MSNBC blowhard Keith Olbermann appears not once, but twice in this weekend’s New York Times Book Review, most notably assessing Jane Leavy’s The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood, but most interestingly in a small article about his Yankees fandom. Olbermann is the perfect person to review the Mantle book, the editors write, because, “Well into his 20s, Keith Olbermann was an ‘insatiable’ Yankees fan.” He even threw his radio out the window.
“Threw my radio out the window when Sparky Lyle blew a save,” he said in an e-mail. “Road trips to Boston. At the Chambliss game. At the Reggie game. At the Dent game.” When he first “fell for the Yankees” in the 1960s, his parents “bought seats behind first base so I could watch Mantle play there in his last two seasons. My dad prophesied, correctly, that in the future I would claim as my greatest thrill having watched Mickey Mantle play.”
Olbermann, a sometimes sportscaster, even interviewed the Yankee legend in the ’80s. Remembering their meeting, Olbermann is typically self-satisfied, but in an endearingly awestruck, almost humble way. When they finished speaking, Olbermann says, Mantle asked for advice about being on television:
“Not in my wildest 8-year-old’s dream did the Mick ask me for advice. I stumbled through some tricks, and he seemed genuinely grateful. As soon as I got back to the station, naturally, I phoned my mom, and she was as delighted as I was.”
Of course Olbermann’s affinity for ballgames is no secret. He’s even been spotted in the crowd fraternizing with none other than Sean Hannity. About last year’s World Series, Olbermann wrote, “And lastly, a reminder that baseball does erase boundaries. The guy I’m taking a photo of, who’s taking a photo of me — we get along perfectly at the ballpark — less so during our day jobs.”
Of the book, Olbermann writes that Leavy’s original conceit — chronicling 20 “days” in the life of Mickey Mantle (which could mean an entire season) — “refreshes and underscores the facts and patterns of a life, and enables Leavy to connect the dots in new and disturbing ways.” His devotion comes through in the piece, but he compliments the author on her ability to “[transcend] the familiarity of the subject.”
Today, Olbermann calls Mariano Rivera his favorite Yankee. “There has been no other Rivera,” he says.
Now seems like as good a time as any to remember the mustachioed Olbermann ghost of SportsCenter past, in this classic photo always floating around the web. Good night and good luck: