DALLAS -- Mickey Mantle always said he wanted to be remembered as a good teammate, but loyalty works both ways. Mickey Mantle might best be remembered -- and even judged in some earthly way -- by the awe and the respect of the teammates who stood with him yesterday.
Some of the teammates at his funeral service had never met Mickey Mantle. They were fans who had gaped at his long blasts or chuckled at a story he told on television. Others had met him once, and they all treasured that fleeting moment yesterday.
Others were close to Mickey Mantle over the years. He hit home runs for them; yesterday they wore suits in the heat in Dallas and bowed their graying heads for their teammate, who used to boast he would never live to old age.
Mickey Mantle's team filled the Lovers Lane United Methodist Church where Mantle had not been a member, a church that was large enough and glorious enough to suit the funeral of a sporting hero, a national icon, the flawed, insecure, raunchy and still, for them, thoroughly impressive athlete.
The Hall of Fame baseball player, who died at 63 on Sunday after a short and violent bout with cancer, was once again the center of a large crowd. But this time there were no strikeouts, no pain, no disappointment.
Many times Mickey Mantle had stirred the cathedral-like dignity of Yankee Stadium. Yesterday the affection for him filled a giant Southwestern church with its soaring stained-glass windows and open views of the puffy sky.
Mantle's estranged wife, Merlyn, and his three surviving sons, and family members and teammates -- more than 1,000 mourners -- sat in the church, and hundreds more were outside.
One member of this team had been with Mantle through the last days. Mantle may have jokingly called Bobby Richardson a "milk drinker" in their Yankees days, but Mantle had never flaunted his escapades or his language around the born-again Christian in a nearby locker.
The former second baseman, now a lay preacher, recalled in the sermon how he had witnessed his faith to Mantle a few times when they were with the Yankees, only to detect "a fear of death, an emptiness he tried to cover with harmful choices."
When Mantle knew his cancer had returned in July, he made a call to Richardson and asked him to pray, over the telephone. And last week Richardson was asked to come to Dallas.
"Mickey said, 'Bobby, I want you to know, I've accepted Christ as my savior,' " Richardson said yesterday. And Richardson discovered Mantle had been listening to him, many years earlier.
Another member of Mickey Mantle's team yesterday was Bob Costas of NBC, who never lost his childhood worship of Mantle. In his eulogy, Costas called him "the most compelling baseball hero of our lifetime," but Costas did not shrink from mentioning "the pain that invaded his body and his soul."
Another member of the Mantle team was Roy Clark, the country musician who had once made Mantle cry with his song "Yesterday When I Was Young," the one with the lyric, "I never stopped to think what life was all about."
Mantle had asked Clark to sing that song at his funeral service, which Clark did yesterday. "It wasn't supposed to be this soon," Clark said.
A lot of the teammates were in the wooden pews: Whitey Ford, Bill Skowron, Yogi Berra, Johnny Blanchard, Hank Bauer, Bobby Murcer, Gene Michael, Joe Pepitone, Bobby Brown, Jerry Coleman, as well as George Steinbrenner, the owner of the team, and Reggie Jackson, who also made Yankee Stadium tremble.
And then there was Billy Crystal, the comedian, who told Costas that in his bar mitzvah speech Crystal had even imitated Mantle's Southwestern drawl.
And one member of Mickey Mantle's team -- Pat Summerall, the broadcaster, himself a recovering alcoholic -- recalled how he had encouraged Mantle to attend the Betty Ford Clinic late in 1993.
"After two weeks, he was searching for inner peace, and he called me and said he wanted to leave," Summerall said. "I talked to him, and he said, 'After I get out of here, I want you to promise, that if I ever take another drink, and you will hear about it, you will kill me.' I said, 'Mickey, I can't promise you that, but I will be with you.' And I know he never took another drink."
This was the testimony of a close teammate in life. But many of the teammates were touched by Mantle once, or from a distance.
Christopher Rook, 26, remembered being stranded with a flat tire on Christmas Eve 1993. A limousine pulled up and a man asked Rook if he needed help. Rook said he'd manage, and the man asked how his Christmas shopping was, and Rook said he still needed a present for his father. The man in the limo handed him a $100 bill.
"Up to the moment he signed it, I didn't know who it was," Rook said yesterday. "Needless to say, I didn't spend it. It's in a frame in my house."
The fans talked about the hits and the catches and the World Series, and then their memories shifted to the heat of a certain summer and the rents they paid and the cars they drove and the songs they heard on the radio.
They remembered the old days, when they worshiped a blond-haired, blue-eyed slugger, when they joined Mickey Mantle's team, a good team, a big team, a loyal team.