Batting helmets weren’t universally used by major league players in the 1960s but as his career wound to a close, Mickey Mantle had made one well-worn piece of plastic headgear his companion in the batter’s box.
A blue Yankees batting helmet donned by Mantle around the time of one of his most famous milestones is up for bid this weekend in Heritage Auctions Platinum Night event. The current bid, with buyer’s premium, has reached $18,000.
The blue helmet comes with a signed letter of provenance from a coach in the San Gabriel Valley (CA) League who made the acquaintance of a Yankees scout in the 1980s. That scout offered some fungo bats and practice baseballs to the local coach—then handed over the helmet, indicating it had been used “in the 1960s.”
Further research and photomatching placed the helmet on Mantle’s head on two photos and a pair of publications dating 1967 and ‘68.
Whether it was on his head when he swatted his 500th career home run on May 14, 1967 can’t be stated with absolute certainty but there are plenty of clues that it was. The helmet has a large chip out of the fiberglass shell which can be seen on a May 28, 1967 photo taken in Cleveland, exactly two weeks after the home run. The amount of wear would indicate Mantle had been using the helmet for some time.
A second photo, which is included with the lot, shows Mantle and Orioles catcher Andy Etchebarren during spring training 1968. Again, the little divot in the front and heavy game use is evident.
A copy of the May 1968 issue of “Complete Sports” shows Mantle wearing the helmet on the cover, and the 1968 New York Yankees Yearbook offers additional photomatches inside.
To see all of the items in this weekend’s auction, click here.