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Today's Commitment Gives Me Tenacity - John C Maxwell
He may have been the most naturally gifted baseball player of all time. In the June 18, 1956. edition of Sports Illustrated, writer Robert W. Creamer called him the “new Ruth.” When he began his baseball career, he was probably the fastest man in the game. He was clocked making it to first base in 2.9 seconds on a left-handed drag bunt. Andhe could run the bases in an incredible 13 seconds.
But his speed was nothing compared to the power of his hitting. People speculate that he got his strength from working as a “screen ape” during the summers at the lead mine near Commerce, Oklahoma. The job was to smash large rocks with a sledgehammer. Working with a partner, one man would smash rocks until he couldn’t hold the sledgehammer anylonger, then the other would take a turn. It’s said that there were home run hitters, and then there was this man—in a league of his own. The Guinness Book of World Records credits him with the longest home run ever measured, at 643 feet. Many believe he hit the longest ball in baseball history in a 1951 exhibition game at USC (656 feet). And he could smack the ball out of the park with equal easefrom either side of the plate.
Born to Play Baseball
The player I’m describing is, of course, Mickey Mantle of the New York Yankees. Growing up in Ohio, I was a Cincinnati Reds fan, but I saw and heard a lot about Mantle—especially in 1961 when the Reds finally made it to the World Series but lost to the Yankees four games to one.
Mantle’s prowess on the baseball field was legendary. He seemedto be born for baseball. His father, a former semipro ballplayer, and his grandfather began teaching him to hit when he was four years old. They would pitch balls to him after work every day. And since his father was right-handed and his grandfather a lefty, the boy learned to hit from both sides of the plate.
By age sixteen, Mantle was playing semipro ball. In 1948, a scout for the Yankees, TornGreenwade, went to Oklahoma to see Mantle’s teammate, third baseman Billy Johnson, play. Mantle hit two long home runs that day—one right-handed, one left-handed. Greenwade said Mantle was the best prospect he’d ever seen and was ready to sign him on the spot—until he discovered that he was only sixteen and still in high school. Greenwade promised to come back when the kid graduated. And he did:Mantle signed with the Yankees on graduation day in 1949.
What a Record!
That summer, Mickey Mantle played class D ball in the Yankees organization. The next year, he was sent to play for the class C team in Joplin, Missouri. In 1951, he was invited to the Yankees’ spring training camp, and he was so good that he jumped straight from class C to the Yankees—the first time that had ever happenedin the organization’s history. He was nineteen. He went to the World Series that rookie year and came home with a championship. During his career, his team won the American League pennant and went on to the World Series twelve times, winning it seven times.
Mantle had an incredible career before he retired in 1969. He played in more games as a Yankee than any other player (2,401), including LouGehrig. He was picked as the American League MVP three times (1956, 1957, 1962). And in 1956, he won what’s called baseball’s triple crown: He finished the season with the league’s best batting average (.353), most home runs (52), and most runs batted in (130). And, remarkably, more than thirty years later he still holds the World Series records for home runs (18), runs scored (42), runs batted in(40), and bases on ball (43).
Despite a one-of-a-kind career, experts believe he never reached his potential. Most people blame it on injuries. Mantle suffered some horrible ones, often to his knees, throughout his career, and he continually played in pain. Before each game he had to carefully wrap each knee in bandages. Sportswriter Lewis Early wrote, “One of the questions baseball scholars...
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