DescriptionThe Earliest Known Mickey Mantle Batting Trophy. We have all seen those science fiction movies in which the protagonist goes back in time and changes one seemingly minor thing, only to find that this action derails the proper course of events and sets another in motion, changing everything forever. And so, as we consider this rather modest looking trophy, we wonder what the baseball world would be like if it had never existed. Suppose a nineteen-year old kid from small town Oklahoma named Mickey Mantle had chosen basketball instead, or settled for a life in the mines as his father had. Millions upon millions of young baseball fans would have had to search for a new idol to worship, but nobody could have been quite the same, quite as good. Had this trophy never existed, then neither would have the love and devotion that brought grown men to tears at the mere sight of Mickey decades after he hung up his spikes. And who knows if the Yanks would have earned those twelve pennants and seven World Championship rings? The legend of the Mick, one of the two or three greatest names in the history of our National Pastime, begins here.
Though Mickey Mantle's rookie season was 1951, few fans know that the Mick actually traveled with the Yankees for the final two weeks of the 1950 season, though he didn't play. Mickey's fielding that season had been sub-par to be sure, miscast in the role of shortstop for the Joplin (Missouri) Yankees of the Class C Western Association, where he committed an average of one error every two games at the position. But it was his batting that made the Big League team take notice, as he improved from an impressive .313 average in 1949 to an outstanding .383 in his second, the figure for which he was awarded both this trophy and the opportunity to make the Bronx his home. "I never saw a player with greater promise," Yankee skipper Casey Stengel told the press. "He should lead the league in everything. With his combination of speed and power he should win the triple batting crown every year. In fact, he should do anything he wants to do."
The simple, understated design of the loving cup that was presented to Mickey Mantle in 1950 belies its tremendous value as one of the most historically significant awards in baseball. It stands ten inches tall including its plain wooden base, to which a brass plaque reading "Mickey Mantle, Western Association Batting Champion 1950" is affixed. For years this trophy was on display at Mickey Mantle's famous Holiday Inn of Joplin, Missouri, well known to be one of Mantle's most prized possessions. Tarnishing and minor pitting of the metal of the cup can do nothing to detract from the massive appeal, nor can some incidental nicks and bumps to the wooden base. Rock-solid provenance including notarized affidavits track this exceptional artifact from the hotel to the estate of Mickey's mentor and principal hotel shareholder H.D. Youngman, and finally to the estate of the late Louis McDonald, who purchased the trophy from the Youngman holdings in 2000.
Those who have called this piece "The Holy Grail" of Mickey Mantle collecting are not far off base, as this simple yet monumentally significant cup does inspire a sort of religious awe among devotees of Number Seven. While most collectors have been trained to believe that the game worn jersey is the absolute height of the hobby, we would respectfully argue the case for this trophy instead, as without it those fabulous flannels would have another, lesser name sewn into the collar. All great stories begin at the beginning, as they say. This is the beginning of the story, and the glory, of Mickey Mantle.
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