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by Harold Friend
It was 40 years ago on June 9 that Mickey Mantle's number was retired. Mel Allen called Mickey out of the Yankees' dugout as 61,157 fans roared with a delight that was mixed with regrets that reflected Mickey's career.
The Cheers Became Even Louder
The fans cheered so long that Mike Burke, finally attempted to get them to stop, but as with almost everything else associated with his Yankees' tenure, Burke failed. When Mickey raised his hands, the cheers became even louder.
Joe DiMaggio Presents Mickey With a Plaque
Finally, the cheering stopped, and the Yankees' center fielder whom many now consider to be less than Mickey Mantle's equal (they are wrong) presented Mickey with a plaque, and Mickey's good friend, Whitey Ford, presented a uniform to him. After another series of cheers, Mickey addressed the crowd.
Joe DiMaggio's Plaque From Mickey
Mickey presented Joe DiMaggio with a plaque, which would be placed next to Mickey's in center field (and later in Monument Park in Yankee Stadium).
"Maybe (Joe's plaque should be) a little higher than mine. When I walked into the Stadium 18 years ago, I guess I felt the same way I feel now. I can't describe it. I just want to say that playing 18 years in Yankee Stadium for you folks is the best thing that could ever happen to a ballplayer. Now, having my number join 3,4, and 5 kind of tops everything. I never knew how a man who was going to die could say he was the luckiest man in the world. But now I can understand."
A little later, Mickey toured Yankee Stadium in a golf cart. A few fans ran onto the field. None was arrested.
What Mickey Missed the Most
Mickey later said that he was more nervous before the ceremonies than before any game he had ever played. Mickey was asked what he missed the most since retiring. His response was one that is almost universal among retired athletes.
"The thing I miss the most is being around the clubhouse, not the way I played the last four years - that wasn't fun." Yogi Berra, who was now a coach with New York's other team, came in San Diego. George Weiss, with whom Mickey had many disagreements, made certain to attend. There was at least one player present from each of the 12 pennant-winning years.
Mickey was the third of three Yankees' Hall of Fame center fielders. Joe DiMaggio, who also batted .325, followed Earle Combs, who batted .325. When Mickey retired, DiMaggio was held in awe.
Joe DiMaggio's Awards
A few weeks after Mickey's Number 7 had been retired, baseball had its centennial celebration in Washington, where Joe DiMaggio received three awards. One was for being the part of the greatest all-time outfield, the second was for being the greatest living outfielder, and the third was for being the greatest living ballplayer.
The modest DiMaggio was overwhelmed, just as Mickey had been overwhelmed when his number was retired.
"I just can't believe it. When you think of all the great outfielders there have been over the past hundred years, I'm overwhelmed."
By GEORGE VECSEY. (1969, June 9). 61,157 Hearts Here Throb for Mantle as No. 7 Joins 3, 4 and 5 in Retirement. New York Times (1857-Current file),61. Retrieved August 10, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). (Document ID: 90110601).
By ARTHUR DALEY. (1969, July 27). Sports of The Times :Just Listening. New York Times (1857-Current file),S2. Retrieved August 10, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). (Document ID: 89356135).