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    The glorious Triple Crown campaign!

    1956 Mickey Mantle All-Star Game Used Bat, PSA/DNA GU 9.5. 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. Though he'd fall short of matching his iconic Yankees forebear, he'd best ever other active American Leaguer with fifty-two home runs, 130 runs batted in and a .353 batting average to claim the elusive Triple Crown.

    The offered relic, one of the most important game used bats we have presented in our fifteen-year history, marks the center point of that historic 1956 campaign. With the President again occupying the grandstand at Washington D.C.'s Griffith Stadium, the young Yankees superstar brought the crowd to its feet in the sixth inning, following American League teammate Ted Williams' home run blast with one of his own to chase the sport's winningest southpaw, the legendary Warren Spahn.

    It is common hobby knowledge that participants in All-Star Games and World Series were typically issued two special bats to mark the occasion. Remarkably, each of the two bats issued to Mickey Mantle for the 1956 All-Star Game have been consigned to Heritage Auctions, five years apart. The first sold in our February 2014 Platinum Night auction, a truly spectacular representation bearing a glorious "My Triple Crown Year 1956" notation to join his bold sharpie signature, and a letter from the Mick's close friend and Mickey Mantle Museum president Tom Catal attributing the bat to that home run off Warren Spahn. It sold for over $430,000.

    We have no doubt that this attribution was made in good faith, that it had been based upon Mantle's personal recollection. However, the sudden appearance of this second specimen undeniably poses unanswerable questions. Identical in every other regard to that aforementioned bat, this signature model Hillerich & Bradsby S2 bears vintage grip tape at the handle as a distinguishing trait. While there remains a real possibility that the bat sold in 2014 once had tape which was subsequently removed, photographic evidence documents that the bat with which Mantle victimized Spahn was taped.

    This bat derives from the personal collection of Washington Senators coach (1955-60) and close Mantle friend Ellis Clary, whose signed letter of provenance attests that he received it from the Mick after the game. Do we understand this to mean immediately after the game, or some time later? Again, the answer is irretrievably buried beneath the sands of time.

    But we do know this. Leading bat expert John Taube characterizes the game use on this thirty-five inch (35"), thirty-two ounce (31.6 oz.) lumber as "excellent," reporting ball marks and stitch impressions on both sides of the barrel. Mantle did bat from both sides of the plate in this contest. Cleat marks likewise speckle these areas. A repaired handle crack adds mystery, as Taube reports there was no mention of Mantle cracking a bat during the All-Star Game in the radio broadcast, though, of course, it's not certain that would have been mentioned on air. Nonetheless, could this also mean that Clary's recollection was faulty, and that the gift came later in the season, perhaps during the Yankees' return to D.C. in early August?

    In the end, all that we are able to do is present the evidence as it exists and leave the ultimate determination up to our bidding clientele. We do not expect consensus, not even as to the question of whether the bat is more desirable as a veteran of a single Midsummer Classic, or instead a span of second-half regular season games, and thus a direct participant in the Triple Crown stat lines. Strong arguments could be made for both. LOA from PSA/DNA, GU 9.5. Letter of provenance from Senators coach Ellis Clary.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    August, 2019
    17th-18th Saturday-Sunday
    Internet/Mail Bids: 39
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 2,531

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    The hammer price for my Mantle card significantly exceeded my admittedly conservative estimations, and I couldn't be more pleased.
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