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    Description

    Signed the day of Mickey's high school graduation to showcase his talents for a New York Yankees scout!

    1949 Mickey Mantle Signed First Baseball Contract--Baxter Springs (KS) Whiz Kids. Every true Yankees fan knows the name Paul Krichell, the scout that delivered Lou Gehrig to the pinstriped fold after witnessing his home run exploits for the Columbia University nine. Far fewer could identify Tom Greenwade, the Yankees' leading assessor of talent in the Midwest who admitted, as he sat in the rickety stands of a small Kansas ballpark watching a teenaged Mickey Mantle, that his thoughts drifted back to his predecessor's signature discovery.

    "Now I know how Paul Krichell felt."

    Excerpted below is the letter Greenwade sent to the editors of The Sporting News in October 1952, not long after his young discovery capped his breakthrough sophomore season in pinstripes by batting .345 with two home runs to lead the Yankees to World Series victory over the Brooklyn Dodgers:

    To the best of my knowledge and memory, the first person to talk to me about Mantle was his manager, Barney Barnett, in the Ban Johnson League. All the Midwestern scouts know Barney and drop by to see him. This must have been in the early part of the 1948 season for I went to Alba, Mo., about August 1948 to see Mantle and other players that I had heard of on both clubs. Mantle, who at that time was referred to as "Little Mickey Mantle," was small and played shortstop. He pitched a couple of innings in this game. I wasn't overly impressed, but bear in mind he was only sixteen.

    The following spring an umpire in the B.J. League, Kenny Magness, told me about a game the night before in which Mantle played, and he was very high on him. I caught the Baxter club at Parsons to see Mantle again. This was early in May, 1949. Mantle looked better and must have put on twenty pounds since the past August, and I became interested in a hurry for that was when I discovered he could really run, but wasn't hitting too much. So I inquired from other sources, probably Barney, when Mickey would graduate. It was to be the last Thursday in May, 1949, from the Commerce, Okla. H.S.

    On Friday I drove to Commerce, and this is the first time the Mantles ever knew there was such a person as Tom Greenwade. I found out the graduation exercises had been postponed till that night for some reason. Since I had no desire to violate the H.S. tampering rule, I was careful not to mention contract or pro ball either, but had understood Mickey was to play in Coffeyville that night and I wanted to see him play and I didn't mention that I had seen him play before. Well, they talked things over with the coach and superintendent and decided to pass on the exercises since Mickey already had his diploma and go to Coffeyville instead.

    Of course, I was there. Mickey looked better at bat, hitting left handed. I still don't know he switches since the only pitching I have seen him against is right handed. After the game Mr. Mantle tells me Mickey will play Sunday in Baxter Springs. I told him I would be at his house Sunday morning and go to the game with them. I was there about 11 A.M. I was scared to death for fear some scout had been there Saturday. I asked Mr. Mantle if anyone had been there. He said "no." I was relieved.

    We all went to Baxter Springs, and for the first time I see Mickey hit right-handed. Mickey racked the pitcher for four "clothes lines," and I started looking all around for scouts, but none were there.

    When the last out was made, Mr. Mantle, Mickey and I got in my car behind the grandstand and in fifteen minutes the contract was signed. We agreed on $1,500 for the remainder of the season and the contract (Independence of the K.O.M.) was drawn calling for a salary of $140 per month. Mickey reported to Harry Craft at Independence. He was slow to get started and as late as July 10th was hitting only .225, but finished the season over .300. The following year at Joplin he hit .383, I believe. You know the rest.

    Yes, we do.

    The coal mines of northeastern Oklahoma had produced a diamond unlike any that professional baseball had previously unearthed, a raw talent more multi-faceted than even the residents of the Yankee pantheon that had preceded him. Thunderous home run power from both sides of the plate. The foot speed of an Olympic sprinter. But not even Greenwade, as he coaxed the seventeen year old into a professional covenant in the back seat of his 1949 Chrysler, could have imagined that the young phenom would soon grasp the torch passed to him by Joe DiMaggio and light the way through the most dominant decade and a half in franchise history.

    Presented is the document that set into motion that most golden era in the Bronx, a contract signed for one reason and one reason only--to grant official eligibility to Mickey Mantle for scouting by the New York Yankees.

    This four-page "Ban Johnson League" contract is dated to "this 27th day of May 1949" on the third page, the final Friday of the month, perfectly matching Greenwade's reporting of Mantle's graduation and his first meeting with Mickey and father Mutt. Both father and son, and mother Lovell, sign their consent to the terms of the agreement on page two, parental authorization necessary due to Mickey's youth. It is Mickey's own boyish hand that provides the personal details topping page three: his address, high school, height, weight, his switch hitting batting stance and his throwing arm. To the right he records the details of his birth and the names of his parents.

    Signing for the Baxter Springs team is another familiar figure reported to The Sporting News by Greenwade, manager Barney Barnett, who first spoke the name "Mickey Mantle" to a Yankees representative. The balance of text appears in the hand of a notary public, with all writing from all parties remaining as bold and legible as the historic date of application.

    Our sole caveat relates to the frailty of the spine that joins the two separate halves of the contract, and chipping along the outer edge of the second leaf. We stress, and our catalog imagery should confirm, that these concerns do not in any way affect the text of the document. Certainly the supreme Yankee relevance of the piece, perhaps second only to the 1920 sale of Babe Ruth paperwork that commanded a million dollar price tag at auction over a decade ago, excuses it from any such pedestrian considerations. Without this document, the post-war history of the New York Yankees, of Major League Baseball, of millions of Baby Boomer childhoods, is dramatically altered, and to the detriment of all. Full LOA from PSA/DNA. Full LOA from James Spence Authentication.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    February, 2016
    20th-21st Saturday-Sunday
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