Provenance from Marty Appel, Mantle's young assistant, today a famous sports author1968 Mickey Mantle Last Game Used Bat (Possible 536th and Final Home Run), PSA/DNA GU 9. Shakespeare had it right--parting is such sweet sorrow. If single-minded determination is the most common shared strength of sporting legends across all fields of athletic endeavor, the inability to accept aging's cruel diminishment is their corresponding weakness. Icons from Muhammad Ali to Joe Namath paid a heavy physical toll for their games of chicken with Father Time. For the Mick, it was more psychological. "My biggest regret was letting my lifetime average drop below .300. I always felt I was a .300 hitter, and if I could change one thing that would be it."
For thousands of Baby Boomers, the retirement of Mickey Mantle was the official end of their childhood, and for most Yankee fans it marked the final indignity in a downward trend unprecedented since the arrival of Babe Ruth nearly half a century earlier. For the first time that anybody could remember, the Bronx Bombers were utterly lost in the wilderness.
Noted author and public relations guru Marty Appel was with Mantle for his painful limp into retirement, a teenaged kid tasked with answering the bulging sacks of fan mail that continued to flow into Yankee Stadium despite the struggles of the famed slugger and the team he epitomized. In his signed letter of provenance, Appel sets the scene [excerpted]:
"On Saturday, September 28, 1968, the second-to-the-last game of the season, he was in the lineup at first base, and came to bat in the top of the first inning. The bat he used, thin handled, light weight (31 oz), and laden with pine tar, may have been the same one he had used eight days earlier to hit his last home run--but there is no way to know for certain.
The bat, as it turned out, had only one more swing left in it. Mickey popped out to short left field--shortstop Rico Petrocelli went out and caught it. The bat cracked in the process, but didn't break apart. Left behind was a long split in the handle that perhaps well represented Mickey's frustration. The split itself is rather like the crack in the Liberty Bell--historic, and part of the story.
Mantle did not go out into the field in the last of the first, nor did he play the next day, the final game of the season. His season ended with the pop out, and as we would later see, so too did his career. After nearly 10,000 plate appearances and 8,102 official at bats, it was over. This bat was #8,102.
Elliott Ashley, the team's primary batboy, had promised me a broken bat all season. He made the final road trip to Boston, as the primary batboy always did in those days. On Monday, he was in the clubhouse assisting equipment manager Pete Sheehy. He came into my office with the Mantle bat, and told me how it was the one he had used on Saturday. Neither of us knew it was historic at the time; we, like most people, thought Mickey would play again in '69."
At thirty-four and a half inches of length and thirty-two ounces of weight, the signature model Hillerich & Bradsby S2 is an illustration of Mantle's desperate attempt to speed up his swing, markedly smaller from those utilized during his hard-slugging glory days. The specific model and dimensions allow PSA/DNA bat expert John Taube to pinpoint this specimen to a July 10, 1968 order, the final S2 shipment of the Mick's career. Dozens of ball marks coating both sides of the barrel verify heavy switch-hitting use, and lend credence to the Appel's theory that the range of action may have included Mantle's 536th and final homer eight days earlier. A foot long handle crack transverses a dark field of pine tar, a mute witness to the final swing of a glorious career. Bat expert John Taube sums it up perfectly in the conclusion of his letter of aucthenticity when he writes: "This historic bat ended the career of one of the most beloved players ever to play the game, and should be considered as one of the most significant bats in the hobby."
Letter of provenance from Marty Appel. LOA from PSA/DNA, GU 9.
1968 Mickey Mantle Last Game Used Bat (Possible 536th and Final Home Run), PSA/DNA GU 9.
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