1966-68 Mickey Mantle Game Worn Jersey with Extensive and Important Photo Matching....
"Ladies and gentlemen, a magnificent Yankee, the great number seven, Mickey Mantle."
As the words of legendary announcer Mel Allen were drowned out by the applause of more than sixty thousand fans on Mickey Mantle Day, June 8, 1969, the aging slugger couldn't help but think of a man honored on that same ground three decades earlier as he stepped to the microphone. "I've often wondered how a man who knew he was going to die could stand here and say he was the luckiest man on the face of the earth, but now I guess I know how he felt." Like Gehrig, the Mick had nothing left to give to the fans of the Bronx other than his gratitude, the sharp edges of his athletic gifts dulled by injury, hard living and the relentless, unforgiving passage of time.
In an historical context it seems quite fitting that the Mantle Era should end when it did, as the United States turned a page from the wide-eyed innocence of the post-war years to face new challenges and crises ahead. The Mick was in many ways emblematic of his age, and the Ozzie Sweet photograph featured in the Mantle Day souvenir paraphernalia is precise in every detail to the fond memories of any child who once traded for his bubble gum cards by the playground swings. Handsome and flaxen haired, Mantle towers above the camera's low vantage point against a background of the bluest sky imaginable, the prototypical American sports hero. The photo is likewise precise to the presented jersey, establishing the pinstriped flannel garment as one of the most important and desirable Mantle artifacts ever to reach the public auction block.
In fact, we feel quite confident in the assertion that this jersey represents the most extensively photo matched Mantle jersey in the hobby, and quite possibly the most extensively photo matched Yankees jersey, period, regardless of player attribution. We have celebrated sports photographers Ozzie Sweet and Richard Meek to thank for providing this utterly unimpeachable research material. Collectively, they snapped numerous images of Mantle from a myriad of angles while sporting this shirt, documenting the unique intersections of pinstriping at the shoulders, sleeves, collar and button path with faultless precision.
Mantle's photo-documented usage of the jersey in spring training of 1968-the Ozzie Sweet photo session-- would strongly indicate regular season action during the regular season of 1967, as it was standard procedure for most Major League clubs to utilize the previous season's gear during training and debut new uniforms on Opening Day. Though an embroidered number "66" in the tail of the jersey is a clear indicator of date, there is established precedent for Yankees jerseys being used in seasons subsequent to original issue. The jersey worn by Roger Maris as he hit his historic 61st home run of the 1961 season, which was auctioned for over $300,000 in August 2004, was tagged for 1960, and images of Maris wearing the shirt in 1960 have likewise been documented.
The Louis Requena image listed as #50987209 at www.GettyImages.com finds the Mick sporting the presented jersey in a posed shot at Yankee Stadium, but unfortunately the generic date of January 1, 1960 is attributed, the default for any Getty image for which only an applicable decade is known. One can logically assume that the actual date is either 1966 or 1967.
At the close of the Yankee training camp in the spring of 1968, the jersey was handed down to the club's farm system, long a standard practice for most Major League gamers. The appearance of stitching patterns over the heart of the Oneonta Yankees' logo "O" and the Ft. Lauderdale "Ft. L" can be discerned upon close inspection. The stitch outline of a Baseball Centennial patch on the left sleeve can likewise be spotted, indicating usage during the 1969 season as well.
Mantle was reunited with the jersey in the spring of 1970 when he signed on as an instructor for a youth baseball clinic not far from the Ft. Lauderdale training camp where he had taken his last swings before resigning himself to the inevitability of retirement. At this point the minor league emblem was stripped from the jersey and replaced with a block lettered "New York" for Mantle's usage, which is how the jersey appeared when it came into the possession of our consignor. An expert restoration has returned the shirt to its original appearance, the "NY" logo carefully positioned at its original stitching path.
The number "7" on the reverse is also likely a secondary application, completed between Mantle's last game as a member of the New York Yankees and his final use of the jersey in the 1970 clinic. Though the typical indicators of a number restoration are not evident (specifically stitch holes, adhesive residue and/or faint discoloration), it is the adhesion of the number alone that provides sufficient evidence for suspicion. It was typical for logos and numbers to be stripped from Major League jerseys upon their move to the minors, and the rather aggressive application of adhesive beneath the number would appear to be more in keeping with a team issued change rather than an original application at the Spalding factory. Close scrutiny by several jersey specialists (including our restorer) has unanimously confirmed that no other number but "7" has ever been applied to the jersey.
The original "Spalding [size] 44" labeling remains in the lower left front tail, as does the proper washing instructions tag, all of which perfectly matches Yankees garments of the era. The collar still holds the thread outline of where an embroidered "Mantle" swatch once resided, this identifier lost to the passing decades.
Wear is very strong, as would be expected from a jersey with a long history at both the Major and minor league level. Some minor staining, quite possibly attributable to game use, is noted for the sake of accuracy, but our catalog imagery should indicate how minor a concern this is. And a piece of this historical magnitude has no business making apologies for minor imperfections. We didn't need it from Mickey himself, who had plenty of cause for mea culpas. We'd rather recall him as the perfect slugger, the burly farm boy from Oklahoma bathed in golden light, the way Ozzie Sweet saw him, the way we all see him in our childhood dreams. Letter of Examination from Dan Knoll. LOA from Heritage Auctions.
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