Two men approached Mickey Mantle at his restaurant. One was a baseball writer that knew Mantle quite well.
''Mickey,'' said the writer, ''I'd like you to meet a friend, Dr. Herschkopf. He's a psychiatrist.''
Mantle looked at the writer, then looked at writer's friend, but he didn't extend his hand. Instead, Mantle extended his head to the psychiatrist.
Some fans asked Mantle for autographs and while he was signing for them, Herschkopf observed Mantle carefully as the writer spoke.
''You know, Mantle used to talk about a recurring dream after he retired. In the dream, he tries desperately to get into a ball park during a game, but all the gates are closed.''
Herschkopf had a possible explanation.
'''People don't realize how revealing dreams can be. I think the manifest content of this one reflects how inadequate, how left out, he felt, that without baseball he was lost.''
The writer supported the psychiatrist's contention.
''I remember talking to Mantle in 1972, when he was 40, four years after he had retired, and he told me, 'Playing baseball is all I've ever known. It makes me kind of bitter that it's all over.
"You look around and see other guys my age who are just starting to reach their peak in other jobs. And I'm finished. I wouldn't trade my baseball career. But I'll tell ya, I'd give anything right now to be a lawyer or something.' ''
Mantle is far from unique. He is the rule rather than the exception. Many baseball players find it difficult, if not impossible, to leave the game.
Some, like David Cone, Paul O'Neill and Al Leiter, become broadcasters. Others, like Bobby Valentine, readily leave broadcasting for the aggravation and excitement of managing.
Mantle told his biographer, Tom Molito, how much he regretted losing his .300 career batting average because he played too long.
The perceptive Molito empathized with Mantle, but told him that there was no way that he would have been able to retire earlier because he wouldn't know what to do once he left.
Molito and I spoke about this a few days ago. Both of us wished that we could tell Mickey that he shouldn't have obsessed so much about batting .298 because Bill James and his followers would have convinced him that his .421 on base percentage, not his .298 batting average, defined him.