Former New York Yankees star Mickey Mantle dies of liver cancer at the age of 63. While “The Mick” patrolled center field and batted clean-up between 1951 and 1968, the Yankees won 12 American League pennants and seven World Series championships.
Mantle was born in Spavinaw, Oklahoma, on October 20, 1931. He grew up in nearby Commerce, and played baseball and football as a youth. With the help of his father, Mutt, and grandfather, Charlie, Mantle developed into a switch-hitter. Mutt pitched to Mantle right-handed and Charlie pitched to him left-handed every day after school. With the family’s tin barn as a backstop, Mantle perfected his swing, which his father helped model so it would be identical from either side of the plate. Mantle had natural speed and athleticism and gained strength working summers with his father in Oklahoma’s lead mines. “The Commerce Comet” eventually won a scholarship to play football for the University of Oklahoma. However, baseball was Mantle’s first love, so when the New York Yankees came calling, Mantle moved to the big city.
Mantle made his debut for the Yankees in 1951 at age 19, playing right field alongside aging center fielder Joe DiMaggio. That year, in Game 2 of the World Series, Willie Mays of the New York Giants hit a pop fly to short center, and Mantle sprinted toward the ball. DiMaggio called him off, and while slowing down, Mantle’s right shoe caught the rubber cover of a sprinkler head. “There was a sound like a tire blowing out, and my right knee collapsed,” Mantle remembered in his memoir, All My Octobers. Mantle returned the next season, but by then his blazing speed had begun to deteriorate, and he ran the bases with a limp for the rest of his career.
Still, Mantle dominated the American League for more than a decade. In 1956, he won the Triple Crown, leading his league in batting average, home runs and runs batted in. His output was so great that he led both leagues in 1956, hitting .353 with 52 home runs and 130 runs batted in. He was also voted American League MVP that year, and again in 1957 and 1962. After years of brilliance, Mantle’s career began to decline by 1967, and he was forced to move to first base. The next season would be his last. Mantle was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974 in his first year of eligibility.
Mantle’s father and son both died in their 30s, the result of Hodgkin’s disease. Mantle was sure the same fate would befall him, and joked he would have taken better care of himself if he knew he would live. In 1994, after years of alcoholism, Mantle was diagnosed with liver cancer, and urged his fans to take care of their health, saying “Don’t be like me.” Although he received a liver transplant, by then the cancer had spread to his lungs, and he died at just after 2 a.m. on August 13, 1995, at the Baylor University Cancer Center in Dallas.
At the time of his death Mantle held many of the records for World Series play, including most home runs (18), most RBIs (40) and most runs (42).
Yankees Legend Mickey Mantle Used His Forthcoming Heartbreaking Death to Warn Others About Substance Abuse
Without Mickey Mantle, the New York Yankees wouldn’t enter the 2021 season with 27 World Series titles to their name.
One of the greatest players in baseball history, Mantle mashed home runs during the day and lived a crazy life at night. Mantle joined teammates, including future Yankees manager Billy Martin, in spending many evenings at the bar.
That life eventually caught up to Mantle. A month before his tragic death in 1995, Mantle gave a nationally-televised speech where he warned his fans about substance abuse.
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Welcome to This Day in Yankees History. The season may be underway, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take a trip into the past. These daily posts will highlight two or three key moments in Yankees history on a given date, as well as recognize players born on the day. Hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane with us!
25 Years Ago
Mickey Mantle’s death the previous night in Dallas at age 63 makes front page news around the country. The “All American Boy” died with a liver wrought by hepatitis, cirrhosis, and cancer, all resulting from his legendary penchant for imbibition. Mantle lived by an off-day regiment of a “Breakfast of Champions,” which he described as, “a big glass filled with a shot or more of brandy, some Kahlúa and cream.” As the day continued, he’d “often keep on drinking until I couldn’t drink anymore,” Mantle regularly followed his “Breakfast” by drinking three or four bottles of wine over the course of an afternoon. The Mantle family had a prolific history of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, as five male Mantles succumbed to the disease including Mickey’s father and son. It was his father’s death when Mantle was only 19 that drove him to drink, “I was devastated, and that’s when I started drinking. I guess alcohol helped me escape the pain of losing him.” For much of his life, Mantle presumed his early demise to Hodgkins lymphoma would preempt any long-term damage his self-destructive drinking might cause. Though he eventually reversed course, as detailed in Sports Illustrated, his liver was long-shot even by the time he retired.
13 Years Ago
The rightful owner of number ten in Monument Park, Phil Rizzuto, dies of pneumonia after spending several years in declining condition. A one-time MVP and seven-time World Series champion, “The Scooter” was noted for his exquisite glove and ability to set the table for the stacked lineup behind him a lineup that at times included Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, and Mickey Mantle. After the conclusion of his playing career, the five-foot, six-inch, 150 pound spark-plug shared his infectious energy with Yankee fans at-large, punctuating nearly four decades of Yankee games on radio and television with his signature, “Holy Cow!”
Current Cardinals reliever Giovanny Gallegos turns 29. After coming up through the Bombers’ farm system and a middling stint at the back end of the rotation (playing only 22 innings in pinstripes), the Yankees traded Gallegos to the Cards in 2018 along with Chasen Shreve for Luke Voit. In a rare win-win move, Gallegos has improved as a Cardinal, posting a 2.31 ERA and 185 ERA+ for the Redbirds last season, while the Yankees took Voit’s history as a replacement-level first baseman and turned him into one of the most consistent sluggers in the American League whilst healthy.
Mickey Mantle, Great Yankee Slugger, Dies at 63
Mickey Mantle, the most powerful switch-hitter in baseball history and the successor to Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio as the symbol of the long reign of the New York Yankees, died of cancer yesterday in Dallas. He was 63.
Mantle died at 2:10 A.M. Eastern time at Baylor University Medical Center, succumbing to the disease that had spread from his liver to most of his other vital organs. His wife, Merlyn, and son David were at his bedside.
On June 8, Mantle underwent a transplant operation to replace a liver ravaged by cancer, hepatitis and cirrhosis. At the time, doctors said he would die within two to three weeks if he did not receive a new organ. On July 28, he re-entered Baylor Medical Center for treatment of cancerous spots in his right lung. Recently, he had been suffering from anemia, a side effect of aggressive chemotherapy treatment, and had been receiving blood transfusions. On Aug. 9, the hospital said the cancer had spread to his abdomen.
