with the team. After college, Laura Bush recalls that Bush coached a Midland Little League team through “quite the poor season.”

After completing a Harvard MBA, Bush, like his father before him, went into the oil business. Oil had made his father rich, but young Bush struggled. His oil company failed, and he had to be bailed out by relatives and powerful friends of the family. It was in the oil business, however, that Bush made the connection that would ultimately change his fortunes. In 1984, Bush merged his small company with the oil exploration operation of family friend William O. DeWitt Jr., whose father had owned the St. Louis Browns baseball team and later the Cincinnati Reds — and who later alerted Bush that the Texas Rangers were for sale.

Former President George W. Bush talks baseball with new MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred.

Former President George W. Bush talks baseball with new MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred.

In 1989, as part of a consortium of investors, Bush became an owner of the Texas Rangers with whom he became the highly visible managing partner. Ultimately, however, what would transform the fortunes for the Rangers franchise was the $190 million Ballpark in Arlington, which replaced the team’s outdated minor league park in the same city. Bush became one of the leading campaigners on behalf of a local sales tax election that paid for two-thirds of the facility.

After he was elected Texas governor, Bush withdrew from the day-to-day operations of the Rangers and put his interest in a trust. With a presidential bid looming, the partners eventually decided to sell the team to Dallas businessman Thomas O. Hicks in 1998 for $250 million. Bush’s $606,000 investment turned into $14.9 million, mostly because of the new ballpark and because, through his original contract with his partners, Bush’s stake in the team went from 1.8 to 11.8 percent.

“He’s probably retroactively gotten a lot more credit for running the Rangers than he really did,” says Houston Chronicle sports columnist Mickey Herskowitz, who collaborated with Bush on his campaign biography but was later dumped and replaced by campaign communications director, Karen Hughes. “Bush was the front man, the PR man, the hand-shaker.”

During his years with the Rangers, Bush became particularly close to Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan, whom he had met on the campaign trail for his father in 1980. Bush helped to convince the aging pitcher to stay five years, rather than the single season Ryan had planned — in part because Ryan liked what he saw. “He promoted the ball club as much as anybody I’d seen,” says Ryan, whom Bush later appointed to a state wildlife commission.

“I enjoyed being a Ranger and getting to know (President) Bush and his family, finding out about his dad and what kind of baseball fans they were. I really respected the fact that he always sat in the front row at the ballpark, whether we were doing well or not doing well. Sitting with the fans, he didn’t hide, he always signed autographs and talked about the team.

“I think the fans realized he was a baseball fan and was committed to doing everything he could to make the Rangers a top-notch organization.”

Bush took something else away from the Rangers besides friendships and a small fortune. In his years with the Rangers, he also developed a management style that served him well while he was governor ­ and which has helped him in the first few months of his administration.

“I’m not so sure you can segue from baseball to a presidency,” Bush says of his management style, “but there are some lessons about management, about developing a strategy. Baseball is a marketing business. It’s a business of being able to relate to fans and convince fans to come out. This is a business about adding value.

“I do build teams. That’s what a president does. He builds an administration of people heading in the same direction with the same goal.”

Yankee legend Derek Jeter gets a congratulatory pat during his finale game in Texas from President George W. Bush.

New York Yankees legend Derek Jeter gets a congratulatory pat during ceremonies before  his farewell game in Texas from President George W. Bush.

In his young presidency, Bush has had one evening that aides say has stood out from all the rest. On the first Wednesday of February, not even the mid-day drama surrounding the capture of a gunman outside the South Lawn of the White House could sidetrack the president’s evening plans. George F. Will, the Pulitzer Prize winning columnist and intellectual laureate of conservatives, had arranged a relaxing evening for the new president with some people he regards as being among the most gifted individuals in America.

When John F. Kennedy was president, he hosted a dinner at the White House to honor Nobel Prize winners and welcomed the guests by saying, “This much genius has not been in the White House except possibly when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”

On this evening, President Bush would not be equal to that kind of wit, but then again Thomas Jefferson never won a Cy Young Award, managed four World Series champions, been named the American League’s Most Valuable Player, or broken Lou Gehrig’s Iron Man record.

That evening, Atlanta Braves pitcher Tom Glavine, New York Yankees manager Joe Torre, Chicago Cubs skipper Don Baylor, and Baltimore Orioles’ future Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, their wives and Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane were all getting their spring training sendoff. They dined with the president on veal chops and salad in the old family dining room, then had ice cream and cookies shaped like French fries and hot dogs for dessert.

“He was so gracious,” said Glavine. “He said, ‘If you don’t mind, I’d like to show you around.’ We were looking at each other like: ‘Are you kidding me?’”

The guests got the presidential tour, although it was not the extensive one Bush wished he could have given them. For the first time in his nineteen days in office, Bush was struck with a tinge of regret that he had not yet brought to the White House the more than 250 autographed baseballs, collected since his childhood, that had adorned his gubernatorial office in Texas. The balls were signed by Joe DiMaggio, Mantle, Stan Musial, Ted Williams, and other legends of the game.

Bush had also left behind several baseball bats, including one from his beloved Texas Rangers with his name engraved and another from home run record-breaker Mark McGwire, wishing him luck in his presidential campaign. Bush, however, added to that collection that night, getting autographed baseballs from his guests and even putting his presidential signature on baseballs that some of the players brought with them.

“I never dreamed about being president,” Bush told his guests, rephrasing a line he has used often in talking about himself. “When I was growing up, I wanted to be Willie Mays.”

 

Tony Castro, a former Sports Illustrated staff writer who covered George W. Bush’s presidential campaign, is the author of the forthcoming biography, Mickey Mantle: America’s Prodigal Son (Brassey’s, Inc.).

Copyright, Tony Castro