Whitey Ford called him as “a superstar who never acted like one. He was a humble man who was kind and friendly to all his teammates, even the rawest rookie. He was idolized by all the other players.”
Mickey Mantle was an iconic baseball player with immense talent. His drive and love for the game pushed him past injuries and into the record books.
He played his entire 18-year career with the New York Yankees, and the injuries he suffered may have never allowed him to live up to the potential he displayed to the team when he arrived in 1951. But despite never quite being at 100 percent, Mantle established himself as and one of the game’s best players.
Growing up in Oklahoma, Mantle almost had his career cut short when his leg was infected with osteomyelitis after being kicked in the shin playing youth football. Effects of the disease lasted his lifetime and might have been responsible for other injuries that took much of the speed he had early in his career.
As a rookie in the 1951 World Series, Mantle severely injured his right knee while chasing a fly ball, but he returned to the Yankees in 1952 as the starting center fielder – taking over for Joe DiMaggio. He batted .311 with 23 home runs, 87 RBI, and 94 runs scored that season, making the All-Star team for the first of 18 consecutive selections.
From 1953 to 1955, the switch-hitter averaged 28 home runs, 98 RBI and 118 runs per season. He led the American League in 1954 with 129 runs and in 1955 he topped the AL with 37 home runs, a .431 on-base percentage and a .611 slugging percentage. In 1956 he won the AL Triple Crown, batting .353 with 52 home runs and 130 RBI and won the first of two consecutive AL Most Valuable Player Awards. In his first eight seasons in New York, the Yankees won seven AL pennants and five World Series titles.
In 1962, Mantle missed almost 40 games, but still managed to capture his third MVP title while bringing New York to its third consecutive pennant and second straight world championship. That season, he batted .321 with 30 home runs, 89 RBIs and 96 runs scored. He also led the league with a .486 on-base percentage and a .605 slugging mark.
Mantle retired prior to the 1969 season with 536 home runs, 1,676 runs scored, 1,509 RBI, 1,733 walks and a .298 batting average. He was named to 20 All-Star Games, won a Gold Glove for his play in center field in 1962 and was a part of seven Yankees teams that won the World Series. He hit a record 18 home runs in his 12 appearances in the Fall Classic.
Mantle was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1974. He passed away on Aug. 13, 1995.