Mickey Mantle Was Not Persecuted by Selective Service or by George Weiss

Harold FriendChief Writer IMarch 12, 2012

When Will They Decide?
When Will They Decide?

On April 3, 1951 Mickey, hitting a robust .462 in the exhibition season, was ordered to report to his draft board for a medical re-examination. Mantle had been classified as 4-F due to osteomyelitis of his left shin, which was the result of a high school football injury incurred in 1946. 

For a time, the doctors treating Mickey feared that the leg might have to be amputated, but his family refused to consider that horrifying option. After several operations and treatment with the new wonder drug, penicillin, the condition was arrested. 

Mickey Mantle was harassed by the draft board responsible for determining his condition to become part of America's fighting forces. In early Oct. 1952, Mantle was summoned for his fifth evaluation.

Robert A. Ruark wrote "...continued scrutiny by draft boards after being rejected more than twice, constitutes persecution."

Ruark pointed out that Mantle was on the cusp of stardom. By keeping him on the hook, the draft board was being unfair and creating concern that could affect his play.

Mantle was not a shirker. If he were asked to serve, he would serve.

It must be acknowledged that the draft board faced pressure from the public. Fans asked how could an individual that could a baseball 500 ft. and run to from home plate to first base in 3.1 sec. be unfit to be drafted.

It must also be reported that New York Yankees' general manager George Weiss responded to public pressure by contacting the Selective Service System to reexamine Mantle.

Finally, it was decided that Mantle's bone disease made him eligible for a medical exemption.

Sometimes, what appears to be a benefit is not. The disease prevented Mickey from serving in the army, but it allowed him to play for the Yankees as a raw 19-year-old. 

His rookie season had more than its share of frustration, but Mickey's osteomyelitis prevented him from becoming as great as his genes would have allowed.


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