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DaveO

Mickey Mantle (1931-1995), Legendary New York Yankees Center Fielder, and One of the Greatest Switch Hitters in History

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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:

But I guess I'm here, not so much to speak for myself as to simply represent the millions of baseball-loving kids who grew up in the '50s and '60s and for whom Mickey Mantle was baseball. - 

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.

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My first baseball hero....what a swing...!

As far as I'm concerned, from 1956 to 1962, there was no better baseball player on the planet, and very few 6- or 7-year stretches of that quality by any player ever.

Had he played a healthy career, like Aaron or Mays, or had he taken better care of himself, he would have been better than Aaron or Mays.

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My first baseball hero....what a swing...!

As far as I'm concerned, from 1956 to 1962, there was no better baseball player on the planet, and very few 6- or 7-year stretches of that quality by any player ever.

Had he played a healthy career, like Aaron or Mays, or had he taken better care of himself, he would have been better than Aaron or Mays.

I think Mickey Mantle is one of the great "what if" athletes of all time.  Comparing him to Mays and Aaron and suggesting if healthy he would have been better than either or both, is comparing him to two players that generally are ranked among or close to  the top 5 of all time.  (I've seen Mays ranked 2nd of all time after Ruth).

And I would agree.  Had Mantle been healthy.................................    Oh my.  What a baseball immortal he would have been.  And even generally and often unhealthy he is still one of the "greats".

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My first baseball hero....what a swing...!

As far as I'm concerned, from 1956 to 1962, there was no better baseball player on the planet, and very few 6- or 7-year stretches of that quality by any player ever.

Had he played a healthy career, like Aaron or Mays, or had he taken better care of himself, he would have been better than Aaron or Mays.

KN:   Neat comments.  I'm a bit obsessed by the Mick right now.  I took a look at the official baseball stats for both Willie and the Mick.  Their careers completely overlapped.  I copied the stats for '55 to '62 for both of them and totaled them up.

Willie had absolutely great stats during that time period also.  They could have been 1 and 1a.  I'm not sure who would have been 1 and who 1a based on the total stat picture.  Mickey was a better slugger, Willie had more hits, more doubles triples, steals etc.  Mickey was the Kong of On Base % plus slugging % both combined and individually.  Willie was smidgeon behind him.  Willie had more total bases...more hits etc.  Mickey had tons more walks....He was a walks king during those years.  and the Mick had a ton more strikeouts.

At their peaks those two were really close...and the best of the best.  But the Mick had a better swing and could knock the living starch out of the ball, and hit it farther.  If style points go for pure power and the beauty of the swing....give #1 to the Mick.  If you base it on steals, all around stuff, pure defense and throwing arm...give it to the Say Hey Kid.  

I'm biased.  By the time I was watching Baseball and comprehending it, Willie had moved to the West Coast.  I saw much more of MIck.  Plus he had the best swing IMHO and that is where I put my style points. ;)  And finally my dad's family was from Brooklyn, not Queens.  When it came to the NL I was biased toward the Dodgers and against the Giants.  Ha ha.

I admit it.  My perspective is pretty subjective!!!  :D

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KN:   Neat comments.  I'm a bit obsessed by the Mick right now.  I took a look at the official baseball stats for both Willie and the Mick.  Their careers completely overlapped.  I copied the stats for '55 to '62 for both of them and totaled them up.

Willie had absolutely great stats during that time period also.  They could have been 1 and 1a.  I'm not sure who would have been 1 and who 1a based on the total stat picture.  Mickey was a better slugger, Willie had more hits, more doubles triples, steals etc.  Mickey was the Kong of On Base % plus slugging % both combined and individually.  Willie was smidgeon behind him.  Willie had more total bases...more hits etc.  Mickey had tons more walks....He was a walks king during those years.  and the Mick had a ton more strikeouts.

