Monday, August 22, 2016

Mickey Mantle Homers At The Met, August 22, 1968 VIDEO



So, why a post on The Mick? Besides it containing video of his last homerun from the last inning of the last game he ever played in Minnesota, and against the Twins?

"You walked into the party room /
like you were walking on to a yacht"

Hasn't he been mythologized and biographied above and beyond George Washington? I guess the short answer is that I inherited (or made off with) a trove of pre- and post-1960s Topps cards from my oldest bother, Jim. So, I was drinking the Mick koolaid at a very early stage! Those Mantle cards I had were, and still are, museum-worthy. I'd sit there hushed, mesmerized looking at that 1960 Topps Mantle. Mine was really quite a lovely, pathetic, wondrous, and woefully misspent youth.
Jim Merritt 1968 Topps




Those trinkets - paired with Jimmy's backlog of Sport magazines - effectively perpetuated The Commerce Comet's mythology, or merely genuflected in his general direction. That was the kind of hold he had on the sporting public. And on little, star-struck boys from corn towns in Minnesota, and everywhere. ..

Worshipers watch Mantle come to bat at
Minnesota's Church of Baseball, aka: Metropolitan
Stadium, ca. mid-1960s

Then too was Mantle and the Yankees's place of importance in early Twins history. First of all, the Twins won their first ever game versus New York in April, 1961. Besides, Mickey and Roger Maris and Whitey Ford and company of New York, NY were the biggest drawing cards in the American League in the '60s. Team owner Calvin Griffith invented split-doubleheaders because of that fact, knowing he could get  Norwegian farmers and their families by the busload to commute all the way from the western prairie to to pay for two to see the city slickers from Gotham. And thus create lodgers for local hotels like the Thunderbird.

Having cameos in the video are Yankees stars from the past (former Indian Rocky Colavito
 (hand on railing, waving at camera), announcer and former shortstop Phil Rizzuto signing near the TBird poolcoach and former infielder Frank Crosetti), and the Yankees future (Roy White). 
Others obvious: Tom Tresh (#15), Joe Verbanic (#52) and Fritz Peterson (#19), Steve Hamilton (#39), Gene Michael (#16),and catcher Jake Gibbs (#41),
signing autographs on the field before the game.


1968 Topps Mantle card

Back to our centerpiece: the above is a silent home video from the day AND the game of August 22, 1968, when Mickey Mantle was responsible for the only Yankee run in Twins lefthander Jim Merritt's 2-hitter. Not a slick, ESPN-produced feature, but the home movie 8 mm aspect is what I find so redeeming, maybe EVEN MORE compelling, as it was posted on You Tube by a private person, Lou Good of Ferguson, IA, who, indeed, did good in capturing a noteworthy moment in Twins baseball history. The Comet was, arguably, the most beloved legend outside of Babe Ruth. But the legend was nearly spent.

The handsome man you see here walking through the Thunderbird Hotel (a Killebrew's homerun shot's distance from Metropolitan Stadium - see Jim's APBA Barn insights!) parking lot in Bloomington, Minnesota was a mere shell of himself, not the amazing specimen and uncomplicated kid from Oklahoma that was born to play baseball. Indeed, he had been The One who took the torch from Joe Joe DiMaggio, and who had inspired countless American kids in the 1950s and early 60s with much of the physicality and Rockwellian populist charm that our generation now sees echoed in the superb Mike Trout.

Mickey with Sen. Robert Kennedy, 1965


No, this was the man in vapors, who had been degraded by injuries (themselves inspiring mythical tales of the man, causing bitter complaining by some contemporaries like Roberto Clemente "they made a God out of Mickey Mantle because he was hurt so much," while he himself was criticized for missing playing time with injuries).
Twins and Yankee fans in attendance that day at Metropolitan Stadium would have been hard-pressed to realize that the world and Major League Baseball were in dynamic flux. I won't wax endlessly, but it was the fateful year of the Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy assassinations...The Tet Offensive in Vietnam...Richard Nixon's narrow defeat of Hubert Humphrey for the Presidency...the end of bubblegum pop music ("Red Rubber Ball") and the birth of heavy metal ("Dazed And Confused")...and, in a way, the birth of seriousness. Now, for the first time, the heaviness of world affairs, the burning of Watts, the riots, et. al,, would be very obvious, ominous events even to me, a preschooler in south-central Minnesota. I was reading voraciously by then, probably things my parents and siblings didn't wish for me to absorb. The whole, chaotic stew was in all the news shows and papers, anyway, and in the Time and Look magazines that showed up in my Dad's mailbox. 

To wit: I remember watching the CBS morning news in complete puzzlement and then horror as the details of New York Senator Bobby Kennedy's murder were described on the morning after, on June 6, 1968. It was just before my leaving the house after my morning corn flakes to attend kindergarten,  just down the street from our home.

In the middle of all that, then, was the final season of the old, ten-team, one league champion format, before Divisional play began in Major League Baseball. Old stadiums and older players of the '50s were slowly being phased out for the new, as evidenced in this '68 All-Star game at bat against Tom Seaver at the Houston Astrodome. It was the last all-star appearance for Mickey Mantle, though, no one could have guessed it at the time...


CHECK OUT SCROLLABLE PDF below  "The Winona [MN} Daily News - 
I'm theorizing that Mickey was sitting on a curve, got out ahead of his front
foot, and hit it one-handed, but hard enough to go ten rows into the stands.

