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Mantle Family, Mistress Fighting

The family of baseball great Mickey Mantle is again battling the late slugger's mistress, this time over ownership and sale of three paintings that she claims she and Mantle owned jointly.

Two of the paintings are portraits, one of Mantle and teammate Roger Maris, and a second of Mantle and teammate Billy Martin. The third, titled "Life of a Legend," is a huge collage depicting Mantle's life and is signed by him in several places. The three are valued at $150,000.

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  • Greer Johnson, Mantle's agent and lover who lived with him during his last years, has been trying to arrange a sale next month of the paintings at Christie's East auction house.

    Mantle was separated from his wife, Merlyn, for 15 years until his death on Aug. 13, 1995, but they never divorced. Mrs. Mantle is a co-executor of his estate.

    Last year, the Mantle family went to federal court to stop Johnson's auction of many of the Yankee great's personal items. The family called the sale of some items, such as a lock of Mantle's hair, "ghoulish."

    Mantle's son, David, said his family wants the paintings to stay in Mickey Mantle's Restaurant in Manhattan. "This is where you get your goose bumps," he said.

    In papers filed Wednesday in State Supreme Court, Johnson, of Duluth, Ga., says she has a right to sell the paintings because she owns 50 percent of them. She says Mantle's estate owns the other half.

    Johnson says when she forwarded a contract from Christie's East to Wayne Miller, the estate's lawyer, he wrote back and said the Mantle family was claiming full ownership and would not cooperate with the sale.

    She wants the court to declare her a 50-percent owner of the artwork and to give her custody of the paintings until there is agreement on their disposal. She is also seeking damages and legal fees.

    Her lawyer, Richard Blumenthal, obtained a court order preventing the paintings from being moved pending a hearing on Nov. 13.

    Blumenthal said resistance to Jonson's claim and to the sale of the paintings was coming largely from Bill Liederman, owner of the restaurant.

    Liederman said, "I don't own the paintings. I'm just hanging them. The family instructed me to keep the paintings here. As soon as they tell me anything else they want to do with the paintings, that's what I'll do."

    David Mantle, reached at his home in Texas, says he doesn't know what Johnson is talking about.

    "Dad never mentioned that he wanted the paintings sold after his death," he said, "and I don't remember Dad or Bill (Liederman) telling me she gets half."

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