At their peaks those two were really close...and the best of the best.  But the Mick had a better swing and could knock the living starch out of the ball, and hit it farther.  If style points go for pure power and the beauty of the swing....give #1 to the Mick.  If you base it on steals, all around stuff, pure defense and throwing arm...give it to the Say Hey Kid.  

I'm biased.  By the time I was watching Baseball and comprehending it, Willie had moved to the West Coast.  I saw much more of MIck.  Plus he had the best swing IMHO and that is where I put my style points. ;)  And finally my dad's family was from Brooklyn, not Queens.  When it came to the NL I was biased toward the Dodgers and against the Giants.  Ha ha.

I admit it.  My perspective is pretty subjective!!!   :D

Yes, but who would win in a Home Run Derby?

Well ... let's have a look.

<--- Almost 30 minutes long, and must be watched start-to-finish to fully appreciate it
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Here is to you Mick.  Take another swing at a pitch....the greatest swing in the history of baseball.

My first baseball hero....what a swing...!

Can someone please let me know via PM if any of these videos have been culled from the other? I'm afraid the top one might be a subset of the bottom one (which can be found on mlb.com).

"Mantle: Icon of a Generation" (MLB Baseball Sports Documentary):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tXLoCnoBD4o <--- Almost 15 minutes long

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3uxaNYr1o0 <--- Over 1 hour long (save it for work)

"Mickey Mantle: The Definitive Story" (MLB Baseball Sports Documentary):

<--- Almost 1 hour long
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On 4/20/2018 at 7:45 AM, DaveO said:

Mantle baseball card sells for $2.88 million

2nd highest price for a baseball card

I know people who opened those packs and used the cards to flip them against the wall, or to pin them in their bicycle spokes to make a motorcycle sound.

The '52 Topps was especially valuable because it was his first Topps card -- the '51 Bowman actually came out earlier -- and because it was in the late issue release. Those were called high series cards, because they came out as the last batch of cards in each year's run. Fewer were produced, because the football run had to start. It's the combination of this card's popularity and the relative low production that makes it so valuable.

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14 minutes ago, Kibbee Nayee said:

I know people who opened those packs and used the cards to flip them against the wall, or to pin them in their bicycle spokes to make a motorcycle sound.

The '52 Topps was especially valuable because it was his first Topps card -- the '51 Bowman actually came out earlier -- and because it was in the late issue release. Those were called high series cards, because they came out as the last batch of cards in each year's run. Fewer were produced, because the football run had to start. It's the combination of this card's popularity and the relative low production that makes it so valuable.

Some of the 52 high numbers were dumped into the ocean

Scarcity aside, I have always thought that the 51 Bowman Mantle would be a good investment - I haven't seen what it's worth these days, but that *was* his rookie card. Still, for the 52 to maintain its value, the younger generation is going to need at least a couple of people who are willing to spend millions on a baseball card of someone who means nothing to them.

I bought a 55 Bowman Aaron for under a dollar, but I sold my collection when I was 12. 😢

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7 minutes ago, DonRocks said:

Some of the 52 high numbers were dumped into the ocean

Scarcity aside, I have always thought that the 51 Bowman Mantle would be a good investment - I haven't seen what it's worth these days, but that *was* his rookie card. Still, for it to hold its value, the younger generation is going to need at least a couple of people who are willing to spend millions on a baseball card of someone who means nothing to them.

I stopped collecting cards before grading became a thing, but according to PSA the the 1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle rookie ranges from $10,000 in excellent condition to $700,000 in mint condition.

Or you could buy a nice house.

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1 hour ago, Kibbee Nayee said:

I know people who opened those packs and used the cards to flip them against the wall, or to pin them in their bicycle spokes to make a motorcycle sound.

....and I was one of those folks.   ha ha.  I might have started collecting baseball cards in the late 50's and/or early 60's. (plus comic books).  Didn't keep any.  Couldn't look into the future to see value.  Wasn't as meticulous with them as others....and liked having them on my bike(s) to make motorcycle sounds.  (the cards, not the comics).