"This is the most aggressive cancer that anyone on the medical team has ever seen," said Dr. Goran Klintmalm, medical director of transplant services at Baylor. "But the hope in this is that Mickey left behind a legacy. Mickey and his team have already made an enormous impact by increasing the awareness of organ donation. This may become Mickey's ultimate home run."
Mantle, who said he was "bred to play baseball," traveled from the dirt-poor fields of Oklahoma to reach Yankee Stadium in the 1950's and, after his retirement in March 1969, the Baseball Hall of Fame as one of the superstars of the second half of the 20th century.
He commanded the biggest stage in sports as the center fielder for the most successful team in baseball, and he did it at a time when New York was blessed with three great center fielders renowned as "Willie, Mickey and the Duke," home run hitters who captivated the public in the 1950's as the leaders of memorable teams: Willie Mays of the Giants, Mantle of the Yankees and Duke Snider of the Brooklyn Dodgers.
He outlived the family curse of Hodgkin's disease, which had contributed to the death by heart attack of his 36-year-old son Billy, and the early deaths of his father, at 39, his grandfather and two uncles. He was separated from Merlyn, his wife of 43 years, although they remained friendly. He was an alcoholic, which doctors said was at least partly responsible for causing his liver cancer.
Through all the adversity, he exhibited a quiet but shrewd wit that he often unfurled in a down-home Oklahoma drawl. Of his fear of dying early, he once said: "I'll never get a pension. I won't live long enough." And after years of drinking and carousing with Whitey Ford and Billy Martin as his chief running mates, he joked, "If I knew I was going to live this long, Iɽ have taken better care of myself."
In the end, though, he had a more poignant message. In a news conference on July 11, a remorseful Mantle told the nation, especially its children: "Don't be like me. God gave me a body and the ability to play baseball. I had everything and I just . . ."
But that's not how he was remembered by teammates. "He was not a phony role model, and I think people really identified with that," former teammate Tony Kubek said. "Mick was never a contrived person, he was a genuine person. He brought a lot of Oklahoma with him to New York and never really changed. He showed a certain amount of humility and never let the stardom go to his head."
Said Gene Woodling, who played in the outfield beside Mantle for four seasons: "What can you say about Mickey after you say he was one of the greatest?" The Powerful Symbol Of a Yankee Dynasty
He was the storybook star with the storybook name, Mickey, or simply Mick, or Slick to Martin and Ford, who were also known as Slick to one another. He was the blond, muscled switch-hitter who joined the Yankees at 19 in 1951 as DiMaggio was winding down his Hall of Fame career. Wearing No. 7, he led the team through 14 years of the greatest success any baseball team has known before he endured four more years of decline.
He not only hit the ball, he hammered it. He hit often, he hit deep and he did it from both sides of the plate better than anyone else. He could drag a bunt, too, with runaway speed, and he played his role with a kind of all-American sense of destiny. He signed his first contract for $7,500 and his last for $100,000, which seemed princely enough at the time. But he became wildly famous for his strength, his dash, his laconic manner and, somewhat like Joe Namath in football, for his heroic performances on damaged knees.
Long after the cheers faded, so did Mantle, although he revived his image as a kind of fallen hero who carried his afflictions with grace and humor. He acknowledged that some of them were self-inflicted, especially drinking, a habit that had seemed harmless enough when crowds were cheering and he was playing and hitting home runs despite an occasional hangover.
In 1994, while presiding over Mickey Mantle's restaurant in Manhattan as a greeter, he entered the Betty Ford Center in Palm Springs, Calif., to undergo treatment for alcoholism. He came out of the clinic a chastened figure, and his frailty was reinforced by the public decline in his health since June. His transplant revived a debate over whether an alcoholic, even a recovering one, deserves a new liver, and whether his celebrity status had increased his chances of getting one.
Frail, and humbled by the sad events of his later life, Mantle received thousands of letters of support after his transplant operation and discovered that the public could forgive and forget. People chose instead to remember his baseball feats, unforgettably part of the heroic character he portrayed.
He was the anchor of the team for 18 seasons, first in center field and later, when his knees couldn't take the stress anymore, at first base. He played in 2,401 games and went to bat 8,102 times -- more than any other Yankee -- and delivered 2,415 hits for a .298 batting average. He hit 344 doubles, 72 triples and 536 home runs (373 left-handed, 163 right-handed), and he knocked in 1,509 runs.
He led the American League in home runs four times (in 1955, 1956, 1958 and 1960) and led the league in almost everything in 1956, when he won the triple crown with these totals: a .353 batting average, 130 runs batted in and 52 home runs. He was named the league's most valuable player in 1956, 1957 and 1962. He also hit a record total of 18 home runs in 12 World Series, and 2 more in 16 All-Star Games.
He took such an all-out swing at the ball that he struck out regularly and broke the record set two generations earlier by Ruth. It was a record that Mantle put into perspective when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame on Aug. 12, 1974.
"I also broke Babe Ruth's record for strikeouts," Mantle said. "He struck out only 1,500 times. I did it 1,710 times."
During their empire years, the Yankees built on the mountains of success they had fashioned in the days since Ruth joined them in 1920. In the 1920's, they won six American League pennants and three World Series. In the 1930's, they won five pennants and five World Series. In the 1940's, they won five pennants and four Series. And then came the era of Mantle.
In 1950, the year before he arrived, the Yankees won the Series again. With Mantle established in the lineup, they won the pennant seven times and the Series five times in the next eight years. And from 1960-64, with the addition of Roger Maris, they won five pennants and two World Series.
Not only that, but in their championship year of 1961, Mantle and Maris provided a seasonlong drama in their chase of Ruth's home run record Mantle, sidelined by an abscessed hip, dropped out in mid-September with 54, while Maris finished with a record 61. Early Baseball Lessons From Both Sides of Plate
Mickey Charles Mantle was born in Spavinaw, Okla., on Oct. 20, 1931. His father, Elvin, nicknamed Mutt, worked in the zinc mines. But he was also a part-time baseball player who had such a passion for the game that he named his son in honor of Mickey Cochrane, the great catcher for the Philadelphia Athletics and player-manager for the Detroit Tigers. When Mantle was 4 years old, his father would come home from work and teach him how to swing the bat from both sides of the plate while his mother held dinner for them until there was no more daylight.
