When Mantle was four years old, the family moved to Commerce, Okla. The consummate athlete, Mantle played baseball, basketball, and football for Commerce High School. It looked like Mantle would choose football as his sport of choice when he was offered a scholarship to play halfback at the University of Oklahoma.
But football nearly ended his career and his life when he was injured during a game.
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After being kicked in the shin, Mantle came down with osteomyelitis, a disease that would have crippled him years earlier. Thankfully Mantle was saved with a new drug called penicillin, preventing the amputation and saving his life. Mantle had to wait until after his high school graduation, and signed the day of his commencement. Mantle, who was a switch hitter, played shortstop in the minors.
In , he finally made it to the majors. He went in his first major league game against the Boston Red Sox. But Mantle struggled in his first year and Yankee skipper Casey Stengel sent him down to the minors to re-tool. Not being able to collect himself, Mantle called his father out of frustration. Mutt came to Kansas City the next day to speak to his son. Mantle then decided to stick with baseball after being reprimanded by his father, and quickly broke out of his slump.
He went back to play 40 games for the Blues, averaging. Not long after that, he was recalled back to the Yankees.
When he was brought back up, he was given the number seven. He later stated how uncomfortable he was wearing the number six. In game two of the World Series, Mantle was playing right field. Before the game, Stengel urged Mantle to take any fly ball he could get because DiMaggio was basically at the end of his career, while Mantle was young and just starting his career.
In the fifth inning, Willie Mays of the Giants lifted a fly ball to right-center field. Mantle had a beat on the ball and could have easily caught it. Mantle had to be carried off the field on a stretcher, was sidelined for the rest of the series, and was forced to watch the remainder of the fall classic from a hospital bed. To add insult to injury, his father Mutt was sick with cancer, and died while Mantle was in the hospital. Despite obtaining a World Series ring in , Mantle looked to put the ugly end of the season behind him. After , Mantle began the better years of his illustrious career.
In , he slugged 23 home runs, had 87 RBI, and averaged.
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In only his second year, he was third in the running for the American League Most Valuable Player Award, and made the All-Star team for the first time. He would go on to be selected to 15 more All-Star games. By the time he was 15, Mickey Mantle was playing semipro ball with the Baxter Springs Whiz Kids, a local team of miners, former high-school stars, and even a former minor leaguer once in a while. But his focus quickly turned to the year-old shortstop, who hit two long home runs, one right-handed and one left-handed. Both landed in a creek well beyond the outfield fence.
Greenwade explained that because Mickey was only 16 years old, he would have to wait until he graduated from high school before the Yankees could sign him. In he hit an impressive. When the season ended Mantle returned home to Commerce to work with his father in the zinc and lead mines. One weekend he met a high-school senior named Merlyn Johnson, and the two began dating regularly.
Mickey Mantle: The Magnificent Yankee
Mantle got his first taste of major-league life when the Yankees called him up on September 17, Although he rode the bench for the remaining few days of the season, the year-old nevertheless traveled and took batting practice with the team. When Mantle arrived at spring training in , clubhouse manager Pete Sheehy gave him uniform number 6, the implication being that Mantle was expected to be the next great Yankee, and therefore should succeed Ruth uniform number 3 , Gehrig 4 , and DiMaggio 5. Joe DiMaggio increased the heat when he announced on March 1 that would be his final season.
Despite the heavy expectations suddenly thrust upon him, Mantle flourished in spring training, hitting prodigious home runs in batting practice and leaving teammates in the dust during running drills. Stengel was amazed, and he saw the future of the Yankees in the year-old who had never even stepped to the plate in a major-league game. I promise. The decision crushed Mantle. Three months earlier, he was being touted as the next Ruth, Gehrig, and DiMaggio all rolled into one.
Things were about to get worse. In his first 18 at-bats in Kansas City, he managed only three hits, one of them a bunt single. He grew lonely and despondent, believing that his career was over before it had a chance to begin. Mutt hung up the phone and drove from Commerce to Kansas City, where he confronted his son in his hotel room. Mantle reiterated that he had tried his hardest, but that he had lost his confidence and wanted to quit. I thought I raised a man, not a coward!
The incident lit a fire under Mantle, who went on a tear for the next month. By late August, after playing 40 games for Kansas City, Mantle was batting. Upon his return, he was assigned uniform number 7, which he would wear for the next 18 years. In the final 27 games of the season, Mantle hit. Mantle sprinted toward the ball and so did DiMaggio, each looking up as they closed in for what appeared to be a certain head-on collision.
Fans and players who saw him collapse from a distance said that it looked as if Mantle had been shot. On the way out of the stadium, Mutt Mantle was trying to help Mickey into a taxi that would take him to the hospital, but when Mickey leaned his full weight on his father, Mutt fell to the ground. Father and son were taken to the hospital together, and given side-by-side hospital beds in one room.
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Mickey had torn ligaments in his knee, and needed surgery. The two watched the rest of the World Series from their adjacent hospital beds. Mantle had surgery and was sent home to heal. Mutt was given a grim prognosis and sent home to die. He was 39 years old. For the rest of his playing days, Mantle told friends, he believed he would also die young. This belief haunted Mantle throughout his life, and was among the many pressures that led to much of his self-destructive behavior.
But not all was doom and gloom for Mickey. On December 23 he married Merlyn Johnson in Commerce. Mantle improved in , batting. The Yankees won their fourth straight pennant and beat the Brooklyn Dodgers in another memorable World Series. It had gone all the way back to the day that Tom Greenwade discovered him in The left-field foul pole was feet down the line. The sphere easily cleared the left-center fence and blew past the foot-high Mr.
Boh sign, clipping off his mustache and continuing its flight over the rooftops of houses across neighboring Fifth Street. Estimates of the length were between and feet. In addition to impressive displays of power for such a young player, Mantle continued to improve in all aspects of the game in He ended the season with a.
At just 21 years old, Mantle had already become a key element of a historic team that captured a fifth consecutive American League pennant. It was a new major-league record, surpassing the Yankees from through , and the Giants from through The Yankees won once again, this time in six games. Overall, Mantle hit only. One was a grand slam in Game Five. In Mantle hit. The Yankees bounced back and won the pennant in , and once again faced the Brooklyn Dodgers in the World Series.
This time the Dodgers prevailed, winning an unforgettable seven-game Series. He homered in Game Three, but was otherwise ineffective, batting. As disappointing as the end of the season was, Mantle soon had reason to be happy. It truly breaks my heart to see the restaurant close after almost a quarter century. The place bubbled with the optimism of hamburgers and home runs.
But what made my heart truly soar was seeing the 10 and year-olds bounce into Mickey Mantle's, just as exuberant as their parents. It amazed me that these young girls and boys were totally enchanted with the Mick, only because their fathers and mothers had filled them with his history and lore. And now, 24 years later, as Mickey Mantle's closes Bill valiantly tried to keep it going , those kids, now somethings, can pass the Mantle legacy on. Tap here to turn on desktop notifications to get the news sent straight to you.
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