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Article:An Expert Compares Mickey and Willie at Their Best

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The following is from Allen Barra.  It presents Mr. Barra's work that he has written, and it deserves to be posted.  It is properly documented and no claim is made that Harold Friend wrote ANY of the material.

Allen Barra, a highly respected baseball writer, book reviewer, and social critic came to the conclusion that Mantle’s best years were far superior to Willie’s.  The Wall Street Journal ran an article on June 28, 2002 written by Mr. Barra, who wrote:

Because both were about the same age, the same size, played the same position in the same city and had virtually the same talent, this is this is likely the most argued-about duo in baseball history.  Over the long haul, the almost never injured Mays was the more valuable of the two.  But that isn’t the definite answer.  Looking at a dozen of each player’s peak seasons, I found to my surprise that Mr. Mantle was the superior ballplayer.  How did I arrive at this?

1. Fielding.  “Mr. Mays was the far superior outfielder, but not by that wide margin.  In center field, he averaged 2.56 fly balls per game, compared with Mr. Mantle’s 2.26.  But break that down further:  every few games, Mr. Mays got a fly ball that Mr. Mantle couldn’t or perhaps, never had a chance to get to because Yankee pitchers struck out so many more batters than the Giants.”

2. Base Running.  Though Mr. Mays was thought to be better on the base paths, Mr. Mantle may have better used his speed.  Mr. Mays led the National League in steals from 1956 through 1959, with 338 out of 441 (for a 76% success rate).  The Mick, who was seldom called on to steal, was even more difficult to throw out.  He stole 153 bases in 191 attempts, for an impressing 80.1% average.

3 Batting.  The edge is in the batting eye.  While Mr. Mays played 591 more games, Mr. Mantle walked 269 more times.  His career on-base average of .421 (37 points higher than Mr. Mays) is higher than any modern slugger’s including Barry Bonds .419 career average (through June 2002).  In their 12 best seasons, Willie Mays played in 128 more games than Mickey Mantle.  But the difference is actually greater since Mr. Mays almost always played complete games, whereas Mr. Mantle often appeared as just a pinch hitter when injured.  Mantle during those years led in walks (1308 vs. 876), runs (1,421 vs. 1,372), runs batted in (1,311 vs.1198), home runs (481 vs. 426).


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