A Difference Between Mickey and Joe DiMaggio
In one way, Mickey Mantle was the antithesis of Joe DiMaggio. The Jolter was such an aloof individual that rookies dared not to approach him, much less attempt to speak to him. Mickey Mantle used to rush over to greet new players with an outstretched hand.
“I’m Mickey Mantle,” he would say, as if the young player didn’t know. It was one of Mickey’s nicest gestures.
When questioned about his rookie season, Mickey related that his first thrill as a Yankee was shaking hands with Joe DiMaggio.
Mickey and the Baseball “Expert”
One day during spring training at St. Petersburg, a baseball writer walked over to Mickey, who was near the batting cage. Mickey was watching New York Yankees’ crafty left-hander Steady Eddie Lopat working on his “junk.”
The writer tapped Mickey on the shoulder.
“Mick, there’s the first pitcher I’ve seen all spring who gives me itchy fingers. I’d love to pick up a bat at hit against him.”
Mickey explained why the writer never became a baseball player in such a way that points out the sad fact that “experts” who never played the game receive much too much credit.
“It won’t do you no good. As soon as you step up to the plate Lopat makes you start to think and he’s got you because he can think better than you can.”
Bat Only Right-Handed?
Another time, at another spring training, the same writer, knowing that the switch-hitting Mickey was more effective from the right side of the plate, questioned him about it. For about a second, Mickey had the writer going.
“Wanna know something? I’m gonna bat only right-handed this year.”
Mickey couldn’t help but start laughing.
“I really would, if those right-handed pitchers would promise me that they wouldn’t throw me any curves.”
Everyday, before a game, Mickey would wrap his legs in yards of bandages. Whenever manager Casey Stengel felt he should ask him if he could play, Mickey almost always said he could.
There have been many discussions, probably millions over the years, comparing Mickey to DiMaggio and Willie Mays.
Statistically, the three are extremely close, but one incident during the 1961 World Series, most of which Mickey sat out due to an infected hip, provides great insight into the weakness of statistics.
Mickey was stretched out on the trainer’s table face down. His hip had a hole in it the size of a golf ball due to an open abscess. Catcher Elston Howard, walking by, was taken aghast.
Ellie turned to Mickey as he shuddered. “Mick, you are a great man.”
Anyone who had ever been Mickey’s teammate agreed with Ellie.
By ARTHUR DALEY. (1969, March 7). Sports of The Times :Musings About Mantle. New York Times (1923-Current file),40. Retrieved June 26, 2010, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 – 2006). (Document ID: 79948757).