"When I was a kid," Mantle remembered a few years after he retired, "I used to work in the mines with my dad for $35 a week. Then my dad got me a job cleaning out the area around telephone poles. You see, when you have a prairie fire, if you don't clean out a 10-yard spot around a telephone pole, it will burn the telephone pole out, and it will cost you a lot of money.
"I was still in high school and we were living out near Commerce in 1948, and we didn't have a hell of a lot. My mother made every baseball uniform I ever wore till I signed with the Yankees. I mean, she sewed them right on me. I was 16 years old then, and my brothers and me would play ball out in the yard or out back in one of the fields.
"I was also playing semipro ball for a team they called the Baxter Springs Whiz Kids, and one night a scout from the Yankees named Tom Greenwade came through Baxter Springs. The ball park was right beside the road, and he was on his way to watch some guy play in another town. But he pulled his car over and stopped and watched us play. And I hit three home runs in that game, two right-handed and one left-handed, and one of them even landed in the river out beyond the outfield.
"When I graduated from high school in 1949, Greenwade showed up again. He even got me out of the commencement exercises so I could play ball because he was thinking of signing me for the Yankees. I think I hit two more home runs that night. When Greenwade came back a week later, he said heɽ give me a $1,500 bonus and $140 a month for the rest of the summer. That's how I signed with the Yankees."
The Yankees started Mantle at Independence, Kan., where they had a Class D minor league club. He hit .313, played shortstop and made 47 errors in 89 games. The next summer, at 18, he played Class C ball in Joplin, Mo., where he hit .383 but made 55 errors in 137 games at shortstop, mostly on wild throws to first base. The team won the pennant by 25 games, and the following spring, he was in Phoenix as a rookie with the Yankees.
Ford, his ally on and off the field for years, remembered how shy and inarticulate the young Mantle seemed when he reported.
"Everything he owned was in a straw suitcase," he said. "No money, none of those $400 suits he got around to buying a couple of years later. Just those two pairs of pastel slacks and that blue sports coat that he wore every place.
"Years later, we were sitting around the dining room at the Yankees' ball park in Fort Lauderdale, and they had this oilcloth on the table, and Mickey said: 'This is what we used to have in our kitchen at home. We didn't even have chairs then we had boxes instead of chairs, and linoleum on the floor. And when it got cold, the draft would raise the linoleum up at the ends.' "
Mantle was so insecure that he remembered later how he had ducked DiMaggio, even though he was playing his final season in center field and Mantle, who had been converted from shortstop to the outfield, was playing alongside him in right.
"Joe DiMaggio was my hero," Mantle said, "but he couldn't talk to me because I wouldn't even look at him, although he was always nice and polite." Trip Back to Minors In First Year in Majors
Two months into the 1951 season, Manager Casey Stengel sent Mantle down to the Yankees' top farm team in Kansas City because he was striking out too much. Against Walt Masterson of the Boston Red Sox he struck out five times in one game. He stayed in the minors for 40 games, returned to New York and closed his rookie season hitting .267 with 13 home runs in 96 games.
"Then in the World Series in 1951," Mantle said, "I tripped on the water-main sprinkler in the outfield while I was holding back so DiMaggio could catch a ball that Willie Mays hit, and I twisted my knee and got torn ligaments. That was the start of my knee operations. I had four.
"Once, they operated on my shoulder and tied the tendons together. I had a cyst cut out of my right knee another time. And down in Baltimore in 1963, Slick was pitching one night and Brooks Robinson hit a home run over the center-field fence. I jumped up and tried to catch it, and got my foot caught in the wire mesh on the fence, and that time I broke my foot about halfway up."
He became one of the damaged demigods of sport, but he played with such natural power that he remained the key figure on a team achieving towering success for the fifth straight decade.
His strength as a hitter became legendary. In 1953, batting right-handed, he hit a ball thrown by Chuck Stobbs of the Washington Senators over the 55-foot-high left-field fence in Griffith Stadium, a drive that was measured at 565 feet from home plate. Three years later, and again in 1963, batting left-handed each time, he smashed a ball into the third deck, within a few feet of the peak of the facade in right field in Yankee Stadium, and no one has come closer to driving a fair ball out of the park.
In 1956, he hit 16 home runs in May. In 1964, he hit two home runs in his final two times at bat on July 4, and two more in his first two times up in the next game the following day. In 1956, he hit three home runs in the World Series, three more in the 1960 Series and three more in the 1964 Series, running his total to 18 and breaking Ruth's record.
"Casey Stengel was like a father to me," Mantle said. "Maybe because I was only 19 years old when I started playing for him, and a couple of years later my own dad was gone. The Old Man really helped me a lot. I guess he even protected me. But I still didn't have it in my head that I was a good major league ballplayer.
"Then Ralph Houk came along and changed my whole idea of thinking about myself. I still didn't have a lot of confidence. Not till Houk came along and told me, 'You are going to be my leader. You're the best we've got.' "
After Leaving Baseball, Day and Night Drinking
The Yankees stopped winning pennants after the 1964 season, and Mantle stopped playing after the 1968 season. He remembered later what it was like: "When I first retired," he wrote in an article in Sports Illustrated in 1994, "it was like Mickey Mantle died. I was nothing. Nobody gave a damn about Mickey Mantle for about five years."
By then, he reported, he was living in a steady haze induced by all-day and all-night drinking.
"When I was drinking," he said, "I thought it was funny -- the life of the party. But as it turned out, nobody could stand to be around me. I was the best man at Martin's wedding in 1988, and I can hardly remember being there." Martin died in a one-vehicle accident on Christmas night 1989. He was legally drunk at the time.
Mantle admitted that drinking had become a way of life even while he was playing. But it finally became a nightmare that undermined his life. And at the request of his son Danny and Pat Summerall, the former football player and current television broadcaster, he checked into the Betty Ford Center in 1994.
He remembered what his doctor told him then: "Your liver is still working, but it has healed itself so many times that before long you're just going to have one big scab for a liver. Eventually, you'll need a new liver. I'm not going to lie to you: The next drink you take may be your last."
There was no next drink, Mantle said. And after leaving the Betty Ford Center, he seemed to be a revived person.
