The only Mantle bat with definitive attribution to his 1956 Triple Crown campaign!1956 Mickey Mantle All-Star Game Used & Signed Home Run Bat, PSA/DNA GU 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 break 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.
Record crowds began to appear at Yankee road games, with American League president Will Harridge declaring that Mantle now rivaled Babe Ruth and Bob Feller as the biggest gate attractions in league history. On June 24, the excitement boiled over at Comiskey Park, hundreds of fans streamed onto the field to shake Mantle's hand or just feel his uniform. It was an uneasy price of fame. "You see fans rushing into the field, and you don't know if they are extending a hand or a knife," he complained. "If I were to shove a fan away, I would be hooted out of the park. You should hear what they holler at me, as it is. And those torn newspapers and scorecards, old sandwiches and fruit they throw into the field. Can't something be done?"
It nearly all came crashing down in early July as he chased an Independence Day bloop single off the bat of Jimmy Piersall at Fenway in a vain attempt to deny the walk-off run from scoring. A diagnosis of "strained lateral ligaments" put Mantle on the bench for four games, and he returned significantly hobbled for the All-Star Game in order not to disappoint the fans who had cast more ballots for him than any other player.
It was at that Griffith Park event that the offered artifact and one of the greatest seasons in baseball history came together. Today it stands among the most important game used bats in the hobby, and the only example known that can be definitively attributed to Mickey Mantle's glorious 1956 Triple Crown season. That assurance is supplied in duplicate on the barrel of the Hillerich & Bradsby signature model S2, both in the form of burned-in block letter text reporting, "All Star Game, Washington 1956," and in the Mick's own hand, a 9+/10 blue sharpie inscription reading, "My Triple Crown Year, 1956, Mickey Mantle."
Further provenance appears in the form of a letter on "Mickey Mantle Museum" letterhead from president Tom Catal, who writes of his long friendship with the Yankee legend before coming to the the tale of an extraordinary gift: "On one particular trip to New York in 1985 Mickey showed me one of his favorite game used bats. It was his 1956 All-Star Home Run Game Used Bat he used to hit a home run off Warren Spahn in Washington in 1956. The model of the bat is an S2 Model and is 35 inches long. It was the very next evening I personally obtained this amazing item from Mickey."
That solo shot to deep left field, immediately following a two-run blast to deep right by the legendary Ted Williams, chased Warren Spahn but proved to be the final run scored in a seven to three loss to the National League. Several ball marks and stitch impressions bear witness to that memorable Midsummer Classic, along with cleat divots and blue paint streaks to match the Griffith Stadium bat rack. The proper appearance for a single game's action provides the finishing touches on PSA/DNA bat expert John Taube's unimprovable GU 10 assessment.
The resumption of the regular season found Mantle streaky, alternating a grim three-for-thirty-one slump in mid-August with a sixteen-for-thirty-two explosion with five homers to close out the month. As September began, it appeared certain that the Triple Crown was his. Only Ted Williams remained within twenty points of Mantle's .366 average, and only Duke Snider of the National League stood within ten home runs of his forty-seven. Al Kaline's 107 RBI's was eleven off Mantle's pace.
But then Williams and Kaline began to charge, and by September 15th the dream was in serious jeopardy. Mantle's RBI lead stood at just three, and Williams had surged to .351, two points better than Mantle's .349. A week later Williams' lead had grown to four points as the Yankees visited Fenway, but the Yankee pitching staff sprang to the Mick's aid, ultimately holding the 1946 Triple Crown winner to a paltry three for twenty in the teams' final two series.
With the pennant sewn up with Mantle's fiftieth home run on September 18th, Casey Stengel sat his injured superstar for the rest of the season, but pinch hit appearances allowed Mantle to hold Al Kaline at bay and capture the Triple Crown with a .353 average, 130 runs batted in and fifty-two home runs, an offensive stat line so remarkable that it would have claimed the prize in eighteen seasons since as well.
An American League MVP nod and a successful avenging of the team's 1955 Fall Classic loss to the Brooklyn Dodgers was the cherry on top of Mantle's greatest season, with his clutch grab of a long drive off the bat of Gil Hodges helping to pay back Larsen for his earlier assistance in stymying Ted Williams' run at the batting title. He would later call the Larsen perfecto "the biggest game I ever played in." In a season for the ages, saving Larsen's masterpiece was the Mick's fondest memory. There's a reason why the first line under Mantle's name on his Monument Park plaque reads, simply, "A Great Teammate."
Heritage has been privileged to present some of the most important Mantle relics available in the hobby during our history--his Yankees signing bonus check, his famous "facade" home run ball and his last game used bat. But this singular offering from the season that established him as the baseball hero of a generation is arguably the most significant Mantle artifact ever listed for sale. LOA from PSA/DNA, GU 10. Letter of provenance from The Mickey Mantle Museum (Tom Catal). Full LOA from PSA/DNA. Full LOA from James Spence Authentication.
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