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My Gus Zernial Story, or The Time I Chose Mickey Mantle over Marilyn Monroe

Yesterday, the Twitter account @OleTimeHardball posted a photo of slugging outfielder Gus Zernial and Marilyn Monroe from a promotional photoshoot in 1951. Zernial cracked 237 homers across an 11-year Major League career. His photogenic good looks and charm made him the perfect ballplayer to use for the pictures with Monroe.

I met Gus 50 years later in 2001. Zernial worked for the Fresno Grizzlies of the Pacific Coast League, primarily in marketing. Additionally, he served as the color commentator on local Grizzlies broadcasts. I was still in college and joined the team as a public relations intern midway through the summer. Gus and I didn’t cross paths a whole lot, but we chatted on numerous occasions throughout the season. One day, late in the year, we got to talking in the office, and he told me about the photoshoot. He was proud of the fact that he had been able to be involved with it, and, yes, it negatively affected Joe DiMaggio down the road.

With the fall semester approaching, my time working in the front office wound down, and I packed up my little makeshift desk to return to school. Gus stopped by to say goodbye and wished me luck. He then offered to sign a photo for me, if I was interested. Of course! That would be awesome! Thanks, Gus!

He kept a few copies of two different prints in his desk. One photo featured him with Mickey Mantle and the other was one of the pictures from the shoot with Marilyn. “Which one would you like?” I didn’t hesitate being an unabashed baseball nut. “Mantle,” I replied.

I still treasure the photo because of my time with Gus, but I must say that, 21 years later, I don’t know what I was thinking. The Mick was great and everything, but Mantle over a famous photoshoot with Marilyn Monroe? Safe to say I've second guessed it a time or two.


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