"Everywhere I go," he said, "guys come up and shake hands and say, 'Good job, Mick.' It makes you feel good. It's unbelievable. They give a damn now."
In addition to his wife and son David, he is survived by two other sons, Danny and Mickey Jr.
Mickey Mantle Biography
Mickey Mantle was born on October 20, 1931, in Spavinaw, Oklahoma. When he was four, his family moved to Commerce, Oklahoma, where he spent the rest of his childhood. His dad taught him how to play baseball and how to be switch hitter (bat right handed and left handed). Mickey was an outstanding athlete from an early age. He played baseball, basketball and football in high school. A high-school football injury to his leg resulted in an infection that nearly necessitated its amputation. Although the infection eventually subsided, he would suffer from its effects for the rest of this life.
Mickey was signed by the New York Yankees at age 18. He was so talented that he almost immediately was called up from the minor leagues to the Yankees. Yankees management believed he would be the next great Yankees star and gave him the number "6" (Babe Ruth was 3, Lou Gehrig was 4, and Joe Dimaggio was 5). The pressure on the 20 year-old kid from Oklahoma was intense. Mickey played poorly in his first stint in the major leagues and was sent back to the minors. It was a devastating setback to Mantle. He even thought of quitting. Nevertheless, he was soon called back up to the majors. This time, he wore the number "7". The rest, they say is history.
Mickey Mantle went on to enjoy an incredible baseball career as the Yankees starting center fielder for 18 years. He was one of the most popular athletes in sports history. Kids and adults alike, throughout the nation, idolized "The Mick". He played for the New York Yankees from 1951-1968. During that time, he hit 536 home runs, several of which are said to be among the longest in history. He was a 16 time All-Star and won three American League MVP (Most Valuable Player) awards. He played on seven World Championship Yankee teams, and still holds the Major League record for World Series Home Runs (18), RBIs (40) and runs scored (42). In 1956, Mickey Mantle won the Major League Triple Crown, hitting 52 home runs, batting .353, and knocking in 130 runs (RBI's). Injuries to Mickey's legs eventually caught up with him. He retired on March 1, 1969. He was inducted in the Major League Baseball Hall-of-Fame in 1974. His number "7" was retired by the Yankees.
Mickey Mantle died 25 years ago
The Mick. The Commerce Comet. One of the best to play the game.
Those are just some of the monikers Mickey Mantle earned over the course of his baseball career, all with the New York Yankees. Mantle died on Aug. 13, 1995, at the age of 63 from liver cancer.
Mantle was born Oct. 20, 1931, in Spavinaw, Oklahoma, and was christened “Mickey” in honor of Mickey Cochrane, a Hall of Fame catcher. His family moved to nearby Commerce when he was 4.
Mantle began his professional baseball career in Kansas with the semi-professional Baxter Springs Whiz Kids. He was spotted by a Yankees scout in 1948. The team signed Mantle to a minor league contract after he graduated high school. He made his debut with the big league club as a 19-year-old rookie in 1951.
Mantle was a center fielder, right fielder and first baseman. He became one of the greatest switch hitters in baseball history.
Mantle is 16th all time in home runs per at-bats. He won the MVP Award three times, came in second three times and came within nine votes of winning five times.
Mantle won the Triple Crown in 1956, when he led the major leagues in batting average, home runs and RBI. He was a 16-time All-Star. Mantle played in 12 World Series, including seven championships, and he holds World Series records for the most home runs, RBI, extra-base hits, runs, walks and total bases.
He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974 and elected to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team in 1999.
Ford was born in Manhattan. At age five, he moved to the Astoria neighborhood of Queens, a few miles from the Triborough Bridge to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.  He attended public schools and graduated from the Manhattan High School of Aviation Trades. 
In 1951, Ford married Joan at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Glen Cove, New York on Long Island. They lived in this city for a period during the 1950s. They had two sons and a daughter together. 
Early years Edit
Ford was signed by the New York Yankees as an amateur free agent in 1947 and played his entire career with them. While still in the minor leagues, he was nicknamed "Whitey" for his light blond hair. 
Ford began his Major League Baseball career on July 1, 1950, with the Yankees. He won his first nine decisions before losing a game in relief. Ford received a handful of lower-ballot Most Valuable Player (MVP) votes despite throwing just 112 innings, and won the Sporting News Rookie of the Year Award. 
During the Korean War era, in 1951 and 1952, Ford served in the United States Army.  He rejoined the Yankees for the 1953 season, and the Yankee "Big Three" pitching staff became a "Big Four", as Ford joined Allie Reynolds, Vic Raschi, and Eddie Lopat.   Ford wore number 19 in his rookie season,  but upon his return he changed to number 16, which he wore for the remainder of his career. 
Ford eventually went from the number-four pitcher on a great staff to the universally acclaimed number-one pitcher of the Yankees. He became known as the "Chairman of the Board" for his ability to remain calm and in command during high-pressure situations. He was also known as "Slick", a nickname given to him, Billy Martin, and Mickey Mantle by manager Casey Stengel, who called them Whiskey Slicks. Ford's guile was necessary because he did not have an overwhelming fastball, but being able to throw several other pitches very well gave him pinpoint control. Ford was an effective strikeout pitcher for his time, tying the then-AL record of six consecutive strikeouts in 1956, and again in 1958. Ford never threw a no-hitter, but he pitched two consecutive one-hit games in 1955 to tie a record held by several pitchers. Sal Maglie, star pitcher for the New York Giants, thought Ford had a similar style to his own, writing in 1958 that Ford had a "good curve, good control, [a] changeup, [and an] occasional sneaky fastball." 
In 1955, Ford led the American League in complete games and games won in 1956 in earned run average and winning percentage in 1958, in earned run average and in both 1961 and 1963, in games won and winning percentage.  Ford won the Cy Young Award in 1961 he likely would have won the 1963 AL Cy Young, but this was before the institution of a separate award for each league, and Ford could not match Sandy Koufax's numbers for the Los Angeles Dodgers of the National League (NL). 