Oh well.  Count me among the millions or hundreds of thousands versus the very few.   (wish I could make a card induced motorcycle sound on this board!!!!)

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3 minutes ago, Kibbee Nayee said:

The magazine is framed and hangs in the office of one of the major lawyers in DC. If you ever get to see it, you must be getting ready for a big lawsuit.

I was at a guy's house once who used to live in Virginia, and noticed a little display case. I said, "What's this?"

It was Mantle's 500th Home Run ball!

Apparently, that's under some dispute - there are reportedly two different baseball's, each claiming to be the 500th Home Run ball. I haven't thought about this in over fifteen years, so I don't know if it has been clarified.

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2 minutes ago, DonRocks said:

I was at a guy's house once who used to live in Virginia, and noticed a little display case. I said, "What's this?"

It was Mantle's 500th Home Run ball!

Apparently, that's under some dispute - there are reportedly two different baseball's, each claiming to be the 500th Home Run ball. I haven't thought about this in over fifteen years, so I don't know if it has been clarified.

Based on what we know about its provenance, it would be hard to believe it's in Virginia....but then, it's changed hands a lot.

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1 hour ago, Kibbee Nayee said:

Based on what we know about its provenance, it would be hard to believe it's in Virginia....but then, it's changed hands a lot.

I can't go into names or anything, but it was a couple of years after this was written - I strongly suspect it's one of the two balls, and I'd bet money it's the authenticated one (I sent you a PM - I think you'll probably agree, if not at least think it's plausible - I don't care if you tell a couple of friends, but please keep this under close Mantle quarters).

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Oiii!   Here it is.  The Myth buster.

Writers gotta write and players gotta play.

(I prefer the memories the way I recall them—not this version)

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On 7/6/2018 at 11:42 PM, DonRocks said:

He wasn't a drunk; he suffered from chronic pain.

Psychic pain, certainly. Have you read The Last Boy?  A good but difficult read. It took me a long time to get around to reading it and quite a while to get through it, but I'm glad I did.

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4 hours ago, Pat said:

Psychic pain, certainly. Have you read The Last Boy?  A good but difficult read. It took me a long time to get around to reading it and quite a while to get through it, but I'm glad I did.

Thanks.  I will get that book.  I recall when it came out and the reviews.  I didn't get it then.   I am of the age and grew up in the NY metro area where Mantle was a god like idolized athlete.  It was overwhelmingly powerful.  About 1 minute 50 seconds into this video of Bob Costas' eulogy for Mickey he starts to describe the phenomena.

Here it is about 60 years later and I can recall watching my local little league all-star game when one of my future classmates smacked 3 home runs.  It sticks indelibly in my brain because that guy looked like a mini version of the Mick.  Now 60 years later I'm a member of a facebook group of many years of high school alumni of my old town.  When a picture surfaces of some guy taking a great golf swing...the "you look like the Mick" comments spring eternal.  Mickey Mantle had an enormous impact on millions of kids (and possibly adults) that is difficult to describe if only because it might not have been replicated by any other American athlete since or before.  Mantle had this unique presence at a time when there were no competing stars from other sports and TV magnified his presence far more than has been possible since.

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16 hours ago, Kibbee Nayee said:

I agree about the ‘51 Bowman. Part of the attraction of the ‘52 Topps Mantle is that it’s a high number card. High numbers were short runs, as the company prepared to run the football sets.

This is a really interesting article, both about the '51 Bowman, and about the young Mantle himself. I don't think I really appreciated just what a big deal Mantle was until this thread began - to me, as a child, it was always "Mays, Mantle, and Aaron," but then I got older, and for some reason, I began to value Mantle less (and Clemente more), mistakenly thinking he might have been more like a Kaline or a Killebrew; that's changing now, back to the way it was when I was a kid.

