Mickey Mantle and Don Cherry

By Barry Michael Neal
Radio personality, who remembers some of his many encounters and interviews with famous sports and artists in the world of entertainment. Barry has been a Chapala resident since 2018.

Mickey Mantle was my childhood hero. I was a Yankee fan. Growing up in the 1950s in Brooklyn, N.Y., baseball and street games were everything for me. I played Little League, Babe Ruth League, neighborhood games and Navy teams when I was in the service. I copied Mickey’s batting stance, the way he ran, even the way he threw the ball back from center field. Who could have predicted that decades later I would be sitting next to my boyhood idol, just the two of us, in a recording studio.

Coincidence? or divine intervention?

It was early December 1980-something and I was the morning show radio host on WBLI, Long Island. After the show was over at 10 a.m., my program director asked me if I would like to interview Mickey Mantle. What!!? Am I dreaming? “He’ll be coming to the radio station at 11 a.m.”

I’m thinking, Ok, be cool. You’re a professional. You can do this.

Mickey arrived with a Brandy Alexander in his hand. He was in New York promoting Lite Beer. We went to an available studio and would be recording the interview to air the next morning. We talked all about baseball.

Yankee outfielder Dave Winfield had just signed a new contract for $22 million dollars and I asked Mickey his thoughts on, at that time, an astronomical amount. He said that Winfield would make more in one year than he made in his whole career. When the interview was over, I asked Mickey if he would please record a promo to air during the holiday season. It was the station’s 10th anniversary also. He said sure, but write it out for him. I shall never forget that when I showed him the short script, he put his cowboy boot on my shoe and he said….

“I thought you wanted me to say, Hi this is Mickey Mantle.” Could you write that down for me?”

Oh boy! I had to write out…“Hi, this is Mickey Mantle.”

Okay Mick, the tape is rolling…“Hi this Mickey Mantle for Lite Beer. I want to wish WBLI happy 10th anniversary and everybody a Merry Christmas and Happy fucking New Year.”

Whoa,! Mickey!. He laughed and said, “that one’s for you to keep, now I’ll do one straight.” I had it put on cassette.

When we walked out of the studio, the entire staff was waiting to get autographs and photos. He was gracious and obliging with his time.

There is another coincidence 2 decades later in Las Vegas. A friend invited me to dinner at the Las Vegas Country Club. After dinner, my friend asked me if I’d like to meet Don Cherry. He was having dinner with his wife at a nearby table. Of course, that’d be great.

Don was a singer/professional golfer, who I remembered from his hit record in 1955, Band of Gold.

He is the only person to have a top 10 record and a top 10 finish at the U.S. Open at the same time. He was also the singing voice on the Mr. Clean commercials for 9 years. Don’s wife was a Broadway actress and dancer who grew up in the same Brooklyn neighborhood as me, so we had a lot in common and we became very close friends. Early on in my friendship with Don, he had mentioned that his 2 best friends were Willie Nelson(they recorded 5 albums together) and Mickey Mantle. Wow! I told him the Mickey story and played the cassette for him.

He laughed and said,…”that’s Mickey.”

Don and I remained pals until his death in 2018 at the age of 93.

Barry Michael Neal
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1 thought on “Mickey Mantle and Don Cherry”

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    Debbie Pickering

    Just awesome m.y friend.
    Ypu Re amazing with a wonderful talent!!! I miss you Barry Neal!!!!
    Keep writing!!
    Debbie from LI.

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