Some of Ford's totals were depressed by Yankees' manager Casey Stengel, who viewed Ford as his top pitching asset and often reserved his ace left-hander for more formidable opponents such as the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox. When Ralph Houk became the manager in 1961, he promised Ford that he would pitch every fourth day, regardless of the opponent after exceeding 30 starts only once in his nine seasons under Stengel, Ford had 39 in 1961. Indeed 1961 was his first 20-win season, a career-best 25–4 record, and the Cy Young Award ensued, but Ford's season was overshadowed by the home run battle between Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle. As a left-hander with an excellent pick-off move, Ford was also deft at keeping runners at their base: He set a record in 1961 by pitching 243 consecutive innings without allowing a stolen base. 
In May 1963, after pitching a shutout, Ford announced he had given up smoking. He said, "My doctor told me that whenever I think of smoking, I should think of a bus starting up and blowing the exhaust in my face." 
Final years and retirement Edit
Ford ended his career in declining health. In August 1966, he underwent surgery to correct a circulatory problem in his throwing shoulder.  In May 1967, Ford lasted just one inning in what would be his final start,  and he announced his retirement at the end of the month at age 38. 
After retiring, Ford admitted in interviews to having occasionally doctored baseballs. Examples were the "mudball", used at home in Yankee Stadium. Yankee groundskeepers would wet down an area near the catcher's box where the Yankee catcher Elston Howard was positioned pretending to lose balance, Howard would put down his hand with the ball and coat one side of the ball with mud and throw it to Ford. Ford also engaged in ball scuffing, sometimes used the diamond in his wedding ring to gouge the ball, but he was eventually caught by an umpire and warned to stop. Howard sharpened a buckle on his shinguard and used it to scuff the ball. 
Ford described his illicit behavior as a concession to age:
I didn't begin cheating until late in my career when I needed something to help me survive. I didn't cheat when I won the twenty-five games in 1961. I don't want anybody to get any ideas and take my Cy Young Award away. And I didn't cheat in 1963 when I won twenty-four games. Well, maybe a little. 
Ford admitted to doctoring the ball in the 1961 All Star Game at Candlestick Park to strike out Willie Mays. Ford and Mantle had accumulated $1,200 ($10,267 today) in golf pro shop purchases as guests of Horace Stoneham at the Giants owner's country club. Stoneham promised to pay their tab if Ford could strike out Mays. "What was that all about?" Mays asked. "I'm sorry, Willie, but I had to throw you a spitter," Ford replied. 
Ford won 236 games for the New York Yankees (career 236–106), still a franchise record.  Ford is tied with Dave Foutz for the fourth-best winning percentage in baseball history at .690. 
Ford's 2.75 earned run average is the third-lowest among starting pitchers whose careers began after the advent of the live-ball era in 1920. Only Clayton Kershaw (2.51) and Jacob deGrom (2.61) have a lower ERA.  Ford's worst ERA in a single season was 3.24.  Ford had 45 shutout victories in his career,  including eight 1–0 wins. 
As a hitter, Ford posted a .173 batting average (177-for-1,023) with 91 runs, 3 home runs, 69 runs batted in (RBI), and 113 bases on balls. In 22 World Series games, he batted .082 (4-for-49) with 4 runs, 3 RBI, and 7 walks. Defensively, he recorded a .961 fielding percentage. 
Did Mickey Mantle Really Hit a 565-Foot Home Run?
Gene Woodling swore that Mickey Mantle’s prodigious 565-foot home run at Washington’s Griffith Stadium on April 17, 1953 — considered to be the longest homer in major league history — wasn’t the farthest ball he’d ever seen hit.
Woodling, who played six years with the New York Yankees (1949–54) and was a member of five consecutive World Series champions, told ex-teammate Phil Rizzuto that Mantle hit one even farther in 1954.
“I was there the day he hit that ball out of Griffith Stadium,” Woodling said in Rizzuto’s book The October Twelve, published in 1994. “He hit one farther the next year at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis. But he got so much publicity the year before that they couldn’t surpass it. No one, including Babe Ruth, hit them consistently as far as Mantle did. Mantle was unbelievable. I don’t think he ever realized the talent he had. He was just a small-town boy who came to New York to swing a bat.”
It was 25 years ago today that Mantle died at the age of 63 from a heart attack which occurred a little more than two months after he’d received a liver transplant. He was one of baseball’s greatest stars, a hero to a generation of baseball fans in New York, so this is a good time to reflect on one of his most enduring achievements, this colossal home run.
Now, one can debate how far Mantle’s home run in Washington actually traveled. The remarkable technology used today to measure home run distances wasn’t available back in 1953 when the Yankees were playing their fourth game of the 1953 season.
It lives on perhaps more as myth than fact, but hey, there’s nothing wrong with myth to stir a debate.
Mantle, who had hit 23 home runs in 1952 and two more during New York’s seven-game World Series triumph over Brooklyn, hadn’t yet gone deep in 1953. With two out in the fifth inning and New York ahead 2–1, Chuck Stobbs walked Yogi Berra, then threw a 1–0 fastball to Mantle and watched him club it an ungodly distance.
The ball went soaring to left-center where the base of the home run wall was 391 feet from home plate. The distance to the back of the grandstand wall was 69 more feet and it hit an advertising sign and caromed out of the park. Allegedly, the ball cleared Fifth Street and finally rolled to a stop 565 feet from the batters’ box in the backyard of a home at 434 Oakdale Street.
As soon as it happened, Arthur Patterson of the Yankees front office staff had the presence of mind to go find where the ball ended up, but before he reached the spot, he was met by a 10-year-old boy, Donald Dunaway, who had the ball in his hand.
He showed Patterson where he found the ball, and Patterson made the distance calculation, unscientific as it was. In exchange for the ball, Patterson gave young Donald a dollar and later sent him five more dollars and two Mantle-autographed baseballs.
Was this the farthest home run ever hit? It’s impossible to know. A few years ago, Aaron Judge of the Yankees hit a home run that was measured at 495 feet. Had it not been stopped by the back of the bleachers in left — center at Yankee Stadium, how far would it have rolled? Probably a lot farther than 565 feet.
Baseball is a sport steeped in history, so the 565-foot Mantle home run will always remain part of the lore. More important to the Yankees that day, it signaled that the young slugger was on his way to super-stardom.
Mantle had debuted in 1951 and had started so poorly that he was demoted to the minor leagues for a couple months. Upon his return to the Yankees, he finished the season with 13 home runs and a .792 OPS, but then suffered a gruesome knee injury in Game 2 of the World Series against the Giants.
