The New York Yankees went west for spring training in 1951, acting more like a touring band of barnstormers than the defending World Series champions. Games in Arizona and California preceded a trip to the Midwest and the Yanks’ California-born players got most of the starts. Finally, on April 10, Mickey Mantle’s name was finally written on the lineup card.
The Vintage Photo of the Day shows the young Oklahoma native, clearly happy about his first Yankee start, chatting with his girlfriend and future wife Merlyn, his younger brother and his parents who had made the trip to see him play. The 7×9” photo carries the original newspaper caption, still attached to the back and has been stored in an archive for more than 60 years.
Mantle went 0-for-4 that day but the Yankees remained high on the teenage phenom.
Mick’s family had also driven to Kansas City for another reason. They had to transport him back to Oklahoma, where the following day, he had been ordered to take a second Army physical. Mantle had been declared 4-F and public pressure was mounting. Many assumed he was getting special treatment because of his status as the Yankees’ brightest young prospect and a possible future star while other young men his age were being shipped off to the Korean War.
Mantle did take that second physical but was again declared 4-F, apparently because of osteomyelitis. He was free to join the Yankees but after starting the season in New York, Mantle slumped and found himself back in Missouri, sent to the minors. After a no-nonsense talk from his father, Mutt, Mickey straightened himself out and the rest, as they say, is history.
In cooperation with RMY Auctions, here’s a link to the photo, which is one of more than 1,200 available the company’s Fall Premier Auction which closes Monday, November 15.