On this day in history, June 8, 1969, the New York Yankees retired slugger Mickey Mantle’s number — No. 7 — in front of some 61,000 Major League baseball fans at the sold-out stadium. People cheered both their approval of the player’s athletic accomplishments and their likely dismay that he had chosen to step away from a remarkable career.
Fellow Yankee Joe DiMaggio presented Mantle with a plaque to hang on the center field wall, as Pin Stripe Alley reported of the day’s events — and Mantle, in turn, presented DiMaggio with one to hang “just a little bit higher.”
The ceremony that day has been described as “emotional” in numerous reports.
Mantle was born in Spavinaw, Oklahoma, in October 1931 and grew up in the state.
He “almost had his career cut short when his leg was infected with osteomyelitis after being kicked in the shin playing youth football,” said the Hall of Fame. “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,” the Hall of Fame also noted.
“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.”
Mantle was voted most valuable player three times, reported Vescey of The Times.
“He batted as high as .365 in 1957, but his average slipped in the last four years. He batted only .237 last year [in 1968] and his career average slipped to .298.”
“I can’t hit when I need to. I can’t go from first to third when I need to. There’s no use trying.”
Said Mantle to reporters in March 1969, as Vescey noted, “I feel bad that I didn’t hit .300 … But there’s no way I could go back and get it over .300 again. I can’t hit when I need to. I can’t go from first to third when I need to. There’s no use trying.”
From 1953 to 1955, the switch-hitter, wrote the Hall of Fame, “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.”
It went on, “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 the 1962 season, Mantle missed almost 40 games — yet still he “managed to capture his third MVP title while bringing New York to its third consecutive pennant and second straight world championship,” the Hall of Fame pointed out.
Mickey Mantle was named to 20 All-Star Games.
“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.”
Overall, 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, the Hall of Fame reported.
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 — and was elected to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team in 1999.
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