He was able to return in 1952 and led the American League in OPS at .924, so there were signs of the greatness to come, but the home run in Washington cemented the notion that Mantle would soon be on a Hall of Fame track.
Manager Casey Stengel admitted to being awed by Mantle’s achievement. He also expressed pleasure in the progress Mantle had made on his right-handed batting.
“He’s come a long way batting from both sides,” Stengel said. “When Mickey first came up (in 1951), most of us thought he should only bat left-handed. But he has learned to hit all kinds of pitching. He’s learned how to cut down on strikeouts and all I can is that he might go on to become the greatest left-handed hitter and the greatest right-handed hitter. I no longer care on which side he swings. Only Ruth and Gehrig, left-handers, and Jimmy Foxx, a right-hander, compare with Mickey in hitting the lone ones.”
The ball and bat used by Mantle were requested for enshrinement in the Hall of Fame by the museum’s curator, Sid Keener. However, the items were encased and placed on display at Yankee Stadium for the remainder of the 1953 season before moving upstate to Cooperstown.
One place the ball wasn’t going was back to Mantle’s native Joplin, Okla.
“If I send the ball home, I know what will happen to it,” he said. “My twin brothers will take it out on the lot like any 20-cent rocket. I got the ball I hit for my first major-league homer and sent it home all autographed and dolled up. The kids belted it out of shape.”
Merlyn Mantle, Who Was Married to Yankees Great for 43 Years, Dies at 77
Merlyn Mantle, who for 43 years lived through the glory and the tumult of being married to the New York Yankees great Mickey Mantle, died Monday in Plano, Tex., a suburb of Dallas. She was 77.
The cause was complications from Alzheimer’s disease, said Marty Appel, a family spokesman.
Merlyn and Mickey Mantle met in 1949 when he was a star player at Commerce (Okla.) High School and she was a cheerleader at archrival Picher High School.
“I developed an instant crush on Mickey Mantle, and by our second or third date, I was in love with him and always would be,” Mrs. Mantle wrote in a 1996 memoir, “A Hero All His Life.”
The Mantles married in 1951, after Mickey’s rookie year with the Yankees.
For 18 seasons, Mantle symbolized athletic brilliance as perhaps the greatest switch-hitter in baseball history. With a .298 career batting average, 536 homers and 1,509 runs batted in, he led the Yankees to seven World Series championships. He was an All-Star for 16 of those 18 years and in 1974 was inducted into Hall of Fame. His injuries, and the pain he played through, only enhanced his heroic stature.
It was only after Mantle’s career ended that the world learned of his drinking and womanizing. The drinking escalated in retirement as he struggled with what to do with himself.
“It took me a long time to admit Mick was an alcoholic,” Mrs. Mantle told The New York Times in 2001. She, too, became an alcoholic.
Cancer took its toll on the family. One of the Mantles’ four sons, Billy, had Hodgkin’s lymphoma for half his life and died of a heart attack in 1994 at age 36. Another son, Mickey Jr., died of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2000, at 47.
Mickey Mantle died of cancer on Aug. 13, 1995, two months after receiving a liver transplant.
Merlyn Louise Johnson was born in Cardin, Okla., on Jan. 28, 1932, one of two daughters of Giles and Reba Johnson. She is survived by two sons, David of McKinney, Tex., and Danny of Plano, Tex. her sister, Pat LaFalier of Miami, Okla. and four grandchildren.
Merlyn and Mickey Mantle were separated for the last six years of their marriage. Mrs. Mantle lived in a condominium in Dallas that remained something of a shrine to her husband. Its walls were lined with photographs of him and magazine covers. A display case held three most valuable player trophies the silver bat for his 1956 Triple Crown and the balls he hit for, among others, his 512th and 535th home runs and for his record-breaking 16th World Series homer.
Asked why she never divorced him, Mrs. Mantle said: “I adored Mick. I thought I couldn’t live without him. In many ways, he was very good to me, very generous. I never wanted a divorce, and he never asked for one.”
“Mickey Mantle Day” September 18th, 1965
It was mid-September 1965. America was in an unsettled time, as the Vietnam War and civil rights unrest were part of an unhappy national scene. Yet life went on. “Help,” by the Beatles, was the No. 1 hit on the Billboard pop music chart The Sound of Music was leading the film box office and James Michener’s The Source was atop the New York Times fiction bestsellers list. In August, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law, but several days later the Watts Riots began in Los Angeles, underscoring the nation’s racial strife. However, on September 18th at New York’s Yankee Stadium, much of the outside world was suspended, if only briefly, as more than 50,000 baseball fans cheered their hero, Mickey Mantle, the famed slugger of the New York Yankees. It was “Mickey Mantle Day.”
Sept 18th, 1965: Former Yankee, Joe DiMaggio, presents Mickey Mantle to some 50,000 fans at Yankee Stadium on “Mickey Mantle Day” in New York. Mantle would also play his 2,000th game that day. AP photo.
Mantle, 33, was then in his 15th year with the Yankees. In June that year, Yankee management feared Mantle might be nearing the end of his playing days so they decided to give him a special day at the stadium. Only four other Yankees had been so honored – Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Yogi Berra. Mantle, who had played his entire career with the Yankees, had been a key player since his arrival as an 19-year old rookie in 1951. He had won three American League MVP Awards, a Triple Crown in 1956, and had made 14 All-Star appearances. He also figured prominently in the team’s World Series appearances. A fan favorite, Mantle was adored in New York and generally loved throughout the baseball world.
Portion of the cover of special program booklet issued by the New York Yankees for “Mickey Mantle Day.”
At Yankee Stadium on September 18th, the ceremony honoring Mantle began at 1:00 pm, about an hour before a scheduled game with the Detroit Tigers. Famed announcer, Red Barber was master of ceremonies. Along with Mantle on the field that day, were his wife, Merlyn, and his eldest son, Mickey,.Jr, with three other sons watching from home. Among attending VIPs that day was U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy (D-NY).
The Yankee organization had issued a special program for the day, with a centerfold of pages and photo collage devoted to Mantle and his career. And as was then the custom with such “special days” honoring national athletes, a cascade of gifts from fans, businesses, and organization were bestowed on Mantle and his family – though at the time Mantle was the highest paid player in Major League baseball.
