Mickey Mantle's Touch

LiveAuctionTalk.com:  by Rosemary McKittrick

Photo courtesy of Hunt Auctions.

“It was Mickey Mantle who killed us,” said Brooklyn Dodger legend Jackie Robinson.  Mantle had only played in major-league baseball for two seasons but already he was turning into a powerhouse.  He was the key factor in the New York Yankees overtaking their rival Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1952 World Series.

I always loved the game, but when my legs weren’t hurting, it was a lot easier to love.
— Mickey Mantle

“He was the difference between the two clubs,” Robinson said. 

Mickey was 21-years-old at the time and the fastest runner in baseball.  The switch-hitting slugger once smacked a baseball over a 55-foot high wall behind the leftfield bleachers in Washington. 

It was a first. 

The ball ricocheted off a 60-foot high sign on the stadium’s scoreboard.  It was so high the Senators’ left fielder never even budged.  The entire stadium froze.  They had just witnessed the longest home run in major-league baseball.  Somebody took a tape measure to see how far the ball traveled.  By the time it landed in the yard of a nearby home it was about 565 feet from home plate. The hit was nicknamed the “Washington Wallop.”

How did Mickey get so strong?

Before baseball the center fielder had worked alongside his dad in the Oklahoma lead mines.  One of his jobs was smashing rocks with a sledgehammer.  His wrists, arms and shoulders were incredibly powerful.

“What (kept) me driving hard, from the time that I was ten, to hit the ball better and farther was first of all my own love for the game and then my love for my father,” Mickey said.  “I knew from the time I was small that every victory I won, and every solid hit I made, or prize I was awarded, brought real joy to my father’s heart.” 

In 1956 Mickey won baseball’s Triple Crown.  He batted .353, hit 52 homers, drove in 130 runs and won the first of his three Most Valuable Player Awards.  He had the highest figures for both the American and the National League and became the fourth player in history to achieve the record in a season. 

He ultimately lead the Yankees to seven world championships.

But Mickey may have made his biggest impact in the Yankee locker room.  For 15 seasons he gave his all in center field playing with osteomyelitis, a degenerative bone disease.  His teammates witnessed his pain firsthand.  Before each game he had his legs wrapped thickly in tape and bandages from ankle to mid-thigh.  It inspired his teammates to stretch a little further and play a little harder.   

“I always loved the game, but when my legs weren’t hurting, it was a lot easier to love,” said Mickey.

Mickey announced his retirement from baseball on March 1, 1969, one of the hardest moments of his life. 

“I just can’t play anymore,” he said.

On the ball field Mickey Mantle made fans believe anything was possible.  He was a hero to baseball lovers worldwide.

After baseball he lived the life of a fading star.  Mickey said he never really felt at home anywhere but on the baseball diamond.  It took a long time for alcohol to mess him up badly said one ex-Yankee teammate.  But it did.

On July 12, Hunt Auctions featured its Major League Baseball All-Star Fanfest Exhibition and Auction in Phoenix, Ariz.  Included in the sale was a selection of Mickey Mantle items. 

Mickey Mantle

Photo; Mickey in uniform sitting on steps; autographed; black-and-white; signed and inscribed; 1961; 16 inches by 20 inches;  $592.  

Photo; Mickey in uniform seated on bench; limited edition; signed; 16 inches by 20 inches;  $748.  

Poster; Mickey at bat; Sports Illustrated; signed; 1968; 2 feet by 3 feet approximate;  $863.  

Statue; “The Legend Lives,” pewter; by Michael Ricker; Mickey with young fan; signed metal placard; 10 ½ inches high;  $1,265.  

Bat; game-used; Louisville Slugger professional model; 1950-60;  $21,850.  

Rosemary McKittrick is a storyteller.  For 26 years she has brought the world of collecting to life in her column.  Her LiveAuctionTalk.com website is a mother lode of information about art, antiques and collectibles.  Rosemary received her education in the trenches working as a professional appraiser.

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