Baseball when I was growing up was the sport of all sports. Little did we know how much it would change. First of all we knew who the players on the team were from year to year. If you were a fan of a contender this was great; if your team was not a winner I guess this was a drawback. Winner or loser you knew the team, it was actually like family. As far as money goes, Mickey Mantle whom I am writing about, his biggest salary was $100,000. The average major league player was not even averaging $20,000. Major league baseball players in those days actually had an off season job to make ends meet. I would go to Yankee Stadium with my Dad and at times bring along a cousin and the general admittance was $3.50 a person. Box seats which were closer to the field were $5.50, bleacher seats out in center field were $1.00. A family lets say of four can at least afford to go to a game. Someone can say people were not making as much money in those days, but at least they could afford to go to a game. Today, if you want to see a game at Yankee Stadium the average price of a ticket is $84 a person. Multiply that by four people and you pay $336 per person. Naturally when you are at the game you will buy food,souvenirs and what have you. Why, because you have to pay for these over paid ballplayers. Its not the ballplayers fault, if the owners are dumb enough to put out that kind of money naturally the ball player is going to take it; the problem is the person who goes to these games has to be more of in the upper middle class range. All sports are into these ridiculous salaries now and I don’t see it changing.
Yes, I miss the Mick. It has been said by many people in the game who have judgment on this that Mickey Mantles first ten years in baseball he probably was the best baseball player that ever lived. The rest of this blog will be all about Mickey and his abilities. We know about his drinking and whatever other weaknesses he had. This is about his speed, accomplishments and his long distance homeruns. All the inserts in this blog is from the book “The Last Boy And The End Of America’s Childhood” by Jane Leavy.
His raw power, the unprecedented alloy of speed and power, spoke directly to our postwar optimism. His father mined Oklahoma’s depths for the lead and zinc that supported the country’s infrastructure and spurred its industrial growth. Mutt’s boy had honest muscles. His ham-hock forearms were wrought by actual work, not weight machines and steroid injections.pg.Preface
He played in twelve World Series in his first fourteen seasons and still holds World Series records for home runs (18), RBIs (40), walks (43), extra-base hits (26), and total bases (123).pg.Preface. He can hit from the right side and left. In other words a switch hitter. He hit 163 homers right handed and 373 homers left handed. He was natural from the right side but naturally he batted more times left handed because he faced more right handed pitchers.
One of my favorite statistics on Mickey was not even homeruns. He could run to first base from the left side in 3.1 seconds. Just look at your watch and watch 3 seconds and imagine someone running to first base in that time line. That is super fast. Some player at one time mentioned the fact that when Mickey ran down the line to first base he sounded like a locomotive. He would have no problem stealing bases and he stole most of the ones he attempted but the Yankee management didn’t want him to steal much because of his bad legs.If you put the number of days together he has lost to injuries he missed a total of two years.
The first game of the 1953 season opened up in Washington with the Yankees vising the Senators. Chuck Stobbs was pitching for the Senators. Mickey is up at the plate. The ball hit his bat traveling at an estimated speed of 110 miles per hour. It headed out of the ballpark toward Fifth Street,NW. The visiting bullpen down the left field line offered an unimpeded view. “Your waiting for it to come down, to go into the crowd,” backup catcher Ralph Houk said. “The next thing it’s over the crowd and out of the stadium. There’s a moment of silence. Everybody is looking that way- even all the infielders on the opposing team and the left fielder. He’s looking for it, and he can’t believe it went out.”The ball had traveled 565 feet.Pg.87 and 89.
“ One of the best athletic bodies I had ever seen, and that was before steroids,” Sundstrom said fifty years later. “He had such beautiful, strong, well- defined muscles.”pg.106. Frank Sundstrom was an assistant at the time of one of Mantles knee surgeries.
By 2001, James, paterfamilias of the stat-geek generation, had conceded that clarity had been all but lost in the numerical dust storm of mutating calculations and shiny new algorithms. But he remained unequivocal in the assessment first published in the 1985 edition of The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract: “Mickey Mantle was, at his peak in 1956-57 and again in 1961-62 a greater player than Willie Mays—and it is not a close difficult decision.”pg.134-135.
Nobody could play baseball better than Mickey Mantle played in 1956. He won the Triple Crown, leading the American League in home runs (52), RBIs (130), and batting average (.353). He was the Sporting News Major League Player of the Year and the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year. He received the Hickok Belt, awarded to the top professional athlete of the year, as well as the first-ever Babe Ruth Sultan of Swat crown as the major leagues’ top slugger.pg.152-153.
There is so much more to cover on the Mick. But I covered his speed, his power, his superb body without the use of steroids. I saw on TV the ball he almost hit out of Yankee Stadium. He missed it by 18 inches. He played in 12 World Series of which 7 were won. Mickey made baseball fun. His baseball cards are worth more than any other player. Many years after he retired he said that he charges money for autographs to make up for the little money he made as a baseball player. He always had that dry sense of humor. Yes Mickey, I miss you and I know the game of baseball misses you.