Joe DiMaggio presented Mantle to some 50,000 fans at Yankee Stadium that day.“I am proud and honored to introduce the man who succeeded me in centerfield here in 1951,” said DiMagio. “He lived up to all expectations and there is no doubt in my mind that he will one day be in the Hall of Fame.”
Mantle then moved to the microphone to make his remarks, paying homage to DiMaggio, saying, “I think just to have the greatest baseball player I ever saw introduce me is tribute enough for me in one day.” Acknowledging that he was nervous, he generally thanked those who helped him through his career, saying he hoped he’d lived up to their expectations. “To have any kind of success in life I think you have someone behind you to push you ahead and to share it with you…. And I certainly have that,” he said, acknowledging his wife Merlyn, his four boys, and his mother, in attendance that day with Merlyn and young Mickey.
Mickey Mantle making remarks at “Mickey Mantle Day,” Sept 18th, 1965.
Then he closed his remarks, noting: “There’s been a lot written in the last few years about the pain that I’ve played with. But I want you to know that when one of you fans, whether it’s in New York or anywhere in the country, say ‘Hi Mick! How you feeling?’ or ‘How’s your legs?,’ it certainly makes it all worth it. All the people in New York, since I’ve been here, have been tremendous with me. Mr. Topping, all of my teammates, the press and the radio and the TV, have just been wonderful. I just wish I had 15 more years with you….”
However, in 1965, Mickey Mantle was having a rough time of it, especially earlier in the season. He was not at his best. In fact, in June that year, he was hurting with injuries and slumping, batting only .240. Not happy with his performance, Mantle at the time thought about quitting. But he persevered, nonetheless, and made a bit of comeback, though still underperforming his then lifetime .308 average. He had also been moved from his traditional centerfield position to the somewhat less demanding left field.
In mid-August that year, Yankee manager Johnny Keane remarked on Mantle’s season: “Mickey has played at half-mast most of the season. But now, I’m seeing him at his best. He may not admit it, but he has cut down on his swing and still hits some real good shots. And when he does, the whole team brightens up. He’s the leader, no doubt about it, and he always wants to play.”
Two years earlier, in 1963, Mantle broke a bone in his left foot in a game against Baltimore, and played only 65 games that year. But in 1964, he came roaring back, playing in 143 games with 34 home runs and 111 runs batted in, compiling a .303 average. In the 1964 World Series, although the Yankees lost to the St, Louis Cardinals, Mantle hit for a .333 average with three home runs, eight RBIs, and eight runs scored. Mantle’s three home runs in that Series, however, raised his World Series total to a record-setting 18, surpassing Babe Ruth’s mark of 15.
In addition to the World Series home run record held by Mantle, his other World Series records include: most RBIs (40), most extra-base hits (26), most runs scored (42), most walks (43), and most total bases (123).
1965: Mickey Mantle on the cover of Sports Illustrated, with story speculating about the demise of the Yankees.
A Sports Illustrated magazine piece that ran a few months prior to Mickey Mantle Day, on June 21, 1965, had featured Mantle on its cover with the tagline, “New York Yankees, End of An Era.” The story focused on the possible end of the Yankee dynasty that had dominated the game, owed in part to the ebbing careers of “big men” players like Mantle. But in the piece, author Jack Mann noted how an injured Mantle amazed his competitors with his continued play:
…Mantle, the one-man orthopedic ward, is even more a symbol of the Yankees in crisis than he was in their predominance. He plays on, on agonized legs that would keep a clerk in bed, and the opposition wonders how. “He’s hurting worse than ever,” says [former Yankee] John Blanchard…, “but he won’t admit it.”
“I don’t see how the heck he can keep going,” says Baltimore’s Norm Siebern, another ex-Yankee. ‘It has to be his last year,’ an American League manager concluded after watching the 33-year-old Mantle for the first time this season. ‘He can’t go on that way.’
But he did go on – for another three seasons in fact. His production was down in those years, cut in half from what he did in his prime. Still, he hit .288 in 1966 and played in more than 140 games in each of 1967 and 1968. And over those three years he continued to hit home runs – 23 in 1966, 22 in 1967 and 18 in 1968, with more than 50 RBIs in each of those years. He finished with a lifetime batting average just under .300, at .298 over 18 years. In that span he played in more than 2,400 games with a career total 536 home runs and 1,509 RBIs.
“A Macho Thing”
Home Runs: 1964
David Halberstam, the famous American journalist, in his book, October 1964, chronicles the respective 1964 World Series-bound seasons of the New York Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals. In the excerpt below, he recounts one of Mickey Mantle’s home runs, and a bit of baseball’s home run lore, beginning with an August 1964 game at Yankee Stadium with the Chicago White Sox:
…Mantle was relaxed after the game, almost boyishly happy.”I’m glad I didn’t bang my bat down,” he told the assembled reporters. He loved the tape -measure home runs – they were his secret delight in the game. The reporters who covered him were aware of this, and knew how relaxed and affable he would be in the locker room after he hit one…
…Again and again when Mantle was younger, [former Yankee manager, Casey] Stengel had tried to get him to cut down on this swing, telling him that he was so strong, the home runs were going to come anyway, and they did not need to be such mammoth shots if he cut back on his swing, his batting average would go up dramatically. That made no impression on Mantle, for he loved the tape-measure drives he loved just knowing that every time he came to bat he might hit a record drive he loved the roar of the crowd when he connected, and was equally aware of the gasp of the crowd when he swung and missed completely, a gasp that reflected a certain amount of awe…
Mickey Mantle holding a home run ball he hit some years earlier at Yankee Stadium in a July 1957 game that traveled an estimated 465 feet.
Back at “Mickey Mantle Day” in September 1965… As the scheduled game got underway that day, the pitcher for Detroit Tigers was a young right hander named Joe Sparma. When Mantle came up to bat in the bottom of the first inning, with two outs, he received a thunderous ovation from the crowd that day at Yankee Stadium. But then, Tiger pitcher Joe Sparma undertook something of a classy gesture to honor his Yankee opponent. He stepped off the mound, walked to home plate, and shook Mantle’s hand in admiration, saying to him: “You know, I’ve never had a chance to meet you in person, and I’ve always admired you.” Sparma then walked back to the mound and Mantle hit a long drive to left field for an out. Sparma had Mantle’s number that day, striking him out in the third inning and forcing a ground out in the 6th. Reportedly, Mantle, after his strike out, grumbled to the catcher as to why the Tigers couldn’t have been more considerate on his special day. Mantle walked his 4th time up that day, after Denny McLain came in to relieve Sparma. Tigers won, 4-3.
