He made the number 7 famous in baseball circles but Mickey Mantle didn’t start his big league career with it. He was a teen prospect from Commerce, OK in April of 1951, wearing number 6 and crossing the plate when a news photographer snapped one of the more interesting Mantle photos you’ll see.
Our Photo of the Day from RMY Auctions shows Mantle shaking hands as he crosses home plate after scoring a run, staring at Cliff Mapes, a veteran teammate holding a bat and wearing the famous number 7 jersey Mantle would soon don.
Mapes and fellow outfielder Bob Cerv are the two players who wore number 7 for the Yankees in 1951, but Cerv’s debut came in August.
The 6 x 8 1/4-inch photo is one of more than 400 original images in RMY’s January online catalog.
Stamped with a date of April 27 on the back by someone in a newspaper’s photo department, it appears possible the image was actually taken April 21 when both Mantle and Mapes appeared in a Yankee road game at Fenway Park. It’s the only time Mantle scored a run and Mapes appeared in a road game prior to April 27 that season.
Mantle’s well-known rookie slump occurred later that season and he was sent to the minor leagues where he pondered quitting. A stern visit from his father put an end to the talk and Mantle went on a tear that resulted in his return to New York in August of 1951 where he was permanently assigned the number 7, which he would wear for 18 seasons. The number is now retired.