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Yankee tenure: 1951-68
Yankee totals: .298/.421/.557 with 536 HR, 1,509 RBI, 1,676 R, 2,415 H, 153 SB in 2,401 G (9,907 PA)
Career totals: Same; played entire career as a Yankee
We go from two of the easiest choices to what was absolutely the most difficult. On the other hand, choosing between Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio is akin to choosing between a Bugatti Veyron and a SSC Ultimate Aero—either way, you’re getting one heck of a ride.
Mantle’s 18 postseason home runs are still tied for fourth all time, even though he played his entire career in an era when there was just one round of postseason play—the World Series.
He is still the all-time leader in World Series home runs and held the overall postseason record from his final World Series appearance in 1964 until his mark was tied by Reggie Jackson of the California Angels in the 1982 American League Championship Series.
Mantle was a three-time American League MVP (1956-57 and 1962) and won the Triple Crown for his .353, 52-homer, 130-RBI campaign in 1956. He led the American League in home runs four times, in runs five times, in walks five times and, for good measure, won his lone batting title in 1956 and led the league in triples in 1955.
He did all of that despite going on to become one of the sport’s all-time cautionary tales. Royce Webb wrote for ESPN in 2002 that Mantle “was the perfect physical specimen…but his hearty partying caught up with him.”
Mantle, at one point, was considered a legitimate threat to break Babe Ruth’s career home-run record—Mantle had 404 homers by the time he was just 30 years old—but due to injuries and, well, other extra-curricular activities, only played seven more seasons and retired in 1968 with 536 home runs, the most ever by a switch-hitter.
Apologies to: Joe DiMaggio, Bernie Williams, Earle Combs, Rickey Henderson, Joe DiMaggio, Joe DiMaggio, Joe DiMaggio and, oh by the way, Joe DiMaggio.