Mickey Mantle - Baseball Legend
Created | Updated Jul 16, 2013
An Introduction to the Legends of Baseball
| Hank Aaron
| Yogi Berra
| Ty Cobb
| Joe DiMaggio
Lou Gehrig | Rogers Hornsby | Mickey Mantle | Willie Mays | Stan Musial | Cal Ripken Jr
Jackie Robinson | Pete Rose | Babe Ruth | Ted Williams | Cy Young | The Baseball Hall of Fame
I hated striking out, but I always tried to kill the ball. I wanted to make it explode
Mickey Mantle was truly one of the greats of baseball and perhaps the greatest switch hitter in its history. He hit and ran incredibly well, despite the various leg injuries he suffered over his career. Something that many historians and baseball enthusiasts have wondered is how well Mickey could have done if he hadn't had his painful, slowing leg injuries to deal with. His potential as a base runner must have been reduced somewhat by his injuries, though he still managed to run at roaring speed.
Over the years, Mantle established many records. He was one of the leading home run hitters of all time. He holds seven World Series records, including the most home runs hit at 18 and most runs scored in the Series at 42. He also holds the record for most home runs hit by a switch hitter1. His most important base running record is running from home plate to first base in 3.1 seconds2. He played more games as a Yankee than anyone else at 2,401 games, spending his whole career from 1951 to 1968 on the team.
Mickey was one of the most powerful players of the game. He also became one of the most popular. However, some people didn't like Mantle at first, he replaced Joe DiMaggio in centerfield, but not in the hearts of the fans. He received some hate mail when he didn't serve in the Korean war. He was unable to join up anyway, because of childhood record of osteomyelitis and numerous other injuries. Mantle himself dated his rise in popularity to 1961, when he and Roger Maris were involved in a chase for Babe Ruth's record of 60 home runs in a season. Maris broke the record with 61, while injury and illness ruined Mantle's chances. 'I couldn't do anything wrong after Roger beat me,' Mantle said. 'I became the underdog; they hated him and liked me. Everywhere I went I got standing ovations. It was a lot better than having them boo you'.
His Life and Career
Mickey Mantle was born on 20 October, 1931 in Spavinaw, Oklahoma. He was named by his father for Hall of Fame catcher 'Mickey' Cochrane3. He loved baseball from an early age, and his father and grandfather pitched for him in front of a barn after school every day. His father was right handed and his grandfather left handed, so together they taught him to hit on both types of pitcher and bat from both sides of the plate.
He developed very strong arms, wrists and shoulders from doing a lot of hard manual labour. Mantle worked in mines, smashing large rocks into smaller ones. He also spent years doing many long, hard farm chores.
In High School, Mickey was an exceptional athlete, excelling in basketball, football and baseball. Unfortunately, when he was playing a game, he was accidentally kicked in the shin and the shin injury developed into a bone disease called osteomyelitis. It was extremely serious, and doctors almost amputated his leg. Fortunately, he was treated with a new 'wonder drug' called penicillin and his leg was saved.
After he recovered from the bone disease, whilst still in High School, he joined a regional baseball team called the Whiz Kids. Normally a player had to be at least 18 years old to join, which he was not, but Mickey was advanced and fit in with the older kids. He became a star player and started to attract some attention.
One day in 1948, a scout for the New York Yankees came to a Whiz Kids game. He saw Mickey hit two home runs, one from each side of the plate. The scout wanted to sign him for the Yankees right away, but found out that he was only 16 years old. He promised to sign him on his graduation day from high school in 1949, which he did.
Mickey was assigned to a Yankee minor league team in Independence, Kansas. He was a very bright prospect and the scout considered him the strongest new prospect the Yankees had. Mickey's team won the championship of Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri. After this, he started playing for a Class C Yankee minor league team in Joplin, Missouri.
He went with the Yankees to spring training in Arizona for his 1951 season in the minor leagues. His speed was unbelievable, he could round all of the bases in 13 seconds and make it to first base from home in less than three seconds! Yankee executives decided to put him on their team in 1951, making him the first person to jump from a Class C team to the Yankees - a Major League team.
Rookie Year - 1951
Mickey arrived at the Yankees as a great prospect with high expectations. He had ended his last minor league season with an impressive batting average and generally strong career. Unfortunately, he didn't perform as well as expected and had to be sent back to a Kansas City farm club for training. He struggled there, but after a brief period, he was motivated by his father4 and his average jumped up to .361.
He returned to New York, playing in right field. He ended the season with a relatively good record - a .267 batting average, 13 home runs and 65 Runs Batted In. The Yankees went to the World Series in 1951, against the New York Giants. During one of those games, Mantle was asked to help center fielder Joe DiMaggio, who was nearing the end of his career and had a foot injury. When Willie Mays hit a fly ball to center field, he ran to assist DiMaggio. His cleats however got stuck in a field drain cover and Mantle went down. He had to be carried out of the field on a stretcher. He tore up his right knee, and he would never play another pain-free game. This was the first of many injuries Mantle was to encounter in his career.
Starting this season, Mantle and catcher Yogi Berra would become two of the Yankees' best, and most consistent players, especially after DiMaggio retired. They would combine as the driving force to keep the Yankees to the fore.
In 1953, on 17 April Mantle hit the 'tape measure home run'. It is named as the longest home run ever measured in the Guinness Book of World Records. It was a 565-foot hit at the Griffith Stadium in Washington. Mantle hit a long home run on 10 September, 1960 in Detroit, but its length was calculated. He also hit a 656 foot homer in an exhibition game training for his rookie season. Some people doubt how long the others were, but the 17 April homer was the only one whose length is uncontested. It is likely that no one has hit the ball farther than Mantle.
In his 1956 season, Mantle got a batter's Triple Crown award. He led the American league5 in batting average with a .353, he led in home runs with 53 and led in Runs Batted In with 130. He also won his first American League's Most Valuable Player Award, and helped the Yankees defeat the Dodgers this year. This is widely considered his best season of all time.
His batting average in 1957 was the highest he would ever accomplish at .365. He also won the American League MVP award for the second year in a row.
In 1961, Mickey became the highest paid baseball player of all time at a contract of 75,000 dollars. He remained as the highest paid player for some time.
1962 was a generally good season for Mantle and the Yankees. Mantle considers these Yankees as the best team he ever saw. They won the World Series yet again, beating the Cincinnati Reds, four games to one.
Mantle won his third American League Most Valuable Player award in 1962. This year also featured his first and only starring film credit Safe at Home, playing himself. It was a comedy about a boy who personally knew Mantle and another baseball legend, Roger Maris. He later made a cameo appearance in That Touch of Mink in 1962.
On 14 May, 1967 Mantle became the sixth person to hit 500 career home runs.
Mantle announced his retirement on 1 March, 1969. On 8 June of that year, his uniform number, 7, was retired at a Mickey Mantle Day celebration in Yankee Stadium. He received a standing ovation that lasted for a full ten minutes. He was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame on 16 January, 1974 - his first year of eligibility. He owned various restaurants around the USA, several of which are very popular. In his retirement, everywhere he went he was celebrated and lionised, unfortunately this treatment encouraged a tendency to drink. Eventually he required a liver transplant. It didn't work. Mantle died of cancer at age 63 on 13 Aug, 1995 in Dallas.
His autobiography, The Mick was published in 1985.
Career Hitting Statistics
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