Mickey Mantle: We Finally Learned How Mantle Did in a 'Bad' Season of 1959

Harold FriendChief Writer IJuly 19, 2012

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 21:  A view of the Yankee Stadium at sunset prior to the start of the last game at Yankee Stadium between the Baltimore Orioles and the New York Yankees on September 21, 2008 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. Yankee Stadium held it's inaugural game on April 18, 1923 against the Boston Red Sox and tonight's match will be the final game to be played at the historic stadium. During it's 85 years as 'The Home of Champions,' the stadium has also been known as 'The House that Ruth Built' and 'The Cathedral.' The stadium has been host to 33 World Series, three Papal visits and has been visited by legends such as Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Bera, Mickey Mantle and boxing great Muhummad Ali. In 2009 the Yankees will move across the street to a newly constructed stadium estimated to cost $1.3 billion.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Chris McGrath/Getty Images

I watched Mickey Mantle's complete career. After having a fairly poor season in his rookie season of 1951, Mantle had some very good seasons. Then it happened.

It 1956, Mantle reached what most thought was the apex. He won the Triple Crown and became the best player in the game.

The next season, in 1957, Mantle did well, batting .365. In 1958, he hit "only" .304, but he led the league with 42 home runs.

Then he had a bad season, at least it seemed to be an off-season, in 1959. 

After five consecutive .300-plus seasons, Mantle finally hit below .300. He hit only 31 home runs. It was considered a terrible season. Today, we know that Mantle did better than we thought.

Mantle's .285 was 10th-best in the league. Rocky Colavito and Harmon Killebrew each hit 42 home runs, Jim Lemon hit 33 home runs and Mantle, tied with Charlie Maxwell, hit 31 home runs.

The New York Yankees finished in third place, 15 games behind the pennant-winning Chicago White Sox. Mantle finished second behind Luis Aparicio (56) in stolen bases with 21. The Yankees needed Mantle to steal bases, which is what he did.

Few individuals realized that Mantle had a .390 on-base percentage. In slugging percentage, his .514 was third-best in the league.

In 1959, the American League batted .253. Mantle batted 32 points better than the league.

Most fans didn't realize what Mantle had done. It was not one of his best seasons, but it was good. Now, some modern statistics illustrate that Mantle was better than we realized, according to baseballreference.com.

Guess who led the American League batters in WAR (Wins Above Replacement)?  Mantle's 6.4 was best in the league. Nelson Fox, who won the MVP, finished second with a 5.9.

Mantle led the Yankees by playing in 144 games. Remember, in 1959 teams played only 154 games. He had to help the Yankees however he could.

Bobby Richardson was the only player who hit over .300. Hank Bauer was old, Bill Skowron had been injured and Yogi Berra was starting to show some age. Whitey Ford was still Ford, but Bob Turley had arm problems, and Don Larsen had won only six games.

The Yankees would win in 1960. Mantle would bat only .275, but he led the league with 40 home runs.

The reason that Mantle received some help was from an outfielder named Roger Maris. We all know what was going to happen.