The question has been asked several different ways: name a famous person from the past you'd like to have lunch with; what would you do to change the course of history?; if you could travel back in time, where would you go?
Good questions with as many answers as there are thinking people but recently, because of an article in Sports Illustrated by Jane Levy, I'd go back to the Bronx circa 1952. I'd be a super-hero in the guise of a physical therapist.
I'd get on the Yankee payroll to get close to the Mick, Mickey Mantle. I'd make him meet me in the training room every day and go to work on that right knee, the one he tore up as a rookie, trying to avoid running into Mr. Coffee, Joe DiMaggio. I'd let him know in no uncertain terms that, Mick, if you want to be the ball player you are destined to be, we're going to have to get this knee right. Don't put off surgery, don't put off your exercises and whatever you do, dont go out with Billy Martin.
During a game at the old stadium, summer of '62 or so, I might look over and see my younger self at nine years old, staring at the big broad back of Mick as he waits on one knee in the on-deck circle. I'd see the look on my younger face as he check-swings a homer over the opposite field fence, flicking at the ball like it was a shuttlecock and Mick had a badminton racket instead of a bat.
It would take some work with Mick because he liked his alcohol. He also had a father he couldn't please however he tried and I'd tell him that I understood all about that, even if, to this day and my own father gone 12 years, I don't really understand it at all.
I'd be the tough-love friend that Mick needed to get him through. Then he wouldn't have to say that awful line, "If I knew I was going to live so long, I would've taken better care of myself." Heartbreaking to even read it now and to remember, forever, that image of Mick, swollen and dying, telling anyone who would listen, not to do it the way he did.
Either way, Mickey, you meant the world to this kid.