1964: Switch-hitting Mickey Mantle of the New York Yankees showcasing his powerful swing from the left side.
Mickey Mantle announced his retirement from the New York Yankees on March 1st, 1969. He was 38 years old. His jersey and No. 7 numeral were retired at a ceremony on the second Mickey Mantle Day on June 8th, 1969. Mantle would return to the ballpark on various special occasions and “Old Timers” games in the 1970s and 1980s. After a battle with liver cancer, Mickey Mantle died on August 13th, 1995. He was 63 years old.
Mantle did acknowledge his abusive behavior in his final, dying days, when modern medicine could no longer do anything for him, saying at a public press conference that he should have “taken better care of myself,” aiming his remarks at the young and advising them, “don’t be like me.” Still, for many, despite Mantle’s failings and the mythology surrounding his career, good and bad, he remains a much loved baseball superstar, perhaps captured best in the title of Jane Leavy’s 2010 book on him, The Last Boy.
Additional Mickey Mantle stories at this website can be found at the “Baseball Stories” topics page. See also “The M&M Boys,” on the Mantle-Roger Maris home run race of 1961, and the “Annals of Sport” page for other sports stories. Thanks for visiting – and if you like what you find here, please make a donation to help support the research and writing at this website. Thank you. — Jack Doyle
Date Posted: 20 June 2016
Last Update: 19 September 2019
Comments to: [email protected]
Jack Doyle, “Mickey Mantle Day: Sept 18th, 1965,”
PopHistoryDig.com, June 20, 2016.
Sources, Links & Additional Information
1965: Mickey Mantle of the New York Yankees signing autographs for young fans in Houston, Texas.
Mickey Mantle being interviewed by then sportscaster Frank Gifford. Click for “Celebrity Gifford” story.
“Mickey Mantle Speech, Mickey Mantle Day,” The Mick.com.
Associated Press, (New York) “Mantle’s Pay For 1965 Put at $107,000,” The Morning Record (Mariden, CT), February 5, 1965, p.4.
Frank Eck, AP Newsfeatures, Sports Editors, “Mantle Turns to Football to Aid His Career” (and MM Day), The Free Lance-Star (Frederickburg, VA), September 9, 1965, p. 19.
UPI, (New York), “Wagner Proclaims Today A Special Day For Mantle,” Lodi News-Sentinel, September 16, 1965.
Arthur Daley, “Sports of The Times: A Day for Mickey,” New York Times, September 17, 1965.
Arthur Daley, “Sports of the Times: The Nervous Hero,” New York Times, September 18, 1965.
Jack Mann,” Decline and Fall of a Dynasty A 44-Year Saga of Power and Glory Is Ending for the New York Yankees…,” Sports Illustrated, June 21, 1965.
Milton Richman, UPI, “Mickey Mantle Day Was A Huge Success,” The Times-News (Hendersonville, NC), September 20, 1965, p. 3.
“Mickey Mantle & Joe Dimaggio at Yankee Stadium – 1965” (Mickey Mantle Day, September 1965)YouTube.com, Time, 1:53.
Loudon Wainwright / The View From Here, “A Vulgar Tribute to Greatness,” Life, October 1, 1965, p. 25.
Where does Jeter rank in 10 greatest Yankees?
The forum has changed through the years. The corner bar has given way to social media and TV and radio debates, but the argument remains the same. This is the same argument your father had with his father.
The argument that your son or daughter will have with you.
Try to pick the 10 Greatest Yankees in order and you might as well pick a baseball fight.
That’s OK. The level of greatness lies in the eyes of the beholder. It is the passion, the beauty, the numbers and the history of the game that is important.
Now that Derek Jeter has announced he is retiring at the end of the 2014 season, a panel of 10 Post baseball experts assembled their lists of the 10 Greatest Yankees.
This is not just the end of Jeter’s career, for a generation of fans, this is the end a chapter of Yankee greatness. This generation now understands how it once felt to a previous generation when Mickey Mantle limped away from the the game or when Joe DiMaggio walked away from all those cheers.
So where does Jeter belong in the list of 10 Greatest Yankees? Babe Ruth undoubtedly is at the top of the list, with Lou Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle not far behind. To me, Jeter belongs one notch below Ruth because of where he stands on the all-time lists and the way he played in pinstripes.
The final Post tally has him finishing sixth.
Where No. 2 truly belongs is open to debate, and will be to your children’s children.
Here are the New York Post’s 10 Greatest Yankees of All-Time, based on a poll of the paper’s baseball writers and editors, nine of whom vote for the Hall of Fame:
1. Babe Ruth – The Bambino’s 714 homers stood as a record from 1935-74. Still regarded by most as baseball’s all-time greatest player.
2. Lou Gehrig – The Iron Horse’s 2,130 consecutive games streak was broken by Cal Ripken Jr. and his Yankees hit record eclipsed by Jeter.
3. Joe DiMaggio – Joltin’ Joe had a record 56-game hitting streak in 1941 … and in 1954 married Marilyn Monroe!
4. Mickey Mantle – The Mick won the Triple Crown in 1956 and had 536 homers in an injury-wracked career.
5. Yogi Berra – The most quotable Yankee won 10 rings as a player, bagged three AL MVPs and made the All-Star team 18 times.
6. Derek Jeter – The Captain since 2003, Jeter is the all-time Yankees hit leader with 3,316 and counting, with five rings on his fingers including 2000 World Series MVP. Also was AL Rookie of the Year in 1996 and a 13-time All-Star.
7. Mariano Rivera – Mo is baseball’s all-time saves leader with 653.
8. Whitey Ford – The Chairman of the Board is the Yanks’ all-time wins leader with 236.
9. Bill Dickey – Career Yankee catcher won eight rings as a player.
10. Don Mattingly – Donnie Baseball hit .307 with 1,099 RBIs in an injury-shortened career, won one MVP but is a rare Yankee star with no World Series titles.