Pinstriped glory, the greatest moments in Yankee history part three: Mantle’s Triple Crown
The Yankees have been blessed throughout their history with magnificent players. They went from the fearsome duo of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, to the heroic and incomparable Joe DiMaggio, and remarkably in DiMaggio’s final season, up came his heir apparent, Mickey Mantle. The Oklahoma kid would go on to slug 536 home runs passing both Gehrig and DiMaggio in that area. He played during a time when the Giants and Dodgers had impressive center fielders of their own in Willie Mays and Duke Snider. It was an amazing time to be a baseball fan in New York City, and was immortalized in the song “Talkin Baseball” with the famous line referring to the three stars as “Willie, Mickey and the Duke.”
|Photo Credit: NBC|
Mantle put on some of the most impressive offensive numbers in baseball history, of course his 1961 season in which he and teammate Roger Maris went head to head trying to break Ruth’s record of 60 home runs in a season is legendary. He finished the season with 54, while Maris ended up hitting 61 to break the record. As marvelous as that season was, it’s really Mickey’s 1956 season that put him on the map.
Before we get into that, let’s get a little background on the legendary player that fans would call “The Mick”. Mantle was born in Oklahoma (thus another nickname, the Oklahoma Kid) on October 20, 1931. Mantle grew up as a star athlete who viewed his loving father as his true hero. Upon coming to New York, he was given the jersey number six, that would put him in a direct line with Ruth, Gehrig and DiMaggio who wore three, four, and five respectively. That amount of pressure did not sit well with Mantle and he eventually changed his uniform number to seven.
Mickey was a switch-hitter who had elite power from both sides of the plate. To this day many consider Mantle to be the greatest switch hitter of all time, as well as being one of the first true five tool players. He’d win his only gold glove award in 1962 and have a tremendous throwing arm and above average speed to compliment his mighty power.
By 1956, Mantle was already establishing himself as a superstar in the game, he made 18 consecutive All-Star teams from 1952-1965, He made it in ’67 and ’68 as well to make himself a 20-time All-Star. In 1956, Mantle won his first of three MVP awards. His stat line was one for the ages, Mantle batted .353 with 52 home runs and drove in 130. That was good enough to lead the American League and Mantle was awarded the Triple Crown, the first Yankee to do that since Lou Gehrig in 1934. To this day, Mantle and Gehrig are the only two players that have ever won this extremely rare award for the Bronx Bombers. Also of note, if had Mantle played in the National League, he would have won the Triple Crown there as well.
To put it kindly, Mantle was far and away the best player in baseball that year. To top that season, all of the Yankees would go on to win the World Series in 1956 (One of Mickey’s seven titles). In Game 5 of that series Yankees’ pitcher Don Larsen threw what can be called the greatest pitched game ever, he went the distance without allowing a base runner, a perfect game in the fall classic. Larsen is still the only man to accomplish that but it would not of been so with Mickey’s great catch on a ball of the bat of Brooklyn’s Gil Hodges. Talk about a storybook season.
Mantle’s career finished in September 1968. By then, he was a shell of himself, and the Yankees of the past had disappeared and the team would fall on hard times for the next few years. Mantle would go on to finish his career with 2,415 career hits, a .298 batting average, 536 home runs and 1,509 runs batted in. He led the American League in home runs four times and in 1974 was elected to the Hall of Fame on his first ballot receiving 88.2% of the vote.
Many argue that Mantle’s career could have been even more impressive had he not suffered a barrage of injuries. During his high school days, he suffered constant injuries, and in 1957, a devastating shoulder injury which affected his hitting from the left side for the remainder of his career. In retirement, Mantle wrote a book about his Triple Crown campaign of 1956 and had a restaurant in New York City for many years. Mantle and his wife had four sons including one who Mantle named Billy after his best friend Billy Martin. Sadly, two of his boys have now passed. The “Commerce Comet” died on August 13, 1995 at the age of 63. His monument and number 7 reside in monument park like the Yankee legends who came before and after him. His majestic home runs, love of the game, and southern drawl made him a beloved figure in Yankee history. The Mick is as immortal as they come in Yankee lore and his 1956 season was a sight to behold.
Article by: Fave RuggieroFollow @BronxBomberBall