Mickey Mantle- the most popular baseball player ever? Maybe even the most popular American athlete ever? At least he is on the short list on both those lists. Mantle retired just as I was getting into baseball but those who were a little older than I- worshiped “The Mick.”  I got to see Mantle play in person- only after his career was over- in 1970 at an Old Timers Day in Pittsburgh where they brought back the 1960 Pirate- Yankee World Series participants.  I remember someone hitting a liner to center- Mantle running in and the ball going over his head… not a good memory.

Mantle was a 20 times All-Star, a leading factor in the Yankees winning seven World Series. He won three MVP Awards and in 1956 the American League Triple Crown. The greatest switch-hitter who ever lived.{his father Mutt Mantle taught him how to switch hit when he was a kid, he was named after Hall of Fame catcher Mickey Cochrane } With a name like Mickey Mantle–how could he have not been a great ballplayer?

This man achieved all those things after seriously injuring his knee in the World Series at the end of his rookie season. He tripped over an exposed drain pipe in the outfield and severely injured his right knee. He would play the rest of his career with a torn ACL- there was no surgery back in that time. Before the injury they said The Mick was the fastest player ever out of the batters box to first base. You have to wonder what he would have achieved if he hadn’t been injured and if he had taken care of himself. The Mick saw how every male in his family had died young, figured he would die young also- so he lived it up every moment he could. If he hadn’t gotten hurt and had taken better care of himself he may have been the greatest player who ever lived. For all his great accomplishments there are still some that say he could have even been greater.

Mantle died at the age of 63 in 1995 of liver cancer. Near the end he gave a press conference and told his fans who looked up to him as a role model- that he was no role model- that he blew it. Don’t be like me.

I bought the above t-shirt at a souvenir store across the street from Wrigley Field in the summer of 1992- bought a few t-shirts like this one that day- an Aaron- Mays- Clemente also.



    • Playing with the Yankees and a team that was in the World Series more often than not helped. Mick would have been a great player but I don’t think as celebrated if he had been an Indian, Brave, Senator, Pirates etc. He was with the right team- which isn’t to take anything away from him as a ballplayer.

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