Every winter I try to read at least one baseball book, just to satisfy my baseball cravings. I recently finished The Last Boy, a biography of the great Mickey Mantle, and I highly recommend it. Any baseball fan would enjoy it. More than that, though, I think it should be required reading for any baseball player.
I was initially hesitant to read the book, which was given to me. I already knew what it was going to be, because I had read a few reviews. An exposé highlighting the lowlights of The Mick’s life, right? Well, yes that was in there, but that wasn’t the purpose nor was it the main arc of the book. It encompassed the great and the terrible, but it simultaneously humanized a legend and put me in awe of one of the most superhuman athletes ever.
As someone who follows the Nationals closely, it is hard to not think of Bryce Harper when The Mick is described. The speed that Mantle had his first season (which he never regained after famously blowing out his knee) is not quite Bryce, but the tales of his power send chills up your spine. When they talk about the mammoth home runs he hits starting at age 19, you cannot help but think of the young Nats outfielder.
The way his home runs are discussed in the book, the way his contemporaries describe it… it’s as if they’ve never seen baseballs travel that far and that fast. Putting it in scouting terms, The Mick had an 80 power, so does Harper and a handful of other players in MLB right now. But Harper’s the only one right now who was in the bigs at age 19 displaying it, just like Mantle. The way they describe his biggest home runs make you hope you can think of something poetic to say to your grandkids when you get to tell them stories of the inevitable time when Harper hit it over the RF scoreboard (or whatever feat of monstrous power he’ll do that will become legendary).