The changing of the Yankees icon was underway in the spring of 1951. 36-year-old Joe DiMaggio was just about to enter his final season in New York while a fresh-faced kid from the Midwest was turning heads.
Mantle had been invited to spring training camp after winning the Western Association batting title at Joplin in 1950, hitting .383 with 26 homers and 136 runs batted in. While he didn’t seem like a big league quality shortstop, he could do everything else and manager Casey Stengel decided he was worthy of a major promotion. Mantle would be the Yankees’ new right fielder.
He struggled early but after a brief demotion and a rebuke by his father Mutt after he talked of quitting the game, Mantle returned with a fury, blossoming into one of the game’s all-time greats.
DiMaggio would retire at the end of the season. He was 36—the same age Mantle was when he played his final game in September of 1968.
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