Like the ball that landed in the hands of young Sal Durante after being crushed by Roger Maris to set a new single-season record, it was a Bronx teenager who landed one of Mickey Mantle’s last home run milestones.
Playing in what would be his last season, Mantle took Sam McDowell deep in the first inning of a May 6, 1968 game against Cleveland at Yankee Stadium. It was the 522nd of his career, moving him past Ted Williams and (this will blow your mind) into fourth place on the all-time home run list at the time, trailing only Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and Jimmie Foxx.
The ball landed in the right field seats where it was snared by 18-year-old Ralph Maffei. Taking advantage of a $1,000 reward, Maffei turned the ball over to the Yankees who would send it off to Cooperstown.
A photo of Mantle in the dressing room that night is among more than 1,700 pieces being sold this weekend through RMY Auctions. The 5 3/4″ x 7 1/4″ image shows Mantle accepting, what we presume, is a check with the baseball being held nearby. A ball bearing the ‘HR 522’ inscription and Mantle’s signature is being held by someone off camera.
Mantle, of course, would belt 14 more, passing Jimmie Foxx for third place all-time before his retirement prior to the start of the 1969 season. He’s now 18th all-time.