My dad grew up in the Central Valley in an era when baseball ruled the radio and served as the soundtrack to the summer. He was a kid when every kid wanted to the The Mick. Coming from relative poverty and no stranger to playing a game on barren dirt during 100 degree days, my dad felt like if Mickey could make it, so could he.
When I came along and complained about my little 8000 person hometown, my dad would point out that plenty of greats started out in small town America. Particularly Mickey Mantle. He also told me that I should have a smile on my face when I was on a baseball field; like Mickey Mantle.
As a teenager, I didn't understand why the death of Mantle had such a huge impact on my dad, his friends, seemingly his entire generation. Now, I understand that they were mourning not just the death of a great baseball player, but the passing of their youth, the end of an era.
The best part is that my dad didn't become a West Coast Yankee fan, nor did he raise me to be one. He had his favorite player as a child, but kept his loyalties here in California. He grew up in Giants territory, roots for my Angels and really loves whoever's playing the Dodgers.