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MLB – 1951 To 1968 – Special – The Legend Of Mickey Mantle


Bone Daddy grew up in West Texas in the 1950’s and 1960’s as a die-hard Yankees fan….and an especially huge Mickey Mantle fan….as evidenced by his 11 original Mickey Mantle baseball cards that he has in his wonderful memorabilia collection seen herewith.

Mantle was invited to the Yankees instructional camp before the 1951 season. After an impressive spring training….Yankees manager Casey Stengel decided to promote Mantle to the majors as a right fielder instead of sending him to the minors.  Mickey Mantle’s salary for the 1951 season was $7,500 (equivalent to $71,000 in 2017).  “He’s the greatest prospect I’ve seen in my time, and I go back quite a ways. I’ll swear I expect to see that boy just take off and fly  any time.”  said Bill Dickey on Mickey Mantle

Mantle was assigned uniform #6…. which signified the Yankees expected that he would become the next Yankees star….following Babe Ruth (#3), Lou Gehrig (#4) and Joe DiMaggio (#5)…..as Mgr. Stengel, speaking to SPORT Magazine, stated “he has got more power from either side than any player I have ever seen.”  I mean, and that was on one leg….for Mickey Mantle brought rare strength and speed  talent to MLB like they had never seen.

After a brief slump, Mantle was sent down to the Yankees’ top farm team, the Kansas City Blues….however, he was not able to find the power he once had in the lower minors….so, out of frustration, he called his father one day and told him, “I don’t think I can play baseball anymore.” ….so, Mutt his Dad, drove up to Kansas City that day….. and when he arrived, he started packing his son’s clothes….and, according to Mantle’s memory, said “I thought I raised a man. I see I raised a coward instead. You can come back to Oklahoma and work the mines with me.”  Mantle immediately broke out of his slump, going on to hit .361 with 11 homers and 50 RBIs during his stay in Kansas City….so, Mantle was called up to the Yankees after 40 games with Kansas City….this time wearing uniform #7…..after which he hit .267 with 13 home runs and 65 RBI in 96 games….and then In the 2nd game of the 1951 World Series against the New York Giants…. their rookie and future legend Willie Mays hit a fly ball to right-center field. Mantle, playing right field, raced for the ball together with center fielder Joe DiMaggio….who called for the ball and made the catch…..but in getting out of DiMaggio’s way, Mantle tripped over an exposed drain pipe and severely injured his right knee. This was the first of numerous injuries that plagued his 18-year career with the Yankees. He played the rest of his career with a torn ACL.

Mantle moved to center field in 1952 replacing DiMaggio….who retired at the end of the 1951 season …. and was selected as a rookie to the All Star Game in his 1st season….albeit he didn’t get to play.  In his first World Series in 1952….he was the Yanks hitting star….with an on-base percentage above .400….and a slugging percentage above .600…as he homered for the 3rd Yankees run in a 3 – 2 win in Game 6….and he knocked in the winning runs in the 4 – 2 win in the Yankees Game 7 win….with a homer in the 6th….and an RBI single in the 7th.                                                                                                                                                                                        Mickey Mantle played center field full-time for the Yankees until 1965….. when he was moved to left field….as his final two seasons were spent at 1st base. The Mick accomplished so muc in his career….but some of my favorites are his all-time World Series records for home runs (18) and runs batted in (40).

The osteomyelitic condition of Mantle’s left leg had exempted him from being drafted for military service since he was 18 in 1949….. but his emergence as a star center fielder in the major leagues during the Korean War in 1952 led to questioning of his 4-F deferment by baseball fans…. when two Armed Forces physicals were ordered….including a highly publicized exam on November 4, 1952….which was brought on by his All-Star selection, that ended in a final rejection.

Mantle had a breakout season in 1956 after showing progressive improvement each of his first five years….which he described as his “favorite summer”…..as he led the major leagues with a .353 batting average….52 home runs….and 130 runs batted in…. as he brought home both the Triple Crown and his first of three Major League Baseball Most Valuable Player Awards.  He also hit his second All-Star Game home run that season.  During Game 5 of the 1956 World Series ….which just happened to be Don Larsen’s perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers….Mickey Mantle kept the perfect game alive by making a running catch of a deep fly ball off the bat of Gil Hodges….while providing the first of the two runs the Yankees would score with a 4th-inning home run off Brooklyn starter Sal Maglie….who had also been pitching a perfect game up till that point. Mantle’s overall performance in 1956 was so exceptional he was bestowed the Hickok Belt (unanimously) as the top American professional athlete of the year. He is the only player to win a league Triple Crown as a switch hitter.

