Mantle's trials began May 28, when he was hospitalized with stomach cramps. A week later doctors concluded that his liver was so damaged by cancer, hepatitis C and decades of alcohol abuse that only a transplant could save his life. On June 8, after a seemingly short wait, Mantle received a new liver. There were complaints that his celebrity had moved him to the head of the waiting list, but doctors say his extreme illness gave him priority.
One of the nation's best-loved sports heroes, Mantle, 63, has also been one of its most dissolute. A Yankee Hall-of-Famer, he lost his health to drinking. In 1994 he confessed there were some mornings he began the day with the "breakfast of champions"—a drink of brandy, Kahlua and cream. Earlier that year, he put a cap on that, enrolling in the Betty Ford Center, where he eventually dried out.
This time it may be too late for a comeback. Despite a new regimen of chemotherapy, his life expectancy may be only 6 to 18 months. Dr. J. Richard Thistlethwaite, chief of transplant surgery at the University of Chicago Medical Center, says, "His chance of a cure is quite small." Still, Mantle refuses to give up. Told of the lung cancer, he reportedly said, "Let's take care of it. Let's get it out of there."