Mickey Mantle's Greatest Game with the New York Yankees? It Might Have Been

Harold FriendChief Writer IDecember 22, 2010

NEW YORK - MAY 02:  The plaque of Mickey Mantle is seen in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium prior to the game between the New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox on May 2, 2010 in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Yankees defeated the White Sox 12-3.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Mickey Mantle failed to run out a ground ball in the second game of a Sunday doubleheader against the Washington Senators on Aug. 15, 1960. New York Yankees manager Casey Stengel immediately benched Mickey. It was an ignominious moment for the Yankees, Stengel and especially Mickey.

The Yankees now trailed both the defending American League champion Chicago White Sox and the upstart Baltimore Orioles by a half game.

Stengel had made his point and Mickey had learned his lesson.

The next night, the Baltimore Orioles came to Yankee Stadium to open a crucial two-game set. Mickey was back in the lineup.

Stengel sent Art Ditmar, who was his most effective pitcher, to face the Birds' youngster, Jerry Walker. Mickey Mantle beat the Orioles, 4-3.

The Yankees found themselves trailing, 1-0, after future Yankee Ron Hansen hit a second inning home run off Ditmar. The Birds added to their lead the next inning when former Yankee Gene Woodling singled home Gene Stephens, who had scratched out a single along the first base line and then stole second.

Mickey Mantle went to work. Hector Lopez led off the fourth with a single, bringing up Mickey, who represented the potential tying run.

Mickey hit a 400-ft. drive against the second wire fence in the Yankees' right field bullpen to tie the score as something unusual occurred. As he crossed home plate, Mickey tipped his cap to the fans.

The score remained knotted at two until the eighth inning when Orioles center fielder Jackie Brandt touched Ditmar for a two-out home run.

As he had done in the fourth inning, Hector Lopez led off in the eighth inning. Knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm, who had hurled a no-hitter against the Yankees in 1958, was on the mound. Lopez walked, bringing up Mickey.

Wilhelm quickly got ahead of Mickey, no balls and two strikes. On the next pitch, all Mickey could manage was a high foul pop-up in front of the grandstand behind home plate. Catcher Clint Courtney, who hated the Yankees with ferocity seldom seen in sports, waited for the ball to come down, but dropped it.

You don't give the great ones a second chance.

Mickey fouled off the next pitch. Wilhelm peered in to get the signal from Courtney, although everyone knew that the pitch would be a knuckler. Courtney went through the motions of giving the signal, Wilhelm went into the stretch, checked Lopez at first and delivered.

Mickey hit a screaming line drive into the right field seats to put the Yankees ahead, 4-3.

Ditmar retired the first two Orioles in the ninth before walking Brooks Robinson. Clint Courtney was the batter. He got good wood on the ball, hitting a line drive to center field. Mickey made the catch, and the game was over. The Yankees were in first place.

Louis Effrat of the New York Times summarized the evening's events.

"It was a tremendous show that Mantle staged before 24,233 fans in the shortest game1 hour 56 minutesof the local season."

It was one of Mickey's most important and greatest games. It didn't produce a World Championship, but it did put the Yankees back into first place, and it once again demonstrated Mickey's greatness.

Mickey Mantle never stopped hustling.

References:

By LOUIS EFFRAT. (1960, August 16). DITMAR 4-3 VICTOR WITH FlVE-HITTER :Pitcher Posts 12th Triumph -- Mantle's Clouts Drive to All of Yankee Runs. New York Times (1923-Current file),p. 32. Retrieved December 22, 2010, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2007). (Document ID: 99786139).

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