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FANS DOFF CAPS IN MEMORY OF 1 OF BASEBALL'S GREATEST

More on Mickey Mantle, Page D1.Some talked about the power, others about the speed. His hitting in the clutch couldn't be forgotten and, for darn sure, neither could the smile or the boyish charm that helped define Mickey Mantle.

All sorts of memories and warm feelings came out following Mantle's death early Sunday from liver cancer. Even at age 63, he had remained one of the nation's most endearing, albeit somewhat tarnished, heroes."I don't think to this day that Mickey realized how much he touched the hearts of fans," said former teammate Bobby Murcer. "We truly lost not only an American hero, but a person who portrayed the innocence and honesty that we'd all like to have."

"The Mick" was everything to all people from the time he broke into the majors in 1951, six months shy of his 20th birthday, until he retired following the 1968 season at age 37.

Throughout the fame, he remained the country boy from Oklahoma with the homespun humor and values. He also became an idol to a generation of kids, a pal to his teammates and an inspiration to anyone who saw him go all out despite bad knees and arthritis.

Later, the dark side came out. He became addicted to alcohol, a habit that began as a way to deal with his father's death, then became a way to help him loosen up in uncomfortable situations. He admitted to being more of a "drinking buddy" to his sons than a father. And his association with gambling got him kicked out of baseball for two years.

But Mantle realized his flaws and reinvented his image.

He let everyone know he was an alcoholic, and he told others to sober up. A month before he died, he urged children: "Don't be like me." And, although he died two months after a liver transplant, those were the best two months ever for organ donations because Mantle was on their team.

"As a ballplayer, Mickey inspired generations of fans with his power and grit," President Clinton said. "As a man, he faced up to his responsibilities and alerted generations to come to the dangers of alcohol abuse. He will be remembered for excellence on the baseball field and the honor and redemption he brought to the end of his life."

Mantle lived as hard as he played because of a morbid fear of dying young like so many other male Mantles. "If I knew I was going to live this long, I would've taken better care of myself," he would say, half-jokingly.

There were no cares in the glory days, when Mantle would slug the Yankees to victory by day and tear

up the town at night with teammates Billy Martin and Whitey Ford. The trio had their share of good times and wild stories.

For all the talk about how much that carousing led to Mantle's demise, his doctors said that he didn't wreck his body all that much.

The alcohol had little to do with his illness, and the rest of him was in good shape.

But not even Mantle could beat the cancer that was found days after he was admitted to Baylor University Medical Center com-plain-ing of stomach pains.

A June 8 liver transplant was done to extend his life by years, but it only added weeks. Doctors already had just finished putting in the new organ when they found some cancer still near the bile duct. They removed as much as possible, began chemotherapy and hoped for the best.

Instead, they got the worst. Tests two days later showed those cells were hepatomas, the fastest-spreading kind. Fears were confirmed July 13 when cancer was discovered in Mantle's right lung.

All hope was lost Aug. 7 when a CT scan showed cancer in practically all vital organs, including the new liver, said Dr. Daniel De-Marco, Mantle's gas-tro-en-ter-ol-o-gist.

When told of his doomed fate, Mantle smiled, thanked DeMarco and said he didn't want to know how long he had.

"His disposition was remarkable," said DeMarco, who marveled at the fact Mantle always greeted doctors with a smile and a handshake even when they woke him.

Mantle's final days included visits from former teammates and family from around the country, an autographed ball sent from the Yankees and painkillers to keep him comfortable.

Former teammate Bobby Richardson, now a pastor in South Carolina, spent time alone with Mantle discussing death. The talks seemed consoling.

"I think Mickey was ready to go," DeMarco said. "At one point he said, `What are we waiting for?' That was just a day or so ago."

Mantle was in and out of consciousness over his final 48 hours. He awoke for the last time around 12:30 a.m. CDT, held the hands of his wife, Merlyn, and son, David, then lapsed back to sleep. He died at 1:10 a.m. CDT.

"I'm so sorry he had to suffer as he did," said Phil Rizzuto, a former teammate and Yankees broadcaster. "He'll be loved for so many things. We all love him so much.

Richardson will officiate Mantle's funeral Tuesday at Lovers Lane United Methodist Church. Broadcaster Bob Costas will deliver the eulogy and country singer Roy Clark will sing, Mantle's close friend and attorney Roy True said today. True also said there will be a private family wake Tuesday.

There will be stories about his 536 home runs and arguments over which was the longest, the two that almost went out of Yankee Stadium or the one that was measure at 565 feet.

Someone will bring up the 12 World Series, especially the catch he made to save Don Larsen's perfect game in 1956. And who could forget that he won the Triple Crown and the first of three Most Valuable Player awards that year?

There's also the four American League home run titles, the 1961 chase with Roger Maris for Babe Ruth's home run and, to top it all off, the 1974 induction into the Hall of Fame.

The remembering began almost immediately Sunday, with the most dramatic display coming at Yankee Stadium.

Flags were at half-staff and a moment of silence was followed by a two-minute standing ovation. Highlights from Mantle's career were played on the scoreboard. All the Yankees wore black arm bands and some had No. 7 on their caps as they beat the Cleveland Indians 4-1.

Born on Oct. 20, 1931, in Spavinaw, Okla., Mantle was named after his father's favorite ballplayer, another Hall of Famer, Mickey Cochrane. It was his father, a lead miner, who taught him to be a switch-hitter. Growing up in Commerce, Okla., Mantle soon became known as "The Commerce Comet."

He quickly was thrust into the spotlight as he played alongside Joe DiMaggio and was hailed as the replacement to the Yankee Clipper. Fans didn't embrace him immediately, even booing him in his early days.

Things changed quickly, and any good Yankee fan would soon argue that No. 7 was better than the other two New York center fielders - Willie Mays of the Giants and Duke Snider of the Dodgers. The debate between Willie, Mickey and the Duke still stirs some souls, although Mantle gave Mays the edge.

The fans were still on his side in the summer of 1961 when Mantle and Maris became the M&M Boys, slugging their way toward Ruth's hallowed single-season record of 60 homers. The masses booed Maris and cheered on Mantle.

Mantle said goodbye to the fans in 1969 when his No. 7 was retired.