Mantle’s 1951 World Series Injury

World Series Game 2
October 5, 1951

 

The date was October 5th. It happened in the 5th inning of Game 2 in the 1951 World Series at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees were on their way to a 3-1 win that would even their contest with the New York Giants with a 3-1 victory, but their eventual 4-2 Series triumph would not come without a costly injurious player loss.

Here’s how UP Sports Editor Leo H. Petersen described the Series the loss for the next day newspapers.:

Mickey Mantle, 20-year-old Rookie Yankee outfielder, is almost definitely out of the entire series and Manager Casey Stengel announced that Hank Bauer, who replaced him yesterday, would continue to play right field. Mantle’s injury – an astounding piece of baseball drama which occurred in the fifth inning yesterday – was diagnosed as a sever sprain of the right knee.

It all began in the fifth inning when Willie Mays lifted a high fly to right center field. Joe DiMaggio and Mantle both went after the ball and DiMaggio finally camped under it. Mantle, coming fast, from right field suddenly pitched forward and fell flat on his face. At the same instant, DiMaggio caught the ball.

It appeared at first that Mantle had merely dropped to the ground to give DiMaggio clearance to make the catch.

But Mantle lay motionless for seemingly endless seconds. DiMaggio bent over the prone youngster and immediately signaled the Yankee dugout to bring a stretcher.

~ Excerpt from “Hearn Against Raschi as World Series Moves to Polo Grounds Today” by Leo H. Peterson, United Press Sports Editor, New York, Oct. 6 (1951) – (UP) – Valparaiso Vidette Messenger, Valparaiso, IN, Page 6.

One minor correction to the article report is in order. Mickey Mantle was still 19 when the 1951 injury occurred on October 5, 1951. His 20th birthday followed two weeks and one day later on October 20, 1951.

The questions for history would read like a parade of what ifs and what might have beens:

What if the communication between DiMaggio and Mantle had been better – and not predicated upon the need for the kid phenom to never do anything to offend the aging star’s ego in the field?

What if the Yankee Stadium grass watering plan had not included drain structures that could catch a fielder’s cleats and do serious harm?

How much did the 1951 Series ending play for Mantle end up being a major factor in reducing his career speed and durability for an even greater statistical career?

When Mantle had surgery two years later, there was no established procedure to fix a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Does that mean that Mantle played the balance of his career on a torn anterior cruciate ligament? That suggestion is offered in a 2010 biography of Mantle written by Jane Leavy. The orthopedic surgeon who analyzed the case history that Leavy compiled said it was likely that Mantle compensated for the torn ACL with what the orthopedist called “neuromuscular genius.”

All that some religious Mantle fans knew is that they attributed a lot of Mickey’s close losses over time beyond that almost career fatal start to the 1951 “DiMaggio Ego Bow” that tore up one knee at age nearly 20. Forevermore after, every time Mickey was called out at first on a close play, it was chalked up to the DiMaggio play. – Any time that Willie Mays did something faster than Mantle, DiMaggio got the blame there too. The only strong objection I have to Mantle’s performance apologists is the reason offered for his batting average dip to .298 upon retirement after the 1968 season. That one is most certainly not the fault of Joe DiMaggio. Had Mantle’s personal behavior over time been a little more restrained – 0r – if he simply had retired after the 1964 season – Mickey Mantle could have kept his career .300 plus BA and still had enough stripes to have made it into the Hall of Fame.

Just didn’t happen.

____________________


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

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6 Responses to “Mantle’s 1951 World Series Injury”

  1. Tom Hunter Says:

    If Mickey Mantle played the rest of his career after 1951 on a torn anterior cruciate ligament, which he compensated for with “neuromuscular genius,” that would explain the peculiar stiff-legged hitch in his running style that many of us youngsters from that era tried to imitate, along with his batting stance.

  2. David Munger Says:

    Sad, but that was the era, Medical Advancements were what they were. I always hear people saying the Old Timers of yesteryear couldn’t hang with the players of today. This isn’t Field of Dreams, if they came back wouldn’t they have had access to all the things the young bloods had all their lives. If we are going to be hypothetical at least be fair…..Happy Easter all.

  3. gregclucas Says:

    Don’t give DiMaggio too much grief. Corner outfielders are always supposed to give way to the CF on balls either could catch.

  4. Mark W Says:

    Regardless, Mantle was still faster than Mays throughout the 50s and possibly until nearly the end of his career. Mantle’s career ratio of GIDP (grounding into a double-play) per 162 games was 8. For Mays, it was 14. For some other comparisons (not a comprehensive list): Alex Rodriguez, 15; Rod Carew, 14; Carlos Beltran, Eric Young, Marquis Grissom, Amos Otis, Barry Larkin, Andre Dawson, Paul Molitor, and Cesar Cedeno, 13; Willie McGee, Hanley Ramirez, Lance Johnson, Jose Cardenal, Claudell Washington, and Alcides Escobar, 12; Ozzie Smith, Luis Aparicio, Ron LeFlore, Luis Polonia, Omar Vizquel, Luis Castillo, Bobby Abreu, Eric Davis, Jacoby Ellsbury (currently), Vada Pinson, Reggie Sanders, and Davey Lopes, 11; Jimmy Rollins, Scott Podsednik, Steve Finley, Ryne Sandberg, Alfonso Soriano, and Delino DeShields, 10; Chone Figgins, Frank Taveras, Craig Biggio, Jose Cruz (son), Rickey Henderson, Willie Davis, Kenny Lofton, Freddy Patek, Tim Raines, Coco Crisp, Larry Bowa, Brian Roberts, Julio Cruz, Rajai Davis, Bobby Bonds, and Barry Bonds, 9; Maury Wills, Juan Samuel, Jose Cruz, Tommy Harper, George Case, Rafael Furcal, Devon White, Mookie Wilson, and Chase Utley (currently), 8; Jose Reyes, Carl Crawford, Otis Nixon, Willie Wilson, Lonnie Smith, Tony Womack, Juan Pierre, Bert Campaneris, Bill North, and Lou Brock, 7; Ichiro Suzuki, Johnny Damon, Joe Morgan, and Richie Ashburn, 6; Vince Coleman, Gary Redus, Lenny Dykstra, Brett Butler, Brady Anderson, and Omar Moreno, 5; Michael Bourn, 4

  5. Mark W Says:

    Mickey Rivers also was 5/162.

  6. Mark W Says:

    Don Buford also was 4/162.

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