When I was growing up in New York as kid I was a huge New York Yankee fan, and I am even more of a fan now that I am some 15 hundred miles away from the House that Ruth built in the Bronx.

With that said, I was reading today that New York Yankee outfielder/first baseman Mickey Mantle blasted his 500th career home run in 1967. At the time he was the 6th player to ever surpass the 500 mark. I remember the day it happened. I was listening to the Yankees on the radio.

I grew up idolizing Mantle. He was bigger than life to this little kid. I wanted to hit, run and field like him and always tried to get the number 7 jersey on the teams that I played on over the years, a desire I still had when I played into my 20's. Everyone wanted number 7 on their back.

It was an era when players knew they were idolized and respected the responsibility that came with that. Today is a different story. It's hard to find players who want that responsibility. On the other hand, being a sports idol is tough in that the media that follows you today is nothing like the media that followed Mantle, who was definitely no saint as I found out later in life. In the 60's most of the media would "protect" players if they crossed the line on conduct. That certainly doesn't happen today.

With that said, we still need sports idols. We probably need them more now than in the past especially with the amount of single family homes with no father figure around. When you get right down to it, everyone needs an idol. By the way, I still found a way to get number 7 on my license plate. I guess I'll never grow up.