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Family unaware FBI kept file on Mantle

Published Sep. 13, 2005

Mickey Mantle's family was unaware the FBI kept a dossier on him showing he was threatened by gamblers and blackmailed for having an affair with a woman.

"They were dumbfounded the FBI would be looking into Mickey back in the mid-1950s," family lawyer Wayne Miller said Monday. "They knew no reason why the FBI should be following them. Merlyn (Mantle's wife) had no idea it was going on at that time."

The 28-page file, the existence of which was reported Sunday by New York television station WCBS, contains a report that in 1956 the Yankees star was blackmailed by an unidentified person for $15,000 after being caught in a "compromising situation" with a married woman.

A 1963 entry has a source telling the FBI that Mantle received telephone calls from a known gambler, the station said. The file also has a 1960 letter to Mantle threatening to shoot his knees.

The file covers Mantle's activities from 1956-63, the height of his career. WCBS obtained it through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The file once was delivered to the White House, but WCBS' report did not say which president asked for it.

"People should not assume that just because there are references to Mickey Mantle contained in FBI files it means the FBI ever deliberately set out to gather material about him," special agent Joseph Valiquette said. "As a matter of fact, his name might have come up because he was the victim of a crime."

John Dowd, who headed the investigation that led to Pete Rose's lifetime ban from baseball for gambling, found nothing in the Mantle file to suggest anything more than a wild goose chase.

"I can't imagine what they were trying to do," Dowd said. "(The FBI) thought they were the national vacuum cleaner of information."

Also in the file:

+ In 1962, Mantle was alleged to have helped a Playboy Enterprises executive buy a Dallas nightclub. It's unclear why that would concern anyone.

+ In 1963, an informant reported that a known football gambler had been making frequent calls to Mantle.

Mantle was 63 when he died in 1995 in Dallas of complications after a liver transplant. He apparently never knew the FBI had been collecting rumors about him. "I think that probably he would not like it," Merlyn Mantle told WCBS.