Mickey Mantle Almost Gave Up Switch-Hitting in 1960

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Mickey Mantle Almost Gave Up Switch-Hitting in 1960
Mickey Mantle, Bobby Richardson and Whitey Ford Following the Third Game of the 1960 WS

Mickey Mantle's pursuit of greatness was hampered greatly by his leg injuries, but it was a shoulder injury that might have been more significant in hamstringing his career.

It was the first inning of the third game of the 1957 World Series. Mantle, who had walked, advanced to second when Milwaukee Braves right-hander Bob Buhl walked Yogi Berra.

It was the worst walk of Yogi's career.

As Mantle took his lead off second, Buhl whirled and fired wildly to second base in a pick-off attempt. Mantle dived back into second headfirst as the ball headed for the outfield.

Second baseman Red Schoendienst fell onto Mantle's right shoulder with the full force of his weight.

After the game, Mantle told reporters, "It was as if someone had dropped a sack of cement on me and the wonder is that no bone cracked."

A stiffness developed in the shoulder. It was an injury that hampered his swing from the left side of the plate for the rest of his career. Casey Stengel explained that Mantle reacted to the pain by developing a hitch in his swing. He lost his almost perfect level swing.

"I was never quite the hitter I had been from the left side of the plate."

Mantle had a great 1958 season (.304/.443/.592), but in 1959 and 1960, his production, while still good, declined (.285/.390/.514 in 1959 followed by .275/.399/.558 in 1960).

The rumors started during the 1960 World Series.

A report was circulating that Mantle had said that he was going to stop switch-hitting. He would bat exclusively from the right side because his right shoulder was hampering him too much.

Following the Yankees' lopsided win in the third game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in which Mantle collected four hits, including a home run and a double, Mickey spoke to the press about the report.

"It isn't true. I never said it. Let's face it. I just can't hit good from the left side of the plate. I haven't been able to do that since I hurt my right shoulder in the 1958 World Series.

"What I said was that if I ever I was traded to Washington or Boston I might consider hitting right-handed all the time. Everyone knows how tough it is to hit homers at Griffith Stadium and Fenway Park. Otherwise, though, I wouldn't think of changing."

Mantle hit three home runs in the 1960 World Series. All were while he was batting right-handed.

Baseball-Reference has splits for most of Mantle's career. Batting left-handed, his numbers are .281/.418/.546. Batting right-handed, they are .330/.424/.575.

A few times, against knuckleballers such as Hoyt Wilhelm, Mantle batted from the right side, but in his career, according to Baseball-Reference, he did it only once. I remember seeing him do it a few times.

The fact that he finished his career with a .298 batting average rankled Mantle. He often said that he might have played too long.

The truth is that it was the shoulder injury, not his last few seasons, that cost him a .300 career batting average.

 

References:

Yank ace to play as switch hitter. (1960, Oct 09). New York Times (1923-Current File), pp. S2. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/115151169?accountid=46260

Nuttall, David S. Mickey Mantle's Greatest Hits.New York: S.P.I. Books. March 1, 1998.

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