Former CBS NFL television commentator Pat Summerall died earlier this month on April 18th. Seven and a half years ago I had the privilege of interviewing Pat for an article I was doing on Mickey Mantle. Summerall was a close friend of the Yankee Hall of Famer. In the late ‘50s Pat even shared the same locker stall in the original Yankee Stadium as Mantle where he played place kicker and tight end for the NFL’s New York Giants. The baseball Yankee’s shared the facility with the football Giants from 1956 to 1973.
For years Summerall struggled with alcohol. However late in his life he realized that alcohol was controlling his life. It was then that he decided to voluntarily check himself into the Betty Ford Center to deal with his substance problem. During his stay at the Center he began to develop an interest in spiritual things. After reading through the pages of the Bible he decided to commit his life to Jesus Christ. Summerall became a deeply committed Christian who during the last fifteen years of his life would regularly share his faith when he spoke in public gatherings.
Summerall change of heart also impacted his friend, Mickey Mantle. After many long question and answer sessions with the former Yankee star, Pat challenged his friend to enter the Betty Ford Center. Pat was thrilled when Mantle agreed to enter the facility and did so on a day not normally reserved for new patients.
It was the policy of the Betty Ford Center to disallow outgoing telephone calls during a patient’s one month stay. Pat remembered fondly when Mantle somehow got on the phone and called him a number of times, sometimes late at night when his friend was at the clinic.
In 2005, when I interviewed Mr. Summerall, Pat expressed disappointment that HBO did not include some significant moments in Mantle’s life including his spiritual conversion to Christ when the television network aired a special on Mantle that year. Another one of Mantle’s close friends, Bobby Richardson, would later recount that episode of Mantle’s life in the new book: 16 Amazing Stories of Divine Intervention (www.16AmazingStories.com ).
Like Pat’s friend, Mickey Mantle, many people are unaware that the famous NFL sportscaster became a Christian late in his life. Summerall’s dedication to his faith not only made a difference in his personal life but would also impact many of the people around him. He will be missed.James L. Lambert, a frequent contributor to ChristianMirror.net and author of Porn in America, is a licensed nationwide real-estate mortgage loan sales agent and can be contacted through his website