February 8th: Mickey Mantle is Threatened with a Lifetime Ban from Baseball, and Subsequently Banned, for Working at a Casino

This Day In History: February 8, 1983

On this day in history, 1983, Mickey Mantle was threatened by the commissioner of baseball, Bowie Kuhn, that if he didn’t stop working for the Claridge Casino in Atlantic City, he’d be put on baseball’s permanently ineligible list, which meant he’d be banned from any Major or Minor League Baseball related activities including coaching, scouting, etc. at any level.  This is the same list Pete Rose got himself on for gambling while with the Reds.

At the time, Mantle was primarily working as an official representative of the casino, occasionally working as a greeter and at various charity events put on by the casino, such as autograph signings and golfing events.  Mantle needed the money and thought it was ridiculous that he couldn’t work for a casino, despite Kuhn’s assertions that a casino was “no place for a baseball hero and Hall of Famer”, so Mantle ignored his warnings.  Kuhn subsequently followed through on his threat and placed Mantle on the permanently ineligible list.  Along with Mantle, Willie Mays was also placed on that list at the same time and for the same reason.  He too was working as a greeter and special assistant at a casino.

Obviously in both of these cases, neither stayed on that “permanently” ineligible list very long. When Kuhn was replaced by Peter Ueberroth in late 1984, Mantle and Mays were reinstated and allowed to participate in MLB activities again starting in 1985.

Bonus Factoids:

  • Mickey Mantle was named after Hall of Fame catcher Mickey Cochrane as Mantle’s father thought “Mickey” was Cochrane’s first name.  In fact, his name was Gordon.
  • George Steinbrenner was also once placed on the permanently ineligible list.  His banning came in 1990 under Commissioner Fay Vincent.  Steinbrenner had hired a private investigator to try to find information that could be used to discredit Dave Winfield, who is now in the Hall of Fame.   Steinbrenner was reinstated by Bud Selig in 1993 and allowed to continue running the Yankees.  In the interim while he was banned, his son ran the organization.
  • The only woman to ever have her name on the permanently ineligible list was Marge Schott.  Schott owned the Cincinnati Reds at the time of her banning in 1996.  Unlike others who’d gotten themselves on the list due to gambling, drugs, and the like, Schott got herself on the list primarily for racism. Among other things, Schott made a variety of derogatory comments about black people, Jews, Asians, gay people, etc. and was subsequently banned by Commissioner Bud Selig.  She was reinstated two years later and continued running the Reds until 1999.
  • Ueberroth’s time as commissioner of baseball was initially quite successful, such as record increases in attendance and turning around the financial situation of many of the clubs (when he took office, 80% of the teams in the MLB were losing money and when he left, all were profitable, if only just for some of them).  However, his stint as commissioner didn’t last long as he was forced to step down just under five years after taking office when it was discovered that he had encouraged and facilitated collusion amongst team owners.  This became quite apparent in 1985-1987 when suddenly no position player could get a contract for more than three years and no pitcher could get a contract for more than two years, as agreed to in secret by the owners.  Further, nearly all free agents during that time could only manage to get offers from the current team they were playing for, with only a few exceptions where their current team didn’t want them.  This shunning included stars such as Kirk Gibson who no other team would talk to. Obviously, it quickly became apparent that the owners were colluding and they were subsequently sued by the MLB Player’s Association and Ueberroth stepped down as commissioner.  Further, the owners were forced to pay around $280 million worth of fines.
  • Due to an injury in college, Mantle almost didn’t have the chance to play professional baseball.  During a football game, Mantle was kicked hard in the shin, which, aside from being really painful, resulted in the leg becoming severally infected and doctors initially thought they were going to have to amputate it.
  • Mantle stated in his autobiography that his father forced him to marry the woman who ultimately became Mickey’s wife, Merlyn Johnson.  While the two remained married until Mantle’s death, they separated fifteen years before and Mantle was known to have had numerous affairs.  He even was audacious enough to bring one of his mistresses with him, along with his wife, to his Hall of Fame induction.
  • Mantle also had a major alcohol problem through most of his life, as did pretty much everyone else in his immediate family.  After having to have a liver transplant in 1995, Mantle stated to the press: “This is a role model. Don’t be like me.”  Soon after that, he died of cancer.
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