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    1956 Topps Mickey Mantle, Gray Back #135 PSA Gem Mint 10. A splash landing off the shore of St. Petersburg, Florida was the first indication that something special was brewing for Mickey Mantle's 1956 season. The spring training blast off the bat of the Yankees' switch-hitting center fielder at Al Lang Field was the first ever to reach the bay, and outfielder Stan Musial for the victimized St. Louis Cardinals marveled to reporters after the contest, "No home run has ever cleared my head by so much as long as I can remember."

    Perhaps it was the first, sour taste of Fall Classic failure in 1955 after three seasons of October bliss to launch Mantle's Hall of Fame career that stoked the fire of one of the greatest offensive seasons ever registered. Despite the Mick's admitted lack of self-discipline that many historians believe kept him from rewriting the record books in every major slugging statistic, nobody hated to lose more than Mantle, and he had clearly entered the season anxious to reclaim his team's proper position atop the baseball world.

    Though he had shown many flashes of brilliance during the first five seasons of his career, Mantle entered Opening Day of 1956 two points shy of the .300 mark for his career, his best single-season batting average a .311 in 1952. His thirty-seven home runs in 1955 led all American Leaguers for the first time in his career, but that figure was ten higher than any previous campaign. And not only had Mantle never led the Junior Circuit in runs batted in, he had never even led the Yankees in the statistic. His remarkable foot speed was his calling card at this point, and while his slugging power was undeniable, his propensity for strikeouts and injuries had no experts considering him a threat for the sport's greatest offensive achievement.

    But that Opening Day at Griffith Stadium, with President Eisenhower in attendance, saw the twenty-four year old center fielder belt two mammoth home runs. Three days later, in the home opener in the Bronx, Mantle homered again and drove in four runs. By the end of April, he was hitting .415 with four home runs and fifteen runs batted in in just eleven games.

    The torrid pace continued through May, the Mick batting .414 in thirty-one games with sixteen homers and thirty-five RBI's. He went four-for-four at Comiskey on May 18th, homering from each side of the plate. Six days later he went five-for-five in Detroit with a home run, and then capped off the month back home in New York with his famous blast off the Yankee Stadium façade, narrowly missing authorship of the first home run to leave the House that Ruth Built.

    Now Mickey Mantle was the biggest star in the game. Bill Dickey predicted he would break every record except Lou Gehrig's streak. Mel Ott told reporters Mantle could hit seventy-five home runs and shatter Hack Wilson's RBI record. The daily papers maintained a chart showing how far ahead the young Oklahoman was staying of Babe Ruth's home run pace of 1927.

    So while the Mick's 1952 Topps rookie today holds sway as the most coveted card of the post-war era, the offered 1956 model was unquestionably far more popular at the time of its original sale. Perhaps that fervent period adoration is the reason why only four of over 5,000 submissions to PSA have earned the service's highest rating, only one more than Gem Mint examples of his '52 rookie despite submissions outnumbering its older sibling by a factor of four.

    But if most 1956 Mantle cards were traded and fondled into disrepair in schoolyards across the nation, the offered example was clearly the wallflower exception. Not a corner is touched, nor an edge scuffed, nor a surface scratched. Even those factors separate from wear are unimprovable, as color, registration and centering are all beyond reproach. Perfect 10's are offered only when graders can find no honest alternative, and such is the case here. The finest card from Mickey Mantle's finest season.

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    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    August, 2016
    27th-28th Saturday-Sunday
    Internet/Mail Bids: 12
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 5,903

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