August/September 2020 Auction
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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 9/4/2020
When Mickey Mantle joined the New York Yankees in 1951, it was with the hope that he could extend a decades-old tradition of a rising baseball immortal leading the pinstripes to countless more championships, just as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and the now aging Joe DiMaggio had done before him. After 18 seasons, 12 American League pennants and 7 World Championships, not only did Mantle ably uphold the legacy of his immortal predecessors but did so while arguably becoming the most beloved of them all. He wasn't a perfect man; he partied too much, he didn't stay in shape and he had run-ins with members of the press and even within the Yankees organization. But New York loved him, and opponents feared him. By the time he had reached his mid-30s, his body was breaking down. Mantle had defeated every opponent put in front of him, but no one defeats Father Time, and for the hard life Mantle led, that time had come. He was 36-years old and the same age as Joe DiMaggio when "The Yankee Clipper" called it quits, suffering from chronic stomach ulcers. On September 28, 1968, at Fenway Park, Mantle popped out in the top of the first inning and was immediately replaced at first base by Andy Kosco. Mantle had played his final game, sitting out the season finale the next day. Mantle toyed with the idea of returning for the 1969 season but ultimately announced his retirement just prior to spring training, his worn-down legs and continuous nagging injuries having taken too much of a toll. And for the first time since Babe Ruth patrolled the outfield, the Yankees didn't have a replacement for Mantle to lead them into a new era. It wouldn't be until 1977 that the Bronx Bombers would again hold the World Series championship trophy overhead. The featured 1968 New York Yankees road jersey is a Cooperstown-worthy piece for sure; Mickey Mantle's game-used and signed 1968 Set 2 road jersey. A size 44 Wilson gamer, the jersey displays the proper Wilson and "1968 Set 2" tags in the lower-left tail, consistent with other known examples with no alterations of any kind. Both the New York lettering and number 7 on the front and back are a match to other jerseys from that year and show wear consistent with the rest of the jersey with no evidence of applications or changes. Also matching other Yankees jersey from that year is the blue chain-stitching that forms the name "Mantle" on a gray swatch affixed to the inside of the collar. Down the front of the shirt are 7 grey buttons, all original as opposed to other exemplars that have had the grey pearl with dished center buttons replaced. The jersey shows excellent game wear with set in staining and soiling, specifically around the collar, that is consistent with Mantle's move to first base the previous season. Above the Wilson tags in bold blue marker is the inscription, "To Bill, Best Wishes Mickey Mantle." A ball boy for the team in 1972 and 1973, Bill Hongach acquired the jersey among a treasure trove of other old flannels, simply by asking for it! Yankees' long-time equipment manager Pete Sheehy was cleaning out the storage area in preparation for the stadium's renovation and the team's temporary move across town to share Shea Stadium with Mets. Dozens of old flannel jerseys, including those of past Yankees superstars, that hadn't been repurposed for minor league use were stored, and with knit jerseys becoming the new standard, were obsolete. Rather than being tossed out, Sheehy allowed Hongach to have them. Catching up to Mantle a short time after that, Bill had the jersey autographed. Not a bad day's work! So the question is, what makes it likely to be Mantle's final jersey? After all, a photo match to his final performance is nearly impossible since it was the second to last game of the season and the injured Mantle was removed after batting just once. With every intention of returning for the 1969 season (he even reported to spring training), no one anticipated that a weak pop up to shortstop Rico Petrocelli would be the final plate appearance for "The Mick." The answer requires a little bit of deductive reasoning. Players were typically issued two "Set 2" jerseys to replace their "Set 1" jerseys per season for road games. The other Set 2 jersey is presently being offered at auction and was verified by Mantle himself as the one he wore nine days earlier when he received "The Gift" from Denny McLain, a grooved fastball that allowed Mantle to pass Jimmie Foxx on the all-time home run list. Had that jersey also been worn for his final at-bat, an even greater milestone, it would have so been stated. So in all likelihood, Mantle took that size 42 jersey out of circulation and donned this size 44 gamer to finish out the year, unbeknownst to even himself that it would be the last jersey he would ever wear as a major league ballplayer. Without the pomp and circumstance of a proper farewell to the New York legend, the jersey was returned to equipment manager Sheehy, where it laid in storage until Hongach wisely made his request. Even without a definite match to that final game, we have been able to photo match the jersey as a gamer that Mantle wore in the second half of the season. There are subtle differences between this flannel and the other known Set 2 jersey, namely the positioning of the second and third buttons in relation to the "Y" in "NEW YORK" and the slight change in letter font, showing that the hole in the letter "R" is D-shaped rather than O-shaped. The provided photos show this uniform being worn by Mantle in a late July game. MEARS authentication agrees, giving the jersey a spectacular A9.5 grade. 100% original and unaltered, with the probability that it was worn during Mickey Mantle's very last game! LOA Troy Kinunen/MEARS A9.5, Sports Investors Authentication, and Dave Bushing for the jersey and JSA for the autograph.
Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $100,000.00
Final prices include buyers premium.: $456,000.00
Number Bids: 27
Auction closed on Friday, September 4, 2020.
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