Mickey Mantle

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Mickey Charles Mantle
(The Mick, The Commerce Comet, or Muscles)

Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1974

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Biographical Information[edit]

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"The best hitter I ever saw was Ted Williams; the most complete player, Joe DiMaggio; the most exciting - Mickey Mantle." - Gus Zernial
"We never thought we could lose as long as Mickey was playing. The point was, we had Mickey and the other team didn't." - Tom Tresh

Mickey Mantle was blessed with what many consider to be the most prolific combination of power and speed in baseball history. It began in 1931 when he was named after Mickey Cochrane. Mantle joked that he was happy his father didn't know Cochrane's real name was Gordon. He was signed by the club by Tom Greenwade in 1949.

"I never saw anybody hit the ball so hard. When he swings the bat, you just have to stop and watch." - Phil Rizzuto

In 1953, Mickey hit a baseball in Washington's Griffith Stadium batting righthanded that is estimated to have been hit 565 feet. It is considered the first tape measure home run. Twice in his career Mantle came close to hitting a fair ball out of Yankee Stadium (pre-1976 reconstruction) once right-handed and once left-handed. Both times the balls hit the decorative copper facade that was on the front of the Yankee Stadium roof. Each time the balls were rising on a line drive and were estimated if not stopped to have gone at least 700 feet.

With all of Mantle's power, he suffered though an assortment of injuries and his bones were beset by osteomylitis, which weakened his bone structure. The first of his injuries occurred in the 1951 World Series against the New York Giants when he got his spikes caught in a drainage valve in the Yankee Stadium outfield while chasing a fly ball hit by Willie Mays.

In 1956, Mantle won baseball's Triple Crown leading the American League in batting average, home runs, and RBI's. In 1961, Mantle hooked up with teammate Roger Maris to chase after Babe Ruth's one-season home run record of 60. Much was made of the fact that the record would be broken in a 162-game season, when Ruth had done it in a 154-game season. The result was that some record books listed Maris as holding the record for a longer schedule and Ruth the record for shorter ones. Mickey Mantle was forced out of the lineup in September due to an injury; he finished with 54, a record for switch-hitters that still stands. Even with the late-season injury, he played in over 150 games. It was the fourth and final time in his 18-year career that he was healthy enough to do so. And it gives us yet another clue as to what could have been, since 1961 was his only 150+ game season in which he did not lead the league in HR's.  

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With his hitting skills having seemingly quickly eroded since age 33, and with his career batting average falling under .300, Mantle retired after the 1968 season. A closer look at his last few seasons changes the narrative regarding how much his skills eroded, however. In 1966 he only had 393 plate appearances, which did not qualify him for most of the leader boards. However, his .288 average and his OPS would have tied for 3rd highest in the AL. His at-bats per HR and slugging percentage tied for the 2nd highest and his WAR of 4.7 was number 7 on the leaderboard with only 333 at-bats. And from June 28 to July 3rd he blasted 8 HR's in 6 games. The only game he didn't homer was on June 30th when he was walked three times. In 1967, his base out wins added and win probability added was 5th best in the league. On the Yankees, he led the team in HR's, OBP, SLG, OPS and OPS+ which was 7th in the AL. Even his last season was not as bad as historians normally describe it. His .237 average was a personal low, but it was 7 points above the AL average and 23 points above the .214 the Yankees hit that year. He still led the team in HR's and was in the top 10 in many of the newer stats such as win probability - 4th; adjusted batting wins - 7th; adjusted OPS - 8th. Finally a close look at the numbers reveals that he lost his lifetime average of .300 due to ending the 1967 season going 2/31 and getting only 1 hit in his last 18 AB's in 1968. In both cases he could have sat out with injuries and in hindsight he should have.  

He was inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame on January 16, 1974, along with his longtime friend and teammate Whitey Ford. He never managed, but briefly coached with the Yankees in August and September of the 1970 season.

On February 2, 1983, Hall of Famers Mantle and Willie Mays accepted greeter positions at a casino in Atlantic City, NJ. The next day, Commissioner Bowie Kuhn banned both of them. On March 18, 1985, Commissioner Peter Ueberroth reinstated both men.

Mantle's cousin, Max Mantle, also signed with the New York Yankees. Max received a $1,000 bonus in 1954. Mantle's brothers, twins Roy Mantle and Ray Mantle, played for the Monroe Sports in 1955. Mantle's son, Mickey Mantle Jr., played for the 1978 Alexandria Dukes. His third cousin, Ryan Mantle, was drafted in the 2008 amateur draft. Mantle's great-nephew Blake King also played minor league ball.