Mantle won his second consecutive MVP in 1957….after leading the league in runs and walks….while having a career-high .365 batting average (2nd to Ted Williams’ .388)….and hitting into a league-low five double plays…..man, those are awesome stats…..and get this, The Mick reached base more times than he made outs (319 to 312)….which was one of two seasons in which he achieved the feat….and that is why we love us some Mickey Mantle around ImaSportsphile.  Heck, and this cat did all that while playing on one leg….OMGD (Oh my God Dog)….could you had Mickey Mantle gotten to play on two good stems….for even those who got to see him play back in the day 

The 1959 season was the first of four consecutive seasons that two All-Star games were played and Mantle played in seven of these games….as he made the AL All-Star team as a reserve player in 1959….and was used as a pinch runner for Baltimore Orioles catcher Gus Triandos….and the replacement right fielder for Cleveland Indians Rocky Colavito in the first game….with Detroit Tigers Al Kaline playing the center field position. Mantle was the starting center fielder in the second All-Star game’s lineup….while getting a single and a walk in four at bats.  In 1960, Mantle started in both All-Star games, getting two walks in the first and a single in the second game.  

During the 1961 season….The M & M Boys graced the Yankees line-up and outfield….as Mickey Mantle teamed up with Roger Maris to chase Babe Ruth’s 1927 single-season home run record of 60….as The Mick had done 5 years earlier in 1956….at which time the New York press had been protective of Ruth on that occasion also….and when Mantle finally fell short by finishing with 52….there seemed to be a collective sigh of relief from the New York traditionalists….and as a matter of fact….the NY press had not been all that kind to Mantle the whole time by throughout the early years by saying that he struck out frequently… and was injury prone….who was a “true hick” from Oklahoma…..and was perceived as being distinctly inferior to his predecessor in center field in Joe DiMaggio. 

On January 16, 1961, Mantle became the highest-paid player in baseball by signing a $75,000 ($614,198 today) contract…. whereas DiMaggio, Hank Greenberg, and Ted Williams had been paid over $100,000 in a season….and Ruth had a peak salary of $80,000…..so, when Mantle became the highest-paid active player of his time by receiving a salary of $100,000 in 1963….he never asked for another raise throughout the remainder of his career.

Over the course of time, Mantle, with a little help from his close friend and teammate Whitey Ford, a native of New York’s Borough of Queens ….The Mick had gotten better at “schmoozing” with the New York media….and finally gained the favor of the press. This was a talent that Maris….a blunt-spoken upper-Midwesterner….was never willing or able to cultivate….which resulted in him wearing the “surly” jacket for his duration with the Yankees….so as 1961 progressed….the Yanks were now “Mickey Mantle’s team” and Maris was ostracized as the “outsider”….who was said to be “not a true Yankee.” The press seemed to root for Mantle and to belittle Maris….but when Mantle was unexpectedly hospitalized by an abscessed hip he got from a flu shot late in the season….he left Maris to break the record….as he finished with 61…..while Mantle finished with 54 home runs…..and leading the American league in runs scored and walks.

In 1962, Mantle batted .321 in 123 games. He was selected an All-Star for the eleventh consecutive season and played in the first game….but due to a former injury acting up….he didn’t play in the second All-Star game….then in 1963, he batted .314 in 65 games….when on June 5, he tried to prevent a home run by Brooks Robinson in Baltimore….and got his shoe spikes caught in the center field chain link fence as he leaped against the fence for the ball and was coming down….and broke his foot and didn’t return playing again until August 4 when he hit a pinch-hit home run against the Baltimore Orioles in Yankee Stadium.  He returned to the center field position on September 2….and by June 29, he had been selected an All-Star as a starting center fielder….but for the first time, he didn’t make the 25-player team due to the foot injury. 

 In 1964, Mantle hit .303 with 35 home runs and 111 RBIs….and played center field in the All-Star game….then In the bottom of the 9th inning of Game 3 of the 1964 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals ….The Mick blasted Barney Schultz’s first pitch into the right field stands at Yankee Stadium….which won the game for the Yankees 2–1… as the homer was his 16th World Series round tripper….which broke the World Series record of 15 set by Babe Ruth….to which he followed with two more homers in the series to set the existing World Series record of 18 home runs….albeit the Cardinals ultimately won the World Series in 7 games.  

 The Yankees and Mantle were slowed down by injuries during the 1965 season….as they finished in sixth place some 25 games behind the Minnesota Twins…..as Mantle hit .255 with 19 home runs and 46 RBI…. in a year that he was again selected to the AL All-Star team as a reserve player….but did not make the 28-player squad for the second and last time due to an injury….and was replaced by Tony Oliva. 

To inaugurate the Astrodome as the world’s first multi-purpose, domed sports stadium….the Houston Astros and the New York Yankees played an exhibition game on April 9, 1965….when the great Mickey Mantle hit the park’s first home run.  In 1966, his batting average increased to .288 with 23 home runs and 56 RBI…then after the 1966 season….he was moved to first base….with Joe Pepitone taking over his place in the outfield….then on May 14, 1967….Mickey Mantle became the 6th member of the 500 home run club.

Mantle hit .237 with 18 home runs and 54 RBI during his final season in 1968…..as he was once again selected an AL All-Star team and pinch hit at the All-Star Game on July 11….as Mickey Mantle was selected an All-Star every season during his eighteen-year career except 1951 and 1966.   After reading this story….it is easy to see why not only Bone Daddy, but so many boys who grew up loving baseball in the 1950’s and 1960’s considered The Mick to be their hero….as even on one leg… he was bigger than life.

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