City is perfect place to build Mantle museum
Downtown ‘just a beautiful area'

by Berry Tramel Modified: May 27, 2008 at 6:40 am •  Published: May 27, 2008
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Mickey Mantle's family wants to preserve the legend of the Mick with a museum, and Mantle's widow, Merlyn, is sure of only one thing.

She wants the museum in Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma RedHawks say there's no better place than downtown Oklahoma City. They have a convincing argument.

The Mickey Mantle statue is a common stop for visitors to Bricktown, baseball fans or not. The Mickey Mantle Steakhouse sits across bricked Mickey Mantle Drive from the ballpark.

"I think it's the ideal place,” said RedHawks managing partner Scott Pruitt. "I wouldn't be surprised if the family felt the same way.”

Mantle's son, Danny, and family advisor Randall Swearingen visited Oklahoma City a few weeks ago, meeting with Pruitt and John Allgood of the RedHawks, along with Bricktown Association director Jim Cowan.

Swearingen, speaking for the Mantle family, termed the discussions very preliminary but said, "Oklahoma City has a lot going for it. The steakhouse, statue, the ballpark. It's just a beautiful area.”

The Mantles also have discussed the idea with Tulsa officials but have not visited. Oklahoma City has a headstart on two fronts: the Mantle stamp already at Bricktown, and Tulsa, while planning a new downtown ballpark, has yet to settle on funding.

Mantle's Oklahoma City ties are not strong, other than his 1946 visit to Children's Hospital, where doctors saved his leg after an abscessed bone. But the city has embraced Mantle over the years, starting with the statue, which at the dedication and 1998 ballpark opening drew a host of Mantle's Yankee teammates.

A Mantle museum would be quite the catch for either OKC or Tulsa. Few American icons, sports or otherwise, resonate like Mickey Mantle.

John Wayne. Babe Ruth. Elvis Presley. Ronald Reagan. Jimmy Stewart. The list is short.

"Mickey deserves to have a museum,” said Swearingen, who met Mantle at a fantasy camp in 1994. Mantle died in 1995.

Swearingen started a Mantle Web site — mickey-mantle.com — and old Yankees Tony Kubek and Moose Skowron became contributors.

Swearingen got the rights to some vintage Mantle photos, started collecting and two years ago wrote a book, "A Great Teammate: The Legend of Mickey Mantle.”

Through those processes, Swearingen became a friend and adviser to the Mantle family.

"I have been talking to the Mantles for some time about a museum,” Swearingen said. "Efforts in smaller cities just didn't pan out.”

Notably Commerce, Mantle's hometown in Ottawa County. Several years ago, Commerce officials had museum plans drawn up and began raising funds for a 30,000-square foot building that would cost at least $10 million.


by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The...
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