One was a 19-year-old kid from Oklahoma. The other was a 36-year-old veteran who was well accustomed to New York City’s social scene. Mickey Mantle was just starting his Hall of Fame career. Joe DiMaggio was nearing the end of his.
The RMY Auctions Photo of the Day is a rare oversized, original team photo of that 1951 Yankees team that captures the end of one era and the beginning of another.
After impressing manager Casey Stengel in spring training, Mantle made the roster and was assigned number 6, with the team already convinced he would be the next great star, behind Babe Ruth (#3); Lou Gehrig (#4) and DiMaggio (#5). He made his debut on April 17, 1951 but went through a brief slump and was sent back to the minors, but returned later in the season and wound up hitting .267 with 13 homers and 65 RBI in 96 games while playing right field.
DiMaggio’s statistics were similar, although he played in 20 more games in his final year as the team’s center fielder. In Game 2 of the 1951 World Series against the Giants, Mantle suffered a serious knee injury after getting his foot caught in a drain while giving way to DiMaggio. He would be plagued by knee trouble the rest of his career, but was still an electrifying presence as one of the greatest switch hitters of all-time.
The ’51 Yankees finished 98-56, winning their 18th pennant and dispatching the Giants in the World Series. DiMaggio retired two months after the season and Mantle moved to center field.
The 11 1/4″ x 14″ black and white image is among nearly 600 items in the April Collectors Auction.