Author publishes book on Max Mangum
Marty Simpkins | The Wake Weekly
Author Allen White pictured with his book on Max Mangum titled "Phantom of the Bullpen."
WAKE FOREST — Local teacher and coach Allen White can now add author to his title after publishing a book called “Phantom of the Bullpen,” a true story about baseball pitcher Max Mangum.
Mangum was a Wake Forest resident who was born in 1929 and passed away in 2017. Through a series of research and interviews, White, a Franklin County resident, composed a book about his friend who was one of the greatest “could have been” stories in baseball.
White played pitcher for Zebulon High School, now called East Wake High School. He started working as a teaching assistant in Zebulon in 1992, went to Nash Community College for two years and got his teaching degree at N.C. State afterwards. He retired from teaching five years ago at Bunn Middle School and coached tennis and baseball at Bunn High School.
On October 13, 1991, White was pitching in a men’s adult league baseball tournament held at the old Durham Athletic Park. While he was warming up before the game, a middle-aged man comes out of the stands and approaches him on the field.
“He came up to me and asked me if he could throw the ball with me,” White said. “I have a problem of never saying no to people, so we went over to the bullpen. For the next 10 minutes, I was catching his fastballs. Wherever I held up my glove, he hit it at around 90 miles per hour on each throw. I thought I was being pranked. At first I thought he was some former major league player who wanted to see if he still got it. He wouldn’t tell me his name. We shook hands, left-handed, which I thought was kind of odd. After the game, I went looking for him, but I couldn’t find him.”
Later on, White tracked the man down February 1992 and found out his name was Max Mangum. He also learned from Mangum’s relatives, such as cousins Curtis Harrison and Sanford Bailey, that Mangum suffered from paranoid schizophrenia since he was 17 years old.
Mangum was treated at Dorothea Dix in Raleigh for his mental condition, but he always found time to play baseball. White mentioned that Mangum practiced his pitching by throwing a ball against a shed in the woods over and over again.
“He would go out there every day and throw the baseball, even when it rained,” White said. “He had a practice field near his house and he would throw pitches every day for the next 45 years. He hung out with Tommy Byrne, who was a left-handed pitcher for the Yankees. Tommy would get him tryouts, but no one wanted to take a chance on Max’s mental condition. When Max was in his prime, he was throwing the ball around 105 miles per hour. He developed pin-point accuracy. He would have been one of the best pitchers of all time if it wasn’t for his mental disability.”
Mangum went to Wake Forest High School and went to Wake Forest University for one year. He battled paranoid schizophrenia off the field, but when he was on the field, he perfected his pitching with both speed and accuracy. According to White, he tried multiple times to pitch for professional baseball teams, but never got the chance to prove himself on the field in front of the world.
“The last time I saw Max, it was 2008 and he was in the hospital with his niece,” White said. “He thought I was a scout for the Pittsburgh Pirates because when we first met, I was pitching for the Zebulon Pirates over-30 adult baseball league team. We threw a few pitches with a Nerf baseball in the hallway. He was still talking about playing baseball for a professional team. He died nine years later at the age of 89 years old.”
The book “Phantom of the Bullpen” is available on the website BookBaby located at https://store.bookbaby.com/book/phantom-of-the-bullpen. White is also looking into getting his book published at local bookstores in Franklin and Wake County. It sells for $19.95 on paperback and $3.99 on eBook.
“Baseball fans everywhere need to know that a guy like Max existed,” White said. “He would have set pitching records if not for his mental disability. I want to give Max the recognition he deserves. He just wanted to play baseball.”
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