BORN TO PLAY
Mickey Charles Mantle was born on
October 20, 1931 in Spavinaw, Oklahoma.
Mickey's father, Mutt, wanted his son to grow up to be a
professional baseball player so he was named after Hall
of Fame catcher for the Philadelphia Athletics, Mickey
The family soon moved to Commerce,
Oklahoma where Mutt worked in the Lead and Zinc mines.
Every day when Mutt would come from from the mines, they
would practice baseball next to an old tin barn.
Mutt would pitch tennis balls (right handed) to Mickey
while he batted lefty. Mickey's grandfather,
Charlie, would then pitch left handed to Mickey while he
By the age of five, Mickey was
already showing promising signs as a baseball player and
impressing the neighbors.
Mickey's childhood home and the
old tin barn still stand in Commerce, Oklahoma.
Childhood home in
Tin barn where
Mickey practiced daily
HIGH SCHOOL DAYS
Mickey was actually a catcher,
like Mickey Cochrane, when he was 10 years old and
playing in the Pee Wee League in Douthat.
At the age of 15, Mickey played
for the Baxter Springs Whiz Kids in a semi-pro league
which was composed of players up to 21 years old.
Mickey attended Commerce High
School and excelled in baseball, football and
basketball. During a football practice in 1946,
Mickey was kicked in the shin. A bone infection,
known as osteomyelitis, developed which almost resulted
in the amputation of Mickey's leg. A new wonder
drug called Penicillin saved the day and Mickey was soon
back in action but the medical condition would prove to
nag him throughout his career.
Gym where Mickey
played high school basketball
Field where Mickey
played high school football
Yankee scout, Tom Greenwade,
discovered Mickey while he was playing for the
Baxter Springs Whiz Kids in 1948. On that
particular day, Mickey hit two tape measure home
runs (one from each side of the plate) that cleared
the fence and rolled into the river which was 400+
from home plate. Greenwade returned to
Commerce on Mickey's graduation day and signed him
to a professional contact with the New York Yankees
for $140/month plus a $1,150 signing bonus.
|Baxter Springs River that
Mickey hit homers into impressing Greenwade
Mickey played shortstop for a
Class D minor league team, the Independence Yankees,
in 1949. Harry Craft was his manager.
During the season, Mickey went into a hitting slump
and became discouraged and called his father to tell
him that he wanted to quit baseball. Mutt
drove to Independence to meet with Mickey and
convinced his son that playing baseball was a far
better job than working in the mines.
Fortunately, Mickey decided to give it another try
and he did very well that season with a .313 batting
(Mickey kneeling on first row)
In 1950, Mickey advanced to a
Class C minor league team, the Joplin Miners.
Harry Craft moved up with Mickey to manage the team.
Mickey earned $225 per month and won the Western
Association batting title with an impressive .383
batting average. Mickey played shortstop again
although he made a lot of errors. In 137 games,
Mickey had 30 doubles, 12 triples, 26 home runs and 136
RBIs. Mickey's uniform number was 12.
1950 Joplin Miners
(Mickey on 2nd row 2nd player from right)
NEW YORK YANKEES
Mickey was invited to the Yankees
instructional camp in Phoenix, AZ in the spring of 1951. He
impressed reporters, fans, teammates and opponents with his
tremendous power, his blazing speed and his powerful throwing arm.
Casey Stengel and the Yankees had planned to let Mickey play 1951 on
a Class A minor league team but decided to give him a try in the
majors after his phenomenal spring. Mickey was assigned
uniform #6. Since Babe Ruth had been #3, Lou Gehrig had been
#4 and Joe DiMaggio was #5, Mickey was assigned the next number of
greatness which proved to be a great mental burden for the young
Mickey's first game in the Major
Leagues was on April 17, 1951 in which he went 1 for 4 at the plate
and played right field while Joe DiMaggio played center field.
On July 15, Mickey was hitting .260 and had struck out 52 times in
246 at bats which was considered excessive by Yankees skipper Casey
Stengel. Stengel sent Mickey down to the Triple-A Kansas City
Blues to get his batting confidence back and to learn how to play
center field. Once again Mickey became discouraged and called
his father saying that he wasn't cut out to play baseball in the big
leagues. Once again, Mutt was able to convince his talented
son to keep playing. By August 24, Mickey's stats were quite
impressive. In 40 games, he had collected 11 homers, 3
triples, 9 doubles, 50 RBIs and a batting average of .364. The
Yankees realized that it was time to bring Mickey back to the
majors. This time, Mickey was given uniform #7 which was to
become his trademark.
During the 1951 World Series vs.
the New York Giants, Mickey badly injured his right knee while
trying to catch a fly ball off the bat of Willie Mays. The
injury would plague Mickey for the rest of his life and resulted in
him needing to tightly wrap his leg from the hip to the ankle before
every game. Mickey played in great pain for most of his career
and endured numerous other injuries. Mickey impressed his
teammates and his opponents by his ability to play despite the pain
and play at a level far above that of most other players.
Despite his leg injury, Mickey was clocked at 3.1 seconds from home
plate to first base which is a record that still stands today.
On April 17, 1953, the term "tape
measure home run" was coined due to a blast by Mickey at Griffith
Stadium which traveled a record 565 feet. During his eighteen
year career, Mickey hit many other tape measure homers and became
famous for his mammoth blasts. His 565' blast still stands
today as the longest measured home run in the history of baseball.
|1956 - TRIPLE CROWN YEAR
Mickey's greatest year was in 1956
when he won the Triple Crown, Male Athlete of the Year
award, the American League MVP award by a unanimous vote
and the Player of the Year award. That year he led
the major leagues with a .353 batting average, 52 home
runs and 130 RBIs. Mickey was also a hero in the
1956 World Series game in which Don Larsen pitched his
historic perfect game. Mickey homered in that game
and also made a spectacular catch to help preserve
Larsen's great game.
Mickey also won the MVP in 1957
and 1962 as well as a Gold Glove in 1962.
HALL OF FAME
Mickey played in 12 World Series
during his 18 year career with the Yankees and he led
them to seven World Championships. Mickey still
holds the record for most World Series home runs with 18
as well as several other World Series records.
He was inducted into the National
Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974 along with his teammate
and best friend Whitey Ford.
Mickey lived in Dallas, TX with
his wife Merlyn and sons Mickey Jr, David, Danny and
Billy. He died on August 13, 1995 due to liver
cancer at the age of 64. Today, he is still
considered as the greatest switch hitter of all time.