The Lord Works in Mysterious Ways

Kunk Fu Zoby Kung Fu Zu2/1/17
Sometimes, life pitches us a hanging curve ball, which we knock out of the park. One summer, I must have been thirteen or fourteen years old, our church had scheduled a series of sermons and wanted to get the word out. A group of us, all teenagers, decided to go out into our neighborhood and invite people to the revival.

We split up into groups of two and three, and piled into an adult’s car, whose responsibility it was to drive us to various points around the area and drop us off for our task.

Two other kids and I alighted on one street corner and started off down the road. We went from house to house, speaking to those who answered their doors and leaving fliers for those who were not home.

Today, one might not receive a warm welcome at many homes, but this happened fifty years ago in the South where people were both polite and religious. It also helped that we were clean-cut teenagers who were not trying to sell something. Rather, instead of goofing off, we were out hoping to bring people to Jesus.

Texas in the summer is hot, and walking in the sun for hours can be wearisome, but we were young and had grown up in Texas so the heat did not much bother us. (It would kill me today) Still, we grew warm and thirsty as the day went on.

Late in the afternoon, we walked into a cul-de-sac (as I recall) and started knocking on doors. Midway around the street, we approached a lovely house with a big white door. I pressed the door-bell and heard a loud ding-dong. Behind the door, we noted the sound of footsteps on a tile or marble floor.

The door opened and there stood MICKEY MANTLE!!!

Imagine the shock and awe which we experienced! In the mid 1960’s, there simply was no bigger name in American sports. Boys across the nation worshipped this man. He was their hero. And there standing before us was Mr. Baseball himself.

Somehow we got out the reason for our visit. To our amazement, he smiled saying, “You must be thirsty” and invited us inside for a cool drink. As he closed the door behind us, he called out a name and a pretty woman appeared in the hallway. She showed us into the kitchen sat us around the table and poured out a glass of iced tea for each of us. There we boys sat as the Mantles stood looking down upon us. We talked with “The Mick” and his wife for some minutes, but I cannot recall what was discussed.  I think I was simply too stunned.

After finishing our drinks, we thanked Mr. and Mrs. Mantle and departed. Not long thereafter, our trio was picked up by the man who had dropped us off that morning. We told him our story and he made sure we knew how lucky we had been. We didn’t disagree.

I would love to close the story with some great ending or words of wisdom, but they fail me. Fifty years have come and gone and I still recall what a thrill it was for that kid, who was closer to ten than to twenty, to meet Mickey Mantle. But it was an even greater thrill to meet him and find out that he was a kind and generous soul who treated others with such warmth.  A true hall-of-famer!


Kung Fu Zu is a conservative prognosticator who has traveled widely and lived outside the United States. He will sometimes buy a vowel when he needs it. • (325 views)

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23 Responses to The Lord Works in Mysterious Ways

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    I grew up a Yankees fan from 1960 on (I started reading for Houston in 1964). So Mickey Mantle remains one of the greatest ever in my mind. A summertime meeting like this would probably have occurred after he retired, which was after the 1968 season — unless it was while he was recovering from one of his injuries (he missed most of the 1963 season, and a good bit of 1962). I don’t know if he was living in Texas then.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      I don’t recall the exact year, but it must have been 1966/67 or 68 i.e before I could drive. There is a chance it could have been early summer 1969 as I still didn’t have a license. And I spent most of the summer of 1965 in Alabama with cousins.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Perhaps it was during the All-Star break. During his final years he was no longer good enough to make the team.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          That’s possible as it can stay hot here until late September, so it is difficult to say in which exact month this happened.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      I have to admit I was not a huge baseball fan at the time, but Mickey Mantle was bigger than baseball in those days.

      I had always thought Babe Ruth the greatest American athlete and loved reading a biography about him when I was younger. So that fact with the Mantle encounter made me a Yankees fan. I still prefer them over any baseball team except perhaps the Texas Rangers.

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I would love to close the story with some great ending or words of wisdom, but they fail me.

    Let’s just say that when our culture normalized John McEnroe, I think we lost something.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Mantle was quite the carouser in his day, which is why he later needed a liver transplant. But it was mostly kept quiet. Above all, he was a professional on the field — at least by MLB standards. (“It ain’t cheating if you don’t get caught.”)

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Mantle was very human…as was Ted Williams. They had the bad luck of being so good at something that their foibles were amplified by their fame.

        As for cheating, it is indeed okay to “cheat” (stealing signs, corking bats, and such) if you don’t get caught. I would insist there is a harmless, perhaps even charming aspect to this sort of cheating. But I would certainly distinguish between a little Vaseline on a baseball and taking steroids. Stealing second base is okay as well.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          Mantle was very human…as was Ted Williams. They had the bad luck of being so good at something that their foibles were amplified by their fame.

          Profound observation.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          And Mantle was very good at stealing second. He didn’t run all that often, but when he did he made it. And considering that the course of the game is determined by outs, not making them is very important, as Earl Weaver taught. (Mantle also had a very high on-base percentage.)

