Long before the crush of autograph seekers made spring training an annual target, the atmosphere around big league camps was much more personal for those who did make the pilgrimage to warmer climates.
For one baseball fan, though, spring training of 1968 meant a chance to have Mickey Mantle sign a couple of baseball cards he had pulled from packs when the Yankees’ aging superstar was still just a wet behind the ears kid from Oklahoma.
Now, those two signed cards, complete with a ‘Best Wishes’ inscription, are heading for the auction block as part of Heritage Auctions’ Platinum Night sale in August.
While Mantle became a regular autograph guest for card show promoters from the 1980s through the early 90s, collectors usually shied away from having him sign his 1951 Bowman rookie or his iconic 1952 Topps card. The general feeling was that having autographs on valuable star cards made them somehow less valuable and attractive. That idea has faded, and with Mantle having died at a relatively young age in 1995, his signed baseball cards are relatively rare and highly sought after.
The population of autographed ’52 Mantles is extremely limited and it’s believed the autographed card obtained by the spring training visitor 49 years ago will likely fetch more than $50,000. The 1951 Bowman is expected to bring at least $30,000. Each has been examined and encapsulated by SGC Authentic.
The fan who obtained the signed cards was a young physical education teacher in Bradenton, Florida in the spring of ‘68 and when the Yankees visited nearby Sarasota, the Grapefruit League home of the Chicago White Sox, he was able to meet his childhood hero and secure the autographs.