79 years ago today in Spavinaw, OK a baby boy was born.
His father knew from the start what the boy was destined to be. He named him after a Major League baseball player-Mickey Cochrane. (Although Cochrane's real name was Gordon. That didn't stop him from naming his son Mickey.)
When the New York press corps arrived at the Yankee camp in Phoenix in 1951, they were greeted by Yankee coach and great Bill Dickey. Dickey started ranting about this rookie so much that the reporters went to Casey Stengel and said "Dickey says you have another Cobb in camp."
The rookie eventually had some huge shoes to fill. He was eventually penciled in in Center Field to replace the soon to retire Joe Dimaggio.
But fill those shoes he did and quite well. For the next 18 years, Mickey Mantle roamed center field at Yankee Stadium.
He was noted for his tape meaure home runs. He hit a ball in Griffith Stadium in Washington that landed across the street. When someone got out a tape measure to measure it, it was figured at 585 ft from home plate. He also hit the longest homer in Yankee Stadium into the upper bleachers in center field and twice hit the facade in right field, coming within inches of being the first Major Leaguer to hit a fair ball out of Yankee Stadium
His greatest year was 1956. That year, he won the triple crown with .353, 52 homers, and 130 RBI. He was the last to lead all of the Majors in those three categories.
In 1961, he and teammate Roger Maris chased the most hallowed of baseball records, Babe Ruth's 60 home runs. But injuries cut Mantle's season short and he ended up with 54. Maris went on to break the record.
In 1964, he did break one of Ruth's records. In his 12th World Series, against Barney Shultz of the Cardinals, he hit his 16th World Series homer. He ended with 18.
My memory of Mick took a personal note on May 14, 1967. As a present for my 10th birthday, my Dad took me to Yankee Stadium for the first time. In the seventh inning with Stu Miller of the Orioles on the mound, Mantle hit his 500th homer to win the game. He became only the second Yankee to reach that magic mark after Ruth.
Mantle was arguably the greatest switch hitter of all time, even though Rose had more hits and Murray ended up with more homers.
He ended his career with 536 homers, at the time third all time behind Ruth and Mays, in 1968.
In August, 1969, the Yankees held Mickey Mantle Day. On that day, with representatives of all 12 pennant winners on hand, Mickey joined Ruth, Gehrig, and Dimaggio in having his number retired by the Yankees.
His plaque in Monument Park reads "A great teammate." You can't sum it up much better.
Along with long time teammate and friend Whitey Ford, Mickey Mantle took his rightful place in Cooperstown in 1974.
He was a great all around player, who could run, bunt, and field with the best of them. But an injury suffered in the 1951 World Series against the Giants would haunt him the rest of his career. He played many games in great pain.
He also developed an alcohol problem while playing. Later in life, he expressed regret that he did not take better care of his body.
Mickey Charles Mantle left us on August 13, 1995. He is gone, but will never be forgotten.
Happy Birthday Mick, wherever you are.