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Mantle eatery close to eviction

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Mickey Mantle's is down to its last out.

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The landlord is trying to evict the fan-favorite eatery once owned by the legendary Yankee slugger from its 25-year home on Central Park South for nonpayment of rent.

"They want to get rid of us at the end of May," said current owner Chris Villano, who put the place into bankruptcy a few months ago.

But a pinch-hitter has stepped up to try rescuing Mantle's -- Bill Liederman, a friend of Villano who was No. 7's original partner and sold his stake, coincidentally, seven years ago.

"We need $1 million to get it back on its feet," said Liederman, who just returned to the restaurant and is ready to go down swinging.

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To raise the dough, he is trying to persuade former pinstripers including David Cone, Ron Guidry and Goose Gossage to chip in as little as $10,000 each.

But Liederman says he cannot get to first base with current team members. "Their agents just laugh," he said.

Villano said he kept up the cafe despite a recent business falloff, adding 30 flat-screen TVs and putting "even better food" on its simple American menu.

But he says he stopped paying rent four months ago because of "issues" with landlord ATCO -- including a longstanding scaffold that prevented him from renovating its facade.

He said he will countersue ATCO for trying to find a new tenant even though Villano has eight years left on his lease.

Mickey Mantle's 240 seats sprawl over 7,000 square feet (650 square meters) decorated with tons of sports memorabilia -- most of it owned by Gotta Have It Collectibles, which has a gallery there.

When it opened in 1987, Hall of Famer Mantle owned a mere seven percent of the business, but got so much of a kick out of it, he often hung out there until his death in 1995.

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