Jerry and The Mick–20 years gone

JerryI remember them so vividly from my youth. Jerry Garcia and Mickey Mantle were my childhood heroes. This was long before omnipresent social media and a real understanding their flaws and addictions. Flawed though they were, Jerry Garcia and Mickey Mantle were at the “top of their game” in their respective fields. They also passed away trying to fight their respective addictions with days of each other 20 years ago this week.

Their shadow is long and they were warmly remembered in an earlier Struming from August 2010. Here were my thoughts from 5 years ago, when they had been gone 15 years.

15 years ago this month both my childhood idols, Jerry Garcia and Mickey Mantle, died within a few days of each other. Jerry Garcia died on Wednesday August 9, 1995 and Mickey Mantle died August 13, 1995. I recall the morbid NY Post headline on August 10, 1995—Going. Gone.—were the captions under the adjacent Mantle and Garcia photos on the front page.

In looking back on their lives, I appreciate that both my heroes, The Mick, my 60s idol, and Jerry, my 70s idol, were deeply flawed men, whose addictions and lifestyles led to their early demise. Jerry was only 53 when he died, while Mantle lived until age 63, far older than he had thought he would, or he would have taken better care of himself, said he.

21921_10153740690586490_4924520344166216475_nDespite their flaws, I admire each of them both for their excellence in their craft. Mantle was the best player in the 1950s and by the time I started following the Yankees in 1960 had long been playing in excruciating pain and would soon be in decline. However, he was my hero, as he was for all young boys who lived in the New York area. We all wanted to wear #7 on our Little League uniforms (and it wasn’t for Ed Kranepool). I even mimicked Mantle’s limp. He was a Hall-of-Famer and in fact, absent injuries, might have been the best ever. Regardless, he was the star of a great Yankee era in the 50s and early 60s. Alas, Mantle was also an alcoholic which lead to his demise. I did have one quick opportunity to meet Mantle at a photo industry show (PMA) in Chicago in 1987. I was there with my client, Polaroid. There were various celebrities at the company booths. Michael Jordan was a greeter at the Polaroid booth. I couldn’t have cared less. But Fuji Film had Mantle as a greeter, and he had the longest line, comprised of men my age looking to meet Mantle. I waited 15-20 minutes for a handshake and quick photo. When I reach the front of the line I stammered, “Mick, you were the best” to which he answered, “Ugh, thanks”. Meaningful dialogue, at least to me. (Photo captured this key moment of my life).

Jerry meanwhile, lead guitarist of my favorite band, the Grateful Dead, played guitar like I never heard before. I remember spending many hours of my Rutgers college years listening to Live Dead, Workingman’s Dead, American Beauty, Europe ’72, et al, and following the band to East Coast venues. Jerry sang awfully, but no matter, he was the spiritual leader of a band, and his guitar style was legendary. Years later I’m still a Dead Head and follow the Dead incarnations whenever possible. Jerry was also a severe diabetic and a heroin addict and his death from a heart attack at age 53 was hardly a surprise.

Jerry and Mick were my heroes, flaws and all. True legends and masters of their craft. I smile thinking about them. R.I.P.

More Strumings

Leave a Reply