NEW YORK -- Mickey Mantle signed a $100,000-a-year contract with an Atlantic City, N.J., hotel and gambling casino Tuesday then promptly joined fellow Hall of Famer Willie Mays on the bench when commissioner Bowie Kuhn ruled the former New York Yankee star must disassociate himself from baseball in an active capacity.
Mantle joined the Claridge Hotel and Casino as Director of Sports Promotion and will plan, coordinate and promote golf tournaments and celebrity roasts for the hotel. However, Kuhn, in keeping with guidelines he established with Mays in 1979, banned Mantle from further association with any baseball team because of the hotel's gambling interests.
Like Mays, who was barred by Kuhn from association with baseball when he signed on as a special assistant with Bally International of Atlantic City, Mantle will have nothing to do with the gambling operation. Yet, the former Yankee slugger understood the commissioner's position and is prepared to go along with it without a fight.
'I got the letter this morning from the commissioner telling me that I'm out as far as my baseball connections go,' said Mantle. 'I knew it was going to happen. Lee MacPhail (American League president) called me and told me that it would happen. He (Kuhn) did it to Willie, he had to do it to me.
'I wasn't doing that much in baseball anyway. I don't have any hard feelings toward the commissioner. He's not really depriving me of much. My only association with the Yankees has been as a spring training batting instructor for the last 14 years. If you can call it a batting instructor. Mostly, what I did was stand around, sign a few autographs and do some public relations things for Mr. (George) Steinbrenner.'
The Yankees also said they would abide by Kuhn's decision.
'It's strictly up to the commissioner,' saida Yankee spokesman. 'We'll do what he tells us. We have no comment otherwise. Whatever the commissioner decides is fine with us and we'll certainly follow his instructions.'
Kuhn issued a brief statement, saying that he had no recourse but to be consistent in his decision-making.
'I have told Mickey that I have no choice,' said Kuhn. 'His situation is like Willie Mays. Baseball and casino employment are inconsistent. This follows the pattern I set in 1969 when I said owners could not be involved in Las Vegas casinos.
'I would much prefer that both of them were in baseball and I hope in time it can be worked out.
'Mickey understood I would have to go this way if he accepted the casino job and graciously sent me a message saying so.
'Obviously Mickey, like Willie Mays, continues to be welcome at all baseball functions.' pickup8thgraf: Despite Kuhn'
Despite Kuhn's decision, Mantle said he is not sorry about taking the new job.
'It's nothing I'm ashamed of,' he said. 'It's not like I'm standing outside the hotel and trying to get people to come in and lose their money.
'It's primarily the same job I've had since I've been out of baseball, but it will require a lot less time and I will make twice as much money. Now I'll only have to work about six days a month.'
Mantle is one of the most popular players ever to wear a Yankee uniform. A three-time Most Valuable Player in the American League, Mantle compiled a .298 lifetime average and hit 536 home runs in 17 seasons with the Yankees. He retired in 1968 and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1974.
Although he will not be able to be employed by any baseball team while he is associated with the hotel and casino, Mantle will be permitted to play in Old Timers' games, mingle with players and enter dressing rooms.
Mays was barred from associaton with baseball by Kuhn on Oct. 29, 1979, after signing a 10-year, $1 million contract with Bally International. At the time, Mays was on the New York Mets' payroll as a special batting coach.
Although Mantle took Kuhn's decision in stride, Mays is still unhappy over the way he was treated by the commissioner.
'I don't think anybody should be able to tell someone else how to make a living,' Mays said Monday from Atlantic City. 'I'm not hurting baseball at what I do -- spending time with kids, going to schools and making talks -- and I'm sure Mickey isn't gonna do anything to hurt the game, either. We'll be working around the corner from each other. I think it'll be wrong to put him out of baseball, the same way I think it was wrong what they did to me.'
The Mays and Mantle cases bring up the age-old question of double standards in baseball decision-making when it comes to gambling connections. Several owners, including Steinbrenner and current Pittsburgh owner John Galbreath, have owned horses or race tracks but have never been forced to drop out of baseball because of gambling interests.
In one of the more publicized cases involving the double standard, commissioner Happy Chandler suspended Brooklyn Dodger manager Leo Durocher for the 1947 season for his associaton with gamblers but at the same time failed to discipline Dodger owner Larry MacPhail, who was known to be friendly with some big-time gamblers.