Mickey Mantle’s Heartbroken Valedictory

Retiring Mickey Mantle (L) and Yankees Manager Ralph Houk
Associated Press Coverage of Mantle’s Retirement Conference
As It Appeared in The Joplin (MO) Globe
Sunday, March 2, 1969

 

MICKEY CALLS IT A CAREER WITH YANKEES

Slugger Retires After 18 Seasons

Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (AP) – Mickey Mantle, at a loss for words, announced his retirement from baseball Saturday before a packed news conference at the New York Yankees’ spring training hotel.

Mike Burke, president of the Yankees, introduced Mantle to reporters, saying that the veteran star “had reached a firm conclusion, and I think its best he tell it to you himself.”

Then Mantle, dressed in a dark blue turtleneck, light blue slacks and checked sports jacket, stepped to the rostrum. But instead of saying anything, Mickey said, “I’m open for questions.”

The first one, of course, was what had he decided.

“I’m not going to play baseball anymore; that’s all I know,” he said slowly. “I can’t play anymore. I don’t hit the ball anymore when I need to. I can’t steal when I need to, I can’t score from second when I need to.”

Mantle said he had talked his situation over with Ralph Houk, manager of the Yankees, Friday night and Burke Saturday morning. “We decided this would be best for me and for the club,” said Mantle, who most of his 18-year career, was one of the most feared sluggers in baseball.

Mantle said he reached the decision after talking with both Houk and Burke.

“Ralph said if he was me, and at this point he wasn’t wasn’t sure what to do, he’d probably call it off right now and that’s what I’m doing,” the outfielder turned first baseman said.

Mantle said his outside business interests, which include a chain of country kitchens and clothing stores, also helped him reach a decision.

“I have to appear at all the kitchen openings and there are about 45 sold right now,” he explained.

Mantle said he had no current plans to remain with the Yankee organization. “But Mike told me if I ever wanted a job, it was available.”

Mantle said he was disappointed he was not a lifetime .300 hitter. He finished at .298.”But I’m very proud of my 18 World Series homers,” he added.

Mantle said his wife was very happy with his decision.

“She’s been asking me to quit for three years,” Mickey related. “I’m planning to get out to the ball park now and then, but I won’t put on a uniform.”

In a prepared text, Mantle said:

“I never wanted to embarrass myself on the field or hurt the club in any way or give the fans anything less than they are entitled to expect from me. I’m not sure I can play well enough to satisfy myself.

“Last fall I still thought I might play another year if I felt well enough in spring training. As the months passed I felt more sure in my own mind that now was the time to end my career as a ballplayer.”

Houk said: “We all know Mantle would have played on any ball team I managed as long as he wanted to and I think we all know that the game is losing a super star.”

Burke said Mantle’s future with the Yankee organization “would depend solely on how much time he has to give. Right now we have left it that he will have a relationship with us and we will have a relationship with him.”

Burke’s prepared statement said:

“This is a sad but inevitable day. We are losing a truly magnificent Yankee and baseball will sorely miss this one of a kind athlete.

“We would have liked him to play another season, of course. Ralph (Houk) and Lee (MacPhail) and I all thought he could make an important contribution on the field and to the spirit of our young club. But we also felt very firmly that this was Mickey’s decision to make and that we must be sympathetic to his situation.”

Asked if the Yankees would retire No. 7, Burke said “Yes.”

Mantle came up to the Yankees in 1951 – the same year another center fielder, Willie Mays, arrived in New York with the Giants. The Oklahoman’s freshman year wasn’t nearly as successful as the ones that followed. He batted just .267 in 96 games and spent half the season in the minors.

But his 13 home runs and 65 runs batted in were the clue to the latent power that Mantle possessed. It was a power that would eventually make him one of the most feared hitters in baseball.

It was in the 1951 World Series against Mays and the Giants that Mantle suffered his first serious knee injury. He tripped over a drainage opening in the Yankee Stadium outfield in the second game had to be carried off the field in a stretcher.

But Mantle came back in 1952, replacing Joe DiMaggio, who had retired, and batting .311 with 23 home runs and 87 RBI. He had nine more .300 seasons, including five straight from 1954 through 1958.

His raw power sent home runs soaring record distances and when he powered one off Washington’s Chuck Stobbs in 1955, an ambitious press agent measured it at 565 feet. That was the start of the tape measure home run.

Mantle won the triple crown in 1956, batting .353 with 52 homers and 130 RBI. He was named the American League’s Most Valuable Player that season and again the next year when he raised his average to .365. He also won the MVP award in 1962.

In 1961, he staged an exciting battle with teammate Roger Maris for the home run crown. Maris finished with 61 that year and Mantle had 54, the highest single season total of his career.

He finished his career with 536 home runs – third on the all time list behind Babe Ruth and Mays. He had 1,509 runs batted in and a .298 career average which was pulled down by .245 and .237 figures in his last two years.

Mantle played in 2,401 games as a Yankee – more than any man in the club’s history. But he never played an entire season. The closest he came was in 1960 and 1961 when he missed just one game each year.

His legs were always tender and, after 16 seasons as an outfielder, Mantle was moved to first base in 1967 in an effort to remove the stress on his legs. He played 144 games in each of the last two seasons – more than any he had managed in any year since 1961.

Mantle played in 12 World Series with the Yankees and holds Series records with 18 home runs, 42 runs scored, 40 runs batted in, 123 total bases, 26 long (extra base) hits, 43 walks, and 54 strikeouts.

He also played in 16 All Star games.

~ AP, The Joplin Globe, Sunday, March 2, 1969, Section C, Page 1.

____________________


Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle

Houston, Texas

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