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by Harold Friend
Victor Mohn , despite being a Boston Red Sox fan, admired Mickey Mantle, but he felt that injuries were part of the game. Victor wasn't surprised to learn that New York Yankees' general manager Ralph Houk talked Mickey out of retiring after the disastrous 1965 season.
Mickey Mantle revealed the truth. At the age of 34, the second greatest center fielder in New York Yankees' history no longer could run or throw well, and was no longer an effective hitter from the left side of the plate.
He was suffering from weak knees, aching legs, a bad right shoulder that would need surgery, and a melancholy mental state. Mickey was on his way to the Mayo Clinic for three days of examinations.
"When I came to New York a few days ago, I was seriously thinking of quitting. My shoulder hurt so much that I couldn't even throw a ball, my legs will never be any better, and I was pretty discouraged.
But Ralph Houk talked things over with me, and told me what the people and the team expect, and now I feel better and I'm willing to try."
Mickey has played in 2,005 games. He has batted .306, with a .426 on base average, a .576 slugging average, and 473 home runs. Looking back on his career, Mickey verdict is "I don't think it was as good as it should have been."
Mantle was upset that in 1965 he appeared in only 122 games, and finished a mere 36. "It got so that the last month of the season I couldn't even throw the ball in from left field or bat left-handed."
Ralph Houk related that when they met, Mickey was really depressed.
"He was saying things like, 'If I had to play under these conditions...,' and 'I don't want to go out as a bad player.'
"I told him that no one would want him to go out that way, but that he didn't realize what he meant to the public, the Yankees, and his fellow players. Just having Mickey Mantle on the team has been a great influence on all of us. And I told him he didn't realize how good he was."
Houk knew Mickey's moods could change. After the meeting with Houk, Mickey said, "I'd really like to play until I'm 40."
When asked if he had any goals, his response was less obvious than it would be today.
"Yes, 500 home runs. I'd like to get to 500. I should have had 500 by now."
Mickey played three more years following the 1965 season. He finished he career with 536 home runs, a .557 slugging average, a .421 on base average, but he lost his .300 lifetime batting average.
On numerous occasions, Mickey told friends like Tom Molito that his biggest regret was that he didn't finish his career with a .300 batting average.
I met Tom at the Saw Mill Club in Westchester a few years ago. We started talking about Mickey. Tom reiterated that Mickey had great remorse over not batting .300, and second-guessed himself about not retiring sooner.
When it comes to being sympathetic to the Yankees, I am not among those in that group, but I told Tom that when Mickey retired, batting .300 was considered much more important that it is today.
If Ralph Houk hadn't convinced Mickey not to retire, he would have batting .306, but he would have hit "only" 473 home runs.
If Mickey were still alive, there is little doubt that Ralph Houk would be able to convince him that he made the right decision in 1966.
By JOSEPH DURSO. (1966, January 16).Mantle Is Beset by Doubts About His Baseball Future. New York Times (1857-Current file),p. S1. Retrieved February 18, 2010, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). (Document ID: 121593355).
By LEONARD KOPPETT. (1965, December 12). Mays vs. Mantle: A Comparison :Injuries to Yankee Over Years Give Edge to Giant. New York Times (1923-Current file),p. S2. Retrieved February 18, 2010, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). (Document ID: 95007875).