Legacy[edit]

Mantle signing an autograph in the early 1960's

Perhaps the most notable, yet rarely discussed of Mantle's achievements, concerns his World Series home run total (18), a number, which, one baseball writer said years ago, will never be surpassed. This is a large claim, since, in sports, records are made to be broken. However, a closer look indicates that Mantle's 18 WS home runs may stand forever. First, we must remember that getting the chance to play in a WS is a difficult task, and repeating year after year is even more rare. Even the present-day Yankees, who are always in a postseason race, find it nearly impossible to win a spot in the October Classic on a regular basis. This means that a player's chances of challenging Mantle's HR record depends on that player having as many chances to bat as possible. That's the main obstacle. Mantle was lucky enough to play for the Yankees during some of their most prolific years, thus giving him a chance to play in 65 WS games which allowed him 230 at bats. These staggering numbers may indicate how difficult it will be for any player to challenge his home run total. Just for the record, home run kings Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds don't even figure in this discussion. Aaron has a total of 3 WS homers while Bonds has 4. Even more amazing is the fact that the superb Willie Mays played in 4 World Series (20 games, 71 at bats) with 0 home runs. This should give us some indication how safe Mantle's record seems to be.

"If Mickey had good legs throughout his career, he would have been an unbelieveable ballplayer." - Ralph Houk
"If he had [Joe] DiMaggio's serious bear-down attitude, there's no telling how great he could have been. With his one good leg, he could outrun everyone." - Gene Woodling
"When he took BP everybody would kind of stop what they were doing and watch." - Jim Kaat

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 16-time AL All-Star (1952-1965, 1967 & 1968)
  • 3-time AL MVP (1956, 1957 & 1962)
  • AL Triple Crown (1956)
  • AL Gold Glove Winner (1962)
  • AL Batting Average Leader (1956)
  • 3-time AL On-Base Percentage Leader (1955, 1962 & 1964)
  • 4-time AL Slugging Percentage Leader (1955, 1956, 1961 & 1962)
  • 6-time AL OPS Leader (1952, 1955, 1956, 1960, 1962 & 1964)
  • 5-time AL Runs Scored Leader (1954, 1956-1958 & 1960)
  • 3-time AL Total Bases Leader (1956, 1958 & 1960)
  • AL Triples Leader (1955)
  • 4-time AL Home Runs Leader (1955, 1956, 1958 & 1960)
  • AL RBI Leader (1956)
  • 5-time AL Bases on Balls Leader (1955, 1957, 1958, 1961 & 1962)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 14 (1952-1962, 1964, 1966 & 1967)
  • 30-Home Run Seasons: 9 (1955-1962 & 1964)
  • 40-Home Run Seasons: 4 (1956, 1958, 1960 & 1961)
  • 50-Home Run Seasons: 2 (1956 & 1961)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 4 (1954, 1956, 1961 & 1964)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 9 (1953-1961)
  • Won seven World Series with the New York Yankees (1951, 1952, 1953, 1956, 1958, 1961 & 1962)
  • Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1974


AL MVP
1955 1956 1957
Yogi Berra Mickey Mantle Mickey Mantle
1956 1957 1958
Mickey Mantle Mickey Mantle Jackie Jensen
1961 1962 1963
Roger Maris Mickey Mantle Elston Howard

Records Held[edit]

  • Home runs, switch hitter, career, 536
  • Home runs, switch hitter, season, 54, 1961
  • Home Runs, World Series, career, 18
  • On base percentage, switch hitter, career, .421
  • On base percentage, switch hitter, season, .512, 1957
  • Slugging average, switch hitter, career, .557
  • Slugging average, switch hitter, season, .705, 1956
  • On base plus slugging percentage, switch hitter, career, .978
  • On base plus slugging percentage, switch hitter, season, 1.177, 1957
  • Total bases, switch hitter, season, 376, 1956
  • Total average, switch hitter, career, 1.091
  • Strikeouts, switch hitter, career, 1710
  • Walks, switch hitter, career, 1733
  • Walks, switch hitter, season, 146, 1957

Further Reading[edit]

  • Allen Barra: Mickey and Willie: Mantle and Mays, the Parallel Lives of Baseball's Golden Age, Crown Publishing, Random House, New York, NY, 2013. ISBN 978-0307716484
  • Peter Golenbock: The Mickey Mantle Novel, The Lyons Press, Guilford, CT, 2007. ISBN 1427984956
  • John G. Hall: Mickey Mantle: Before the Glory, Leathers Publishing, Leawood, KS, 2005. ISBN 1585973173
  • Donald Honig: Mays, Mantle, and Snider: A Celebration, Macmillan, New York, NY, 1987. ISBN 0025512005
  • Jane Leavy: The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America's Childhood, HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY, 2010.
  • Mickey Mantle (as told to George Vass): "The Game I'll Never Forget", Baseball Digest, August 1971, pp. 52-54. [1]
  • Tom Molito: Mickey Mantle: Inside and Outside the Lines, Black Rose Writing, Castroville, TX, 2016. ISBN 978-1612966878
  • Andrew O'Toole: Strangers in the Bronx: DiMaggio, Mantle, and the Changing of the Yankee Guard, Triumph Books, Chicago, IL, 2015. ISBN 978-1629370279
  • Jim Sargent: The Tigers and Yankees in '61: A Pennant Race for the Ages, the Babe's Record Broken and Stormin' Norman's Greatest Season, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2016. ISBN 978-0-7864-9862-8

Related Sites[edit]