Mickey Mantle: The Best Until The End


From the moment he arrived in New York in 1951, Mickey Mantle was one of the most revered professional athletes in history. During his 18-year career, he would be selected to the American League All-Star team 16 times, win 3 MVP awards (including during his Triple-Crown season in 1956), swatted 536 home runs, and help the Yankees to seven World Series championships.

However, by 1965, his best days were behind him, as many years worth of injuries had taken its toll. In spite of his decline, he was still the Yankees best player.

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That year, Mantle only played in 122 games (435 plate appearances), yet still managed to lead the team in OBP (.379), OPS (.831), walks (73), and OPS+ (137). He finished second to Tom Tresh in home runs (19) and slugging percentage (.452).

In 1966 his number of games played decreased to 108 (393 plate appearances). He led the Yankees in batting average (.288), OBP (.389), slugging percentage (.538), OPS (.927), and OPS+ (170). He also managed to hit 23 home runs and drive in 56.

The next season was met with a huge transition for Mantle as the Yankees decided it would be best for him to move to first base in order to keep him healthy and in the lineup.

It turned out to be a smart move as he would manage to play in 144 games while leading the team in home runs (22), walks (107), OBP (.391), slugging percentage (.434), OPS (.825), OPS+ (149), and total bases (191). He also reached a very important milestone.

On May 14th, Mantle was sitting on 499 career home runs when the Yankees took the field to play the Baltimore Orioles.

With Stu Miller pitching in the bottom of the seventh inning and the Yankees leading by a run, Manle crushed home run number 500 into the right field seats. At the time, he was just the sixth player in Major League history to reach this milestone. The Yankees won the game by the score of 6-5.

Mantle would play in 144 games again in 1968, but it was becoming clear that he was nearing the end of his legendary career. He hit only .237/.385/.398 with 18 home runs and 54 RBI. After the season, Mantle knew he was done and retired from baseball.

During this four-year span, the Yankees highest win total was 83. Not nearly enough to play in the World Series. So, for a team and fan base that had grown so used to winning, they were surely disappointed. This made Mickey Mantle more important than ever.

He kept people coming to the games (even if he wasn’t the same player) and gave a new generation of fans a glimpse of the team’s historic past. Even in decline, Mantle was still the star of the show.