Grace Notes – Baseball in heaven

The thing about grace, the “for by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8) kind of grace, is that you often think you know people for whom grace can’t reach.

But often you’re wrong.

The other day I read an interview with former New York Yankees second baseman Bobby Richardson who talked about his teammate and friend from the 1960s, Mickey Mantle.

The two were as different as night and day.

It was no secret the centerfielder Mantle was an alcoholic and a womanizer.

When Richardson joined the team in 1955 at age 17, his Christian lifestyle was in stark contrast to Mantle who, it was said, “would roam the streets of New York by night and hit home runs by day.”

But despite their differences, the two ball players became friends when Mantle famously put his arm around the teenager on his first day in uniform.

As Richardson stood timidly in front of the batting cage, Mantle said, “Come on, kid. Step in here and take some swings.”

In the interview with CBN in 2022, Richardson, who retired from baseball in 1966 and went on to be a church pastor, talked about getting a phone call from Mantle in 1995.

“He was in the hospital, already had a liver transplant,” Richardson said. “And my phone rang in the hotel. It was early in the morning. It was Mickey and he said, ‘I’m really hurting.’ We had prayer together on the phone.

Nancy Kennedy can be reached at 352-564-2927 or by email at

“Mickey and I talked together, and as I was leaving to come back to South Carolina, I received a call that he’d taken a turn for the worse. Immediately we were on a plane flying out to Dallas. And one more time, I wanted to be bold because I wanted him to spend eternity with me in heaven,” he said.

Richardson said he walked into Baylor Medical Center and saw his old friend, Mickey Mantle, smiling.

Mantle said, “Come over here, I can’t wait to tell you this,” and then told Richardson, “I want you to know I’m a Christian; I’ve accepted Christ as my Savior.”

Mantle was as surprised as anyone.

Years ago, my pastor told everyone to write down the names of five people we wanted to see come to faith in Christ and then pray for them.

“If you think there’s someone too hard for God to reach, then you don’t know God,” he said. “You don’t know what he’s able and willing to do in a person’s life.”

I still remember that — and I still have a few names on my list that I’m still praying for (and am still skeptical about).

I don’t know why I have such a hard time believing that God can change the hearts and minds of people I know. Over the years I’ve listened to and chronicled the faith stories of hundreds of people who have been saved by grace and changed by the living God.

I know God! I’ve seen his hand in people’s lives. I’ve experienced his power in my own life.


I’ve been praying for my parents for 45 years and time seems to be running out.

And yet, in 1995, as Mickey Mantle faced his own death, he called his friend Bobby and then he called upon the name of the Lord.

Jesus told his disciples, “With God all things are possible.”

Who knows? Maybe a long time ago someone wrote my name down and maybe even laughed to think I would ever set foot in a church, let alone believe.

Maybe there’s really no such thing as impossible.

Just ask Mickey Mantle.

Nancy Kennedy can be reached at 352-564-2927 or by email at


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