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            I wasn’t into baseball in my yute. I’ve since read a few baseball books including one on Ted Williams. I know relatively little about Mantle but more than most about Ted. But there is something extraordinarily American about both of these fine fellows. They are lovable even in all their flawed humanity. And they both, of course, show us more than a thing or two about human exceptionalism.

            • Timothy Lane says:

              I read a lot of magazine articles, including bios of many players (including both Williams and Mantle). Of course, such items wouldn’t say much about their flaws. More recently I read Jane Leavy’s bio of Mantle (a childhood hero of hers), which I can heartily recommend.

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                It requires a deft touch to delve into flaws. These days some think they must or it isn’t serious journalism. I think if the flaw is well-know and a substantial part of someone’s persona, then by all means report on it. Babe liked his hot dogs and beer! But I have no problem with deemphasizing flaws. Sports stars, in particular, aren’t remarkable for their flaws. It’s for the other stuff they do.

  3. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I would love to close the story with some great ending or words of wisdom, but they fail me.

    Here’s one lesson you could take from it:

    For decades now the liberal/Leftist myth was that white suburbia, with its ordered rows of houses and clipped lawns, was but a mask over a seedy reality. Scratch below the surface of the neat hedges and painted mailboxes and you would find all sorts of debauchery and dysfunction. Calm, prosperous, law-abiding suburbia was considered another lie regarding the supposed goodness of America.

    But you scratched below the surface and found Mickey Mantle. Wow. That’s atypical, of course. There’s only one Mickey Mantle. But back then you likely could have knocked at any random door in that Texas neighborhood and got something cool to drink. That a great star and cultural icon such as Mickey Mantle was just a normal, decent man is certainly news in our day…perhaps in any day when such stardom tends to create Charlie Sheen-ish or Sean Penn-ish monsters of the rich and famous.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      More good observations.

      In those days we had a more unified culture. This is why the left has done everything it can to splinter our American culture. They have been very successful.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Thank you, Mr. Kung. However, you have performed the primary function of getting out there and describing life rather than sitting back in your armchair with but a catalog of grievances.

        Hey, that event may have been years ago, but as conservatives we know that some things are timeless…such as offering a cool drink to sweaty little tykes who are someone else’s children.

        We are all only human with all the foibles and failures that go along with it. But the trimmed hedges and welcome matts of suburbia were never meant to be camouflage. They were meant to be an expression of ordered lives…in contrast to, for instance, living in a slum or on a dirt floor in your own filth.

        That human foibles remain alongside the clear outward symbol of our attempt to be civilized is surprising only to the foolish bums and miscreants of the Left and their thoughtless followers. It’s easier for bums to tear down standards and thereby give a pass to their own crummy behavior than it is to try to live by standards.

        And as they say, the suit makes the man. When we look civilized we are more apt to act civilized. As far as I’m concerned, the anti-suburbia paradigm has fed down to people’s skins where they now, with the help of tattoos, look like the walking, talking symbols of crabgrass in the lawn, a rusted-out mailbox, and abandoned cars on the front lawn.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          But the trimmed hedges and welcome matts of suburbia were never meant to be camouflage. They were meant to be an expression of ordered lives…in contrast to, for instance, living in a slum or on a dirt floor in your own filth.

          I agree. I also believe they represent the old English thought that every man’s home is his castle and every man is a king in his home. Achievement and independence.

  4. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Another aspect I find fascinating and charming is to think of a young Mr. Kung going door-to-door for Jesus.

    Mr. Kung, to my mind, is not a skeptic, although I don’t think he retains the active religiosity that he once had. But I’m speaking out of turn and merely surmising.

    I used to attend church semi-regularly as a child…forced to do so by my parents. I hated it. That’s not an exaggeration. But that wasn’t because it was church, per se. It’s because what child wants to be wrenched from a quiet Sunday morning filled with prospects of play or watching TV in order to have to dress up and listen to what might as well be a foreign language spoken by strangers in a strange building?

    I was a naturally shy child, which was surely part of it. But I’ve had a distaste for such formality for the rest of my days. This is no doubt why I’m drawn to St. Francis who was somewhat unorthodox and informal in methods while being so orthodox he proved the Chesterton quote, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”

    Okay…so in the short-run, Mr. Kung found Mickey Mantle instead of Jesus. Or maybe he found something quite orthodox: Knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Another aspect I find fascinating and charming is to think of a young Mr. Kung going door-to-door for Jesus.

      During this same period, i.e. one summer sometime between 1966-68 a group of teenagers and young adults from my church traveled from Texas to Morristown, New Jersey to spread the word about Jesus. Again, we knocked on doors in the area. We stayed with families from a sister-church and at the end of the trip, we took a side excursion the NYC. I recall that was the first time I saw a restaurant charge $0.50 for a Coke. It was shocking.

      As I recall, not as many people in Morristown were as open as those in the South, but there were still a good number of nice people who opened their doors to us. I, particularly, recall one man who must have been in his 40’s inviting us in and discussing religion with us. I believe he was the first person I had ever heard propose that perhaps “God” was really an alien or alien race which had visited earth long before and set things going.

      It is interesting to note how one’s personality changes over time. For example, there is little chance that I would go door-to-door for anything these days.

  5. Maddox says:

    Feel good story. Thank you for sharing it here.

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