Dr. Richard Moss - Boyhood Heroes and the Yankees

Boyhood Heroes and the Yankees



I cannot speak of my early years without mentioning the Yankees, for they were the air I breathed and the milk I supped. Mickey Mantle was my hero. Yankee Stadium was my shrine. My room was papered with Mickey Mantle clippings, photos and other paraphernalia, and, indeed, I went to sleep dreaming of Mickey and the Yanks. My devotion was on the order of religion - incredible when you realize that I came of age at what must have been the worst time to be a Yankee fan – when they were being embarrassed by the upstart cross town rivals, the hapless Mets who “miraculously” won it all in 1969, an unbearable humiliation.


Another miserable year was 1965, when Mantle began his long twilight decline (the lean years were also beginning for the Yankees who would finish sixth that year and tenth the next) while Willie Mays, his archrival, the great centerfielder for the San Francisco Giants, was having an MVP year. This led to, among other things, a fist fight between me and a Mays fan in a laundromat as I stepped forward to defend Mantle’s honor after a barrage of disparaging insults from the lout whom I happily dispatched.


In later years, particularly after 9/11, I came to see and write about the Yankees as America’s team, as a metaphor and symbol of American greatness and preeminence. As I saw it (and still do), to be a Yankee fan was to be a patriot. And I can tell you that in my travels around the world, in Asia, Central and South America, North Africa and elsewhere, in the most unlikely of places, I have seen young boys wearing New York Yankee baseball hats – and only Yankee hats. American symbol and icon indeed.


I also idolized Bob Dylan (and still do). I waited with bated breath for each new album and ran to the record department at Alexander’s on Fordham Road to buy it as soon as it came out. I spent hours analyzing and interpreting his lyrics, asking the age old question, what did Dylan (the Jewish folk prophet) mean? The image of Dylan with the rainbow hair by Phil Glazer, occupied the ceiling space right above my bed.



Another boyhood hero was Muhammad Ali. I watched the Ali-Foreman fight (in Zaire) on closed circuit in a theater in a black neighborhood. My brother, Lonnie, and I were the only whites. The place went nuts when he knocked Foreman out. Thereafter, I could be found doing the rope-a-dope like everyone else.