"1951 Bowman #253 Mickey Mantle Rookie Card"  on justcollect.com 

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22 minutes ago, DonRocks said:

This is a really interesting article, both about the '51 Bowman, and about the young Mantle himself. I don't think I really appreciated just what a big deal Mantle was until this thread began - to me, as a child, it was always "Mays, Mantle, and Aaron," but then I got older, and for some reason, I began to value Mantle less (and Clemente more), mistakenly thinking he might have been more like a Kaline or a Killebrew; that's changing now, back to the way it was when I was a kid.

"1951 Bowman #253 Mickey Mantle Rookie Card"  on justcollect.com 

Mantle had the tools to be the greatest of all time. And from 1956 to 1962, he was probably close to being the greatest of all time. His career was marred by injuries, and more than that, he let Billy Martin turn him into an alcoholic. If the yankees had traded Billy Martin a few years sooner, Mantle would have undoubtedly had better performance through the 1960s.

The closest comparable to Mantle in today's game is Mike Trout. Their tools are basically the same.

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One cannot overstate Mickey Mantle’s popularity and virtual mythological presence as a sports hero to a generation of kids.  Bob Costas articulated it in his eulogy to the Mick at his funeral.

To this day I will see old friends or see their words on FB.  “A swing like the Mick”, “strong like the Mick”, “great like the Mick”.  His presence dominated the imaginations of an entire generation. 

KN above overviews  his baseball statistics that together with his physical stature and majestic swing made him into an heroic presence.

He strides the halls of baseball Valhalla as a true immortal 

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1 hour ago, Kibbee Nayee said:

Mantle had the tools to be the greatest of all time. [...]

The closest comparable to Mantle in today's game is Mike Trout. Their tools are basically the same.

Trout has been criticized as "a weak arm away from being the perfect baseball player" (I actually just made that up, but it's essentially what I've read, several times). Was Mantle's arm his relative weakness? I just cannot get over this slide from Trout - one of the greatest things I've ever seen on a baseball diamond, even more so because he knew he was safe (and, by the queasy look on his face, so did the third baseman). :)

I also never knew about the 3-4-5-6 jersey numbers until I read that article - it's interesting how Mantle changed from #6 to #7, maybe to shake off the demons of DiMaggio.

Man, I would have loved to see Mantle playing against Ted Williams, Willie Mays being stared down by Bob Gibson (actually, I probably did see that last one, but I was just too young to remember).

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3 hours ago, DonRocks said:

Trout has been criticized as "a weak arm away from being the perfect baseball player" (I actually just made that up, but it's essentially what I've read, several times). Was Mantle's arm his relative weakness? I just cannot get over this slide from Trout - one of the greatest things I've ever seen on a baseball diamond, even more so because he knew he was safe (and, by the queasy look on his face, so did the third baseman). :)

I also never knew about the 3-4-5-6 jersey numbers until I read that article - it's interesting how Mantle changed from #6 to #7, maybe to shake off the demons of DiMaggio.

Man, I would have loved to see Mantle playing against Ted Williams, Willie Mays being stared down by Bob Gibson (actually, I probably did see that last one, but I was just too young to remember).

Trout has a "solid, albeit unspectacular arm," according to his scouting report. As centerfielders, they could give a little in the throwing department, more so than in right field.

In my man cave, I have a picture of Mantle wearing no. 6, and it is autographed. I tracked him down at a card show in Atlantic City in the mid-90s. Over my fireplace, I have this picture of Mantle with DiMaggio and Williams, autographed by all three.

Mantle was my hero growing up. The only game I ever attended at old Yankee Stadium was when he was about ready to retire. He hit HRs #530 and #531 off Jim Merritt of the Twins, and the Yankees lost the game 3-2. In the Old TImers Game prior to the regular game, I saw DiMaggio with his picture-perfect swing hit a single up the middle against Bob Feller. After Mantle retired, and before my new hero Thurman Munson arrived on the scene, Brooks Robinson stood in as my hero. I still and always will love Brooksie.

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