Mickey Mantle was Recognized as a Future Great when He was 19-Years-Old

by on November 14th, 2013
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The date was March 10, 1951. It was the day that 19-year-old Mickey Mantle played his first game in a New York Yankees uniform. The Yankees faced the Cleveland Indians in Tucson, Arizona.

The New York Times bold print headline stated “…Rookie Mantle Belts Double and Two Singles in First Exhibition Game….”

According to legendary baseball writer James P. Dawson, a youth named Mickey Mantle was a ball of fire. He topped everyone in the game and hogged the limelight.

“Mantle led a 12-hit Yankee assault with three straight blows, including a double. He got on base every time he swung and has flashed his speed both on the bases and in guarding Joe DiMaggio’s centerfield berth….”

Mantle had three hits, stole a base and scored a pair of runs.

A few days later, the Yankees faced the Los Angeles Angels at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles. It was a day to remember, although almost no one does remember.

Mickey Mantle hit his first home run. The three-run blast came in the seventh inning off right-hander Bob Spicer. The ball traveled 420 feet to straight away center field.

The next day, Mantle continued to impress as he hit a single and a double. Dawson wrote

“The amazing rookie, Mickey Mantle, thrilled the gathering with some blinding speed on the base paths and contributed a double and a single to the Yankee assault.

“The youth from Joplin’s Class C Western Association club now is ’11 for 20,’ or a sweet .550 in the hitting department.”

On March 24, the Yankees announced that Mantle would go to New York with the team. It wasn’t certain whether he would become a regular, be added to the bench or eventually return to the minors for seasoning.

In Mantle’s favor was the fact that his speed, hitting ability, throwing arm and instinctive natural ability were universally recognized.

As spring training was drawing to a close, Mantle was batting .462, but problems were arising.

Mantle had been idle for three days because he bruised muscles in his right hand trying to hold up a swing. There was another problem as well.

Mantle told manager Casey Stengel that he had been ordered to report to his draft board in Miami, Oklahoma to be re-examined. Mantle had been classified 4-F because he had osteomylitis as a result of a high school football injury.

The Yankees were barnstorming to New York from Arizona and Stengel announced that Mantle’s parents would meet the Yankees in Kansas City and drive Mickey home.

Mickey Mantle was generally hailed as the greatest rookie since Joe DiMaggio. It was not hyperbole.

References:

Indians down yankees in 12th, 6-5, after 5 unearned runs tie score. (1951, Mar 11). New York Times (1923-Current File), pp. 151. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/111813086?accountid=46260

Jensen succeeding in his attempt to remain with yankees as an outfielder. (1951, Mar 18). New York Times (1923-Current File), pp. S2-S2. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/111801459?accountid=46260

Yankees blast los angeles, 13-4; 22,355 see raschi, DiMaggio star. (1951, Mar 19). New York Times (1923-Current File), pp. 39. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/111795374?accountid=46260

3 yankee rookies likely to remain. (1951, Mar 25). New York Times (1923-Current File), pp. 129. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/111977313?accountid=46260

23 yank hits top ElPaso, 16-10; draf board summons to mantle. (1951, Apr 05). New York Times (1923-Current File), pp. 38-38. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/112020304?accountid=46260


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