Mickey Mantle’s illustrious baseball career began in the 1950s when he was a teenage phenomenon out of Commerce, Oklahoma, thrust into the limelight of joining baseball’s greatest dynasty.
As a player, he had power from both sides of the plate. Mantle had such speed as a rookie that some called him the fastest man in baseball.
He led the Yankees to 12 pennants in 14 years, a worthy successor to names like Ruth, Gehrig and Dimaggio.
He played hurt most of his career on bad legs, but he never complained. His teammates admired him and were inspired by his courage and determination.
In his last years, he gained new admirers when he forthrightly admitted his alcohol addiction and sought professional help for the weakness.
When his health deteriorated in the last few months, requiring a liver transplant, America was saddened.
The sadness became more pronounced when a virulent strain of cancer was discovered that quickly ran its course and ended in his death in August 1995 at the age of 63.
The big shot most often associated with Mantle was one that rebounded off a beer sign high above Washington’s Griffith Stadium in 1953, travelling 565 feet. Many called it the longest homer ever.
But an even greater Mantle wallop travelled only 374 feet.
In a game at Yankee Stadium in the early 1960s, Mantle unleashed a swing – perhaps unmatched in baseball history – that propelled a ball against the facade 108 feet above right field, 374 feet from home plate.
The remarkable thing about the enormous shot, however, is that players on both teams insisted the ball was still rising when it slammed into the facade. Had the ball been unimpeded, some estimated it might have carried well beyond 600 feet – perhaps even approaching 700 feet.