February 21, 2011

One Star Pays Homage to Another

One of the coolest baseball stories I have ever heard. You just dont see things like this anymore...

September 19, 1968

Detroit, Michigan

The Detroit Tigers were ahead 6-1 heading into the Top of the 8th Inning against the New York Yankees at Tiger Stadium. Denny McLain (30-5) was pitching against Mel Stottlemyre (20-11). Mickey Mantle was coming to the plate. McLain loved Mickey. It was well known at that point that this was Mantle's last season. As Mantle stepped to the plate, McLain called his catcher Jim Price to the mound. McLain tells Price that he wants to pay homage to Mantle by giving him one last home run in Detroit, as well as surrender HR 535 which would move him ahead of Jimmie Foxx on the alltime list. Mantle was close enough to hear the conversation and asked Price upon his return to the plate if what he heard was correct. Price confirmed. McLain's first pitch was right down Broadway, Mantle takes all the way. Mantle gets under the next pitch, fouling it back. McLain grooves Mickey a 3rd pitch right over the plate, and Mantle promptly deposits the ball into the upper deck in right field. As Mantle rounds 3rd Base, McLain tips his cap to him.
The next batter up was Joe Peppitone. Joe had figured out what was going on while on deck. As he arrived to the plate, he signaled to McLain where he wanted his grooved fastball to be. McLain obliges by throwing a fastball right behind Peppitone's head.


  1. Yup, the best baseball story ever, and the best about Mantle.
    BTW, I had the rare joy of meeting The Mick and it is a funny story about an adult turning into a 10 year-old in the presence of a god.
    My pal, Michael Krasny, was doubling as a colleague professor at SFSU and a talk show host on KGO-AM downtown.
    He invites me to meet Mantle, and, since his book just came out(The Mick),I was expecting to line-up for an autograph, blubber to Mantle and slink away.
    Mantle is waiting to go on-air for his interview in a room (10 x 12 ft) with two easy chairs in it.
    Mike opens the door and, expecting a LARGE room with Mick siting at a table and a line of admirers, I am stunned that it just Mickey and me. Mike says: "Mickey, I'd like you to meet my colleague, Bill Costello." (As if Mick is supposed to reply: "Oh, THE Bill Costello, the MVP Professor, just elected to the Professors' Hall of Fame! Golly, can I have your autograph?!")
    Mick, graciously and with humility, says: "Nice to meet you, Bill." and enwarps my XXL size right hand in a much larger grip. Then, Mike leaves me alone with a god.
    I skip the gibberish idolatry and don't want to waste his time with me, so I ask if he would sign a ball and I will be on my way. He signs one, then volunteers to sign the other one I forgot I was holding.
    I get up to leave and HE notices a photo that a friend has gotten for me of Mantle, Berra, and Roger Maris. He ASKS to sign it and I stand behind him as he carefully signs it. Tears come to his eyes (Roger had passed recently); he says: "Roger was a great guy..a great guy.."
    I stumble out, muttering the classic cliche "You were the best, Mick..." He shakes my hand and says: "It was great to meet you, Bill."
    (He remembered my name! I am stunned.)
    Now, here comes the best part: I am getting on the elevator when I hear Mike shout: "Hey, Bill, wait!"
    "The interviewer knows nothing about baseball and is using cue cards and Mick is giving yes and no answers to dumb ass questions; you gotta go into the booth and help him..."

    Still convinced I am dreaming, I go and stand in the booth doorway. During the first commercial break, Mick and I recall the Berra pizza joke and a few other Berra The Yogi stories. Mick loosens up and starