The World Famous "Façade Ball!"1956 Mickey Mantle Home Run Baseball That Nearly Escaped Yankee Stadium. It was the Alcatraz of Major League ballparks, a "House" built by the game's most decorated home run artist, yet infused with an aura of long ball inescapability. Decades of punditry debating the ability of any ballplayer to hit a fair ball clear of Yankee Stadium's confines survived until the very last out of the 2008 season and subsequent roar of the bulldozers, putting the question to rest once and for all. River Avenue, beyond the outfield wall, would remain forever virgin.
Discounting apocryphal tales of a Josh Gibson blast that could never be verified, there was only one man who ever presented a genuine threat to those wandering the sidewalk beneath the Number 4 train, and Heritage is proud and honored to present the projectile in question. In fact, Mickey Mantle twice put dents in the Bronx ballpark's most recognizable architectural feature, in 1956 and in 1963, and here we encounter the older of the two models, a sphere made all the more desirable by its participation in the iconic Yankee's heralded Triple Crown season. This was Mantle's nineteenth homer en route to a League-topping fifty-two.
Sports Illustrated journalist Robert Creamer marveled over this titanic blast in the June 18, 1956 issue, writing:
For no one had ever hit a fair ball over the majestic height of the gray-green façade that looms above the three tiers of grandstand seats in this, the greatest of ball parks.
Indeed, in the thirty-three years since the Stadium was opened not one of the great company of home run hitters who have batted there-the list includes Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Jimmie Foxx, Hank Greenberg and about everyone else you can think of-had even come close to hitting a fair ball over the giant-sized filigree hanging from the lip of the stands which in both right and left field hook far into fair territory toward the bleachers.
Mantle hit the filigree. He came so close to making history that he made it.
The ball struck high on the façade, barely a foot or two below the edge of the roof. Ever since, as people come into the stadium and find their seats, almost invariably their eyes wander to The Spot. Arms point and people stare in admiration. Then they turn to the field and seek out Mantle.
The Senators were in town for a doubleheader against the Yankees on May 30th, the day this ball took its magic ride. Mantle typically feasted on Washington pitching, and was excited to be facing his friend Pedro Ramos, a wiry Cuban right-hander who used to challenge Mickey to foot races before games. In his first at-bat, Mantle came to the plate to open the lower half of an inning on the hook for a retaliatory bean ball after Yankee pitching pegged a Senator in the top half.
"Sure enough, Pedro hit me with his first pitch. It didn't make me mad - he didn't try to hit me in the head or anything, you know, just in the butt - but after the game he came up to me and said, 'Meekie, I'm sorry I have to do that.' I said, 'That's okay. But the next time you do it I'm gonna drag a bunt toward first base and run right up your back.' He said, 'You would really do that?'
"The funny thing about it was that the next time up was the time I almost hit one out of Yankee Stadium. It hit the façade. After the game he came up to me and said, 'I'd rather have you run up my back than to hit one over the roof!'"
Just a foot or two short of completing an eye-popping trajectory estimated at 620 feet, the ball bounded back into the right field grass as Mantle completed his infield jog, and, cognizant of the historic nature of the feat, the Senators' right fielder directed the scorched sphere toward the Yankee dugout for a souvenir. Here, Yankees utility infielder Eddie Robinson picks up the tale in his included 1999 letter of provenance:
"...After the game, in the clubhouse, Mickey asked me if I would like to have the ball to display in my restaurant in Baltimore, Md. I said sure. He autographed it and tossed it to me. I displayed it in my restaurant for several years. The past four years it has been on display in the museum at The Ball Park in Arlington [TX]."
Joining the aforementioned letter is another, likewise on Robinson's personal letterhead, dated "3/16/91." It reads:
"To Whom It May Concern: I, Mickey Mantle, do hereby attest to the fact that on May 30, 1956 I hit this baseball off the façade in Yankee Stadium. It's recognized as the closest anyone ever came to hitting a baseball completely out of Yankee Stadium. I autographed the ball to Eddie Robinson and gave it to him to display in his restaurant in Baltimore, Maryland."
The letter is signed by Mantle, and by witnesses Hank Bauer and Moose Skowron.
Perhaps no artifact more succinctly encapsulates the Mantle mystique as this Official American League baseball, living proof that fact and folklore occasionally intersect. A dark bruise opposite the period 8/10 blue ink inscription reading, "To Eddie, My Best Wishes, Mickey Mantle," recalls that pinballing journey from the sport's most dangerous Louisville Slugger to the razor's edge of impossibility. Letter of provenance from Mickey Mantle. Letter of provenance from Eddie Robinson. Full LOA from PSA/DNA. Full LOA from James Spence Authentication.
1956 Mickey Mantle Home Run Baseball That Nearly Escaped Yankee Stadium.
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