Use magnifier and the "+" tool to increase size



As mentioned, it was the last homer Mantle would hit at Metropolitan Stadium in Minnesota, and he would connect for only two more of his final total of 536. His shot off Merritt, with him off-balance and connecting while out on his front foot, tied him with the great Jimmie Foxx third on the all-time homerun list (see year-by-year list at Wikipedia). He had come into the game with a .227/.392/.399 slash line, with 15 homers, 90 walks, and 79 strikeouts in 331 at bats. But he couldn't field with any range, was only playing first, and really was feeling the pangs of his diminished abilities and his team's descent in the standings since the last pennant year of 1964.

The six year-old section of my brain is screaming "how DARE they make
the great Mantle actually walk to the bus in the Thunderbird parking lot
!!

Great kings ought be carried on pedestals, a la, Egyptian Pharaohs.

The 24 year-old Merritt had pitched one of the top games of his career, after having started the afternoon with a 7-12 record and riding a personal two-game losing streak. His last win had come, coincidentally against these same Yankees, and was arguably a better game for him: it was a 3-2 complete game win, with 11 strikeouts, four hits, one walk at The Stadium, with a game score of 81. Though allowing homers, that was also a sterling performance

Complete List of Home Runs - Mickey Mantle Vs. The Minnesota Twins - Grandslams in RED
CR# Date  Tm Opp Rslt PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB IBB SO BOP Twins Pitcher/Inning
328 1961-05-02 NYY @MIN W 6-4 5 5 1 2 0 0 1 5 0 0 1 4 CPascual / 10th inn
329 1961-05-04 NYY @MIN W 5-2 4 4 2 2 0 0 1 2 0 0 0 4 TSadowski / 6th inn
335 1961-06-05 (1) NYY MIN W 6-2 4 4 1 1 0 0 1 2 0 0 1 4 RMoore / 8th inn
361/362 1961-08-06 (1) NYY MIN W 7-6 8 6 3 4 1 0 2 3 2 1 1 4 PRamos / 1st & 3rd inns
363 1961-08-06 (2) NYY MIN W 3-2 4 3 2 1 0 0 1 1 1 0 1 4 ASchroll / 2nd inn
367 1961-08-30 NYY @MIN W 4-0 4 4 2 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 4 JKaat / 7th inn
368 1961-08-31 NYY @MIN L 4-5 4 4 2 3 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 4 JKralick / 4th inn
384 1962-06-28 NYY MIN W 4-2 4 4 1 2 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 4 JKralick / 4th inn
390/391 1962-07-06  NYY @MIN W 7-5 5 4 2 2 0 0 2 2 1 0 1 4 CPascual / 1st & 3rd inns
407 1963-05-04 NYY @MIN W 3-2 4 4 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 4 JKaat / 4th inn
410 1963-05-15 NYY MIN W 4-3 4 4 2 2 0 0 1 2 0 0 1 4 CPascual / 6th inn
436 1964-07-04 (1) NYY MIN W 7-5 5 5 2 3 1 0 1 4 0 0 1 4 AWorthington / 8th inn
440 1964-08-01 NYY @MIN W 6-4 4 4 2 2 1 0 1 2 0 0 1 4 DStigman / 6th inn
457 1965-04-21 NYY MIN L 2-7 4 3 1 1 0 0 1 1 1 0 1 4 CPascual / 1st inn
464 1965-06-18 NYY MIN W 10-2 3 3 1 1 0 0 1 4 0 0 1 5 MNelson / 1st inn
470 1965-08-10 NYY MIN L 3-7 4 4 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 3 JKaat / 8th inn
474 1966-05-09 NYY @MIN W 3-2 4 4 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 3 JPerry / 4th inn
499 1967-05-03 NYY @MIN L 3-4 4 4 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 2 3 DBoswell / 1st inn
511/512 1967-07-04 (1) NYY @MIN L 3-8 4 4 2 3 0 0 2 3 0 0 1 3 JGrant / 3rd & 8th inns
515 1967-07-25 NYY MIN T 1-1 4 4 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 3 JKaat / 9th inn
528 1968-06-22 NYY @MIN W 5-2 4 3 1 1 0 0 1 1 1 0 0 3 JKaat / 1st inn
530/531 1968-08-10 NYY MIN L 2-3 4 4 2 2 0 0 2 2 0 0 0 3 JMerritt /4th & 9th inns
534 1968-08-22 NYY MIN L 1-3 1 1 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 9 JMerritt / 9th inn
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/21/2016.


The truth: the 3-1 win didn't propel the Twins to the pennant in 1968, as the pre-All Star Game victory did in 1965 did, when Harmon hit his walk off to beat New York. No, they still finished at 79-83, in 7th place in the American League. The Yankees finished at 83-79 however, and they went 24-17 the rest of the way, a .585 pace. The last games for Mickey Mantle actually produced some respectable stats (see totals) and amazing moments, but was in no way close to resembling the spectacular peaks of his career.  The Twins, meanwhile, were also able to fashion a winning routine for the remainder of '68. They went 20-17, setting the stage for their new manager Billy Martin to guide them to a sparkling 1969 season, partly on the strength of a recuperated Harmon Killebrew. He would train for a comeback after his near-disasterous injury in the 1968 All-Star game (see video). From the ashes would emerge a phoenix. 

But never again for Mickey.

"So Long Everybody!" - Herb Carneal