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There are several nice pieces about readers favorite ballplayers. Mine was "the Mick". Mickey Mantle. I know I share that memory and perspective with many many of a certain age and time. In fact Bob Costas who gave the "official" eulogy at Mickey Mantles funeral used these words: You can read the eulogy here You can see it on video here: In the late 1950's and early '60's television had been around for a while but the volume of sports broadcasting was limited, sports broadcasts were simply rare, but living in the New York area we got to watch the Yankees and we got to watch the Mick. Nobody ever filled out a uniform so well, took a more powerful swing, and crushed more tape measure home runs than the Mick. At those moments when the meat of the bat hit the center of the pitch it was bye bye baseball!!! He looked damn good doing it: the All American boy. Mickey played at a time with phenomenal outfielders: Mantle and Mays in Center Field. Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, and Al Kaline in Right Field; all of them were sublime outfielders who were awesome 5 skill players. They are the ones that come to my mind. You might suggest others. As the 60's evolved and more baseball hit TV one got to watch more of them. Each was spectacular. Mantle always looked the best doing the same things as all of them. He was naturally strong and incredibly fast. He was timed at 3.1 seconds batting lefty from Home to First, still considered the fastest time in baseball. He did that with injured legs. And he crushed home runs. Crushed them. If you search on the web for "who hit the longest home runs" you'll find two articles referencing 10 long home runs. One is exclusively about Mantle's 10 longest. The other is a Sports Illustrated article featuring long home runs by a variety of players. Mantle is first on that list...and they reference two of his mighty shots. He could club them. Mantle's career was annually short circuited by injuries. He was injured in his rookie year in '51, and it is suggested he played with a torn ACL ever after. He was timed at 3.1 seconds to first after that injury and other leg injuries. Recently Mickey Mantle came to mind for me on several fronts. Albert Pujols just passed Mickey on the all time home run list. Pujols now has 540. Mantle has 536. Pujols is 16th on the list of all time home runs and Mantle now 17th. Above them are at least 6 cheaters who are tied to steroids. On a list of who hit the most home runs per at bat. Mantle is tied for 15 at one every 15.11 at bats. Above him are ranked at least 5 known steroid cheaters. Besides Pujols passing Mick, a short while before my old town classmates had a reunion. It was fun and relaxing. Among the "jockish" guys I heard more than once, phrases such as this" "crushing the ball like the Mick". One guy had posted a nice FB picture of him hitting a golf shot. Responses included...."you look like the Mick". Mickey Mantle and making the perfect swing go hand in hand and is deeply imprinted in a generation's mind. Mickey Mantle was beyond sports. He was truly mythological. I suppose he ranks with the first TV Superman; The Adventures of Superman. It ran from '52 to '58. That roughly coincides with the start of Mantle's and Mays' careers. What wonderful synchrocity At the start of that show Superman would be described: Faster than a speeding bullet (I reference 3.1 seconds to first one more time ). More powerful than a locomotive (I think of that as more of a football basketball analogy: Jim Brown, Earl Campbell in football and Charles Barkley come to mind). Able to Leap tall buildings in a single bound (Mickey Mantle could put baseballs at the top or over huge stadiums.) Mickey Mantle was the living sports analogy to Superman. Now we learned way later in life that Mick was a drunk, a philanderer and womanizer, he was not great with his wife and kids, and had flaws up the kazoo. Regardless as a child and a teenager Mick was a one and only idol...for myself and I suppose millions. Here is to you Mick. Take another swing at a pitch....the greatest swing in the history of baseball.
Oh my, Yogi Berra, an all-time great catcher in the big leagues, and an all-American icon for his many quotes and advertisements that featured him. Seeing comments here referencing that .... really depressed me. Yogi is an iconic American sports star, a beloved character, and what hit hardest on a personal level, was that Yogi has lived most of his life since he got to the Yankees in a Northern NJ town, near where I grew up. There was a fair bit of news about Yogi in my neck of the woods, and all of it was positive and beloved. Yogi's achievements in baseball are legendary and formidable. He ranks with the best of the best. The Yog played in 14 World Series and was on the winning side 10 times!!! That could be a personal record that might not be beat. Yogi was part of Yankee dynasties that helped him get there, but his presence on those teams helped the Yankees win so often. Here are some astonishing nuggets: He led the Yankees in RBI's 7 years in a row through 1955. Those were teams with Joe Dimaggio and Mickey Mantle, He was league MVP 3 times, and received MVP votes 14 years in a row, tied for 2nd behind all time leader Hank Aaron. He was a great player and had tremendous longevity. Yogi caught the famous perfect game in the 1956 World Series. He was a great contact hitter, and a notorious bad ball hitter all the same, being able to connect at pitches above his head, and being capable of golfing a ball thrown at his feet. When you review the reams of detailed statistics about his career there is a column of detail about his annual baseball salary each year. Yogi maxed out at $65,000/year in his playing career. Today the highest paid catchers make around $12-17/million/year, which comes to more per game than he earned in his highest salaried year. Not withstanding the way sports salaries have escalated I doubt baseball's best catchers today could hold Yogi's jock. He was excellent at both offense and defense. He is amazingly beloved in the NY region and among Yankee fans. Growing up his sons were noted athletes, two of whom made it into professional baseball and the NFL. One of my closest friends played on a noted regional Legion baseball team against one of Yogi's sons. As a kid that is simply thrilling. For such a lifelong humble guy he has that "Brooks Robinson" combination of baseball stardom and entirely admirable personal qualities. I truly hope he sticks around for quite a few more years. Here's to you, Yogi. "It ain't over till its over!!"