Les Wolff’s adventures in sports memorabilia read like a movie script. So, it’s only fitting that his latest find is a script for a movie project that never got off the ground. The subject? One of Wolff’s sports heroes — Mickey Mantle.
Eleven years before the movie “*61,” brought Mantle back into the public spotlight, a screenplay about the Hall of Fame slugger’s life was proposed.
Wolff, a sports memorabilia appraiser and authenticator, said he bought the script, called “The Mickey Mantle Story,” from Mantle’s sister-in-law. The first draft, dated Dec. 17, 1990, was written by Tom Patchett, a movie/television writer, producer and director who was the creator of the television series, “ALF.” Patchett’s writing credits also include stints with “The Carol Burnett Show,” “The Bob Newhart Show,” “The Tony Randall Show,” “Open All Night” and “Buffalo Bill.”
Patchett worked with Jay Tarses on several series for MTM Productions, named for co-founder Mary Tyler Moore and run by her husband, Grant Tinker. So, having a Patchett script with notations from Mantle was quite a coup.
“In all my years of collecting and dealing, I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Wolff, who has more than three decades of experience under his belt and has an impressive Mantle collection.
The script was part of the cache of memorabilia Wolff bought in July from the wife of one of Mantle’s brothers (he won’t say which one, and coyly notes he “doesn’t recall” how much he paid for it), which included autographed cards (a 1962 Topps card in mint condition), Mantle doodlings on hotel stationery, and musings written on a personalized notepad from the Mick’s desk.
“I got a whole arsenal of stuff,” Wolff said.
But the script, typed, double-spaced and 112 pages long, was the most intriguing item.
“At first, I thought it was a play,” Wolff said. “There was handwriting all over it. I suspected it was Mantle’s.”
Wolff sent the script to PSA, and he was right — the notes scrawled in the margins belonged to the Mick. Wolff received a letter of authenticity from PSA, verifying what he already knew.
Mantle had made television and movie appearances before his death in 1995, most notably in the forgettable 1962 film “Safe at Home!” that featured Mantle and New York Yankees teammate Roger Maris in prominent roles.
The proposed movie about Mantle’s life, however, was being developed under the creative direction of Patchett and Kenneth Kaufman, who formed Patchett-Kaufman Entertainment in 1989. In addition to Patchett’s talents, Kaufman also brought an impressive resume to the table. Kaufman was nominated for two prime-time Emmy Awards: the 1984 drama, “The Attic: The Hiding of Anne Frank”; and the 1986 miniseries, “Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna.”
Patchett and Kaufman specialized in docudramas during their partnership. Kaufman told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 1991 that the pair attempted to “find the humanity behind the headlines.”
They would combine to create “Ambush in Waco” in 1993, and movies for the NBC series “In the Line of Duty.”
The Mantle project, which began with a 15-year-old Mickey working in the mines of Oklahoma, remained on the shelf.
“The Mickey Mantle Story” was eventually released, but not from the PKE production team. It arrived in 1995 as a documentary written and directed by Rick Beeman. The 43-minute TV movie featured Mantle and former Yankees broadcaster Mel Allen.
As for memorabilia, Wolff said it still “blows my mind how much stuff” there is of Mantle. While he believes the script is an interesting and unique item, he is willing to sell it for the right price.
“I’m a Mantle collector,” Wolff said. “But you get something like this and you want to share it.
“So I probably will sell it.”