Teams: New York Yankees, 1951-1968
Mickey was using a bat he borrowed from reserve Loren Babe, and he bludgeoned Stobb's second pitch (a slightly high fastball in the middle of the plate) over the bleachers; the ball ticked the corner of a beer sign and vanished. Yankees publicist Red Patterson found the baseball in the hands of a 10-year-old, who showed him where he had found the ball -- more than 100 feet from the park, making it a 565-foot shot.
Mickey Charles Mantle (1931-1995) was born in Spavinaw, Oklahoma, the son of Mutt Mantle, a lead miner who had dreams of a good life for Mickey. Mickey (named after Mickey Cochrane) was a standout schoolboy player, but a serious football injury nearly derailed his career -- and his life. He suffered from osteomyelitis, a condition that weakened his left leg, and he could have lost his leg if Mickey's mother had not procured a then-new treatment with the revolutionary drug, penicillin.
The Yankees signed Mickey to a contract in 1949, and the Class-B shortstop hit .313 that year and committed 47 errors. The next year he led the Western Association with a .383 batting average, 141 runs scored, 199 base hits, and 55 errors at shortstop in 137 games. His 26 homers and 136 RBI led Casey Stengel to proclaim Mickey the top prospect in baseball.
Mickey opened the 1951 season in right field (after extensive defensive tutoring by former Yankees outfielder Tommy Henrich). He was sent to the American Association in midseason when he failed to live up to his advance billing. Discouraged, he wanted to quit, but it was Mutt who goaded Mickey's pride.
Mantle had enormous forearms and blazing speed, and he became a superb center fielder, taking over for Joe DiMaggio in 1952. Mantle was possibly the fastest man in the game during his early years. In his best seasons, and there were many, Mantle was simply a devastating player. He could run like the wind and hit tape-measure homers. He led the Yanks to 12 fall classics in 14 years, and seven world championships.
Mickey Mantle won Most Valuable Player Awards in 1956, 1957, and 1962.
He still owns records for most homers, RBI, runs, walks, and strikeouts in World Series play. He led the AL with 129 runs in 1954, and got his first home run title in 1955 with 37. He was a free-swinger who struck out often, but he could also take a walk, drawing at least 100 10 times.
In 1956, Mantle had one of the greatest seasons ever at the plate. He hit 52 homers with 130 RBI and a .353 average to win the Triple Crown. He also led the league with 132 runs and a .705 slugging percentage. He had 112 walks and won the first of three Most Valuable Player Awards. He won the MVP Award again in 1957, hitting .365 with 34 homers, 94 RBI, 121 runs scored, and 146 bases on balls.
Mantle notched homer crowns in 1958 and 1960, then got into a duel with Roger Maris in 1961 to break Babe Ruth's single-season home run mark. While Maris's 61 was the winner, Mick led the league with a .687 slugging percentage, 132 runs scored, and 126 bases on balls. Mick won another MVP Award in 1962 with a .321 average, 20 homers, and 89 RBI.
Mantle's high school leg injury, torn knee cartilage in 1951, and many other injuries shortened his career and were a constant source of pain. After two trying seasons in '67 and '68, The Mick retired. He said, "If I miss anything today it's the atmosphere of the clubhouse." Mickey was a lively companion, and he and soulmate Whitey Ford painted many towns red.
Mantle was not generous with the press or fans; the trials of being a star often overwhelmed him. He was voted the greatest switch-hitter in history by the Society of American Baseball Researchers. Mantle went public with his alcoholism late in his life and earned high marks for heroism as he nobly battled the cancer that took his life in 1995. Mantle was inducted in 1974.
Here are Mickey Mantle's major league totals:
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