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    Gifted to the Yankees' official charter pilot

    1961 Mickey Mantle World Series Game Worn New York Yankees Cap, MEARS Authentic. "The best team I ever saw, and I really mean this, was the '61 Yankees," Mickey Mantle once said, years after he had retired from the game that made him a legend. "I never got to see the '27 Yankees. Everyone says that was the greatest team ever, but I think it would've been a great series if we'd have had the chance to play them." And certainly, if there ever was a pinstriped crew that could give Murderer's Row a run for its money, it was the one led by the M&M boys, who carried the team to 109 regular season wins (one short of the 1927 figure) and a World Championship. Each team certainly could give the horsehide a ride--the '61 Yanks' 240 home runs outpaced the competition by more than fifty, while the Babe's batsmen came close to tripling their nearest competitor. And though it was Maris who would topple the Babe during that historic season forty-four years ago, there is no disputing that the greatest slugger to call the Bronx home since Ruth was, and remains, Mickey Mantle.

    Maris himself always contended that Mickey would have broken the Babe's record in 1961 had he stayed healthy, and the math does seem to bear this out. Roger's 590 at-bats in 1961 puts his home run pace at one for every 9.67; Mickey, having missed eighteen games, knocked out fifty-four that season in 519 at-bats, or a rate of one per 9.61. Of course this is all purely conjecture, and to imagine what may have been almost pays a disservice to that which actually did happen. And what happened was pure magic.

    Offered here is the very cap that the great Mickey Mantle wore in the closing weeks of the 1961 season, continuing on to include his gutsy appearances in the Fall Classic. While that Series was not the most productive of the Mick's twelve October appearances, it is undeniably his most noble. Still in agonizing pain from a terrible infection that left an open wound on his hip, Mickey nonetheless left the hospital bed where he had watched his good friend club number sixty-one, suited up in his pinstripes, steadied this cap on his head, and took the field. The consistent wear evident throughout the body of the cap certainly suggests, however, that the cap saw a good bit of use before October of '61, and played prominently in the days of the Bambino hunt that dominated the sports pages that historic season. Identical in every noteworthy detail to known Mantle game worn caps, this one features the proper "Tim McAuliffe Pro KM 7 1/4" tagging in the leather headband, which holds a worn, vintage number "7" identifier hidden inside. It is worth noting that pro model caps were not available to the general public until quite recently, though the fabulous provenance of this piece would quiet any doubts even if this were not the case.

    The cap comes to us directly from the family of Randy Nicklas, the sole charter pilot of the New York Yankees and New York Football Giants from 1958 to 1968. A notarized letter from his son describes the close friendship Nicklas had with his athlete passengers-Dad even sat on the bench or in the dugout with the teams at games! In the famous 1964 photograph of the injured Y.A. Tittle being carried off the field, Nicklas is under one of his arms.

    The son's letter ends with the text, "The night the Yankees won the '61 series, Mickey Mantle gave his game hat to my dad as a token of his gratitude for always delivering the team safely to their destination. This hat sat on our mantle for over 20 years and my father passed this to me as a symbol of his hard work and good fortune. I hope that the person who acquires this hat has the same good fortune. Please consider this letter as testament that the baseball hat it accompanies is genuine, and was used by Mickey Mantle during the 1961 World Series."

    Unfortunately, our consignor has lost that letter, but the above text is printed in full in the MEARS paperwork. Also included in the lot are photocopies of two 1958 letters sent to the pilot Nicklas by United Airlines complimenting him on his service to the New York Yankees and Football Giants.

    With Ruth and Gehrig caps now trading for as much as a half-million dollars, it's clear that significant hats represent a bull market in today's hobby, and this example from the greatest season and greatest star of the post-war era could certainly be considered in the same class. An investment-quality relic, to be sure. LOA from MEARS, Authentic. LOA from Heritage Auctions.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    August, 2017
    19th-20th Saturday-Sunday
    Internet/Mail Bids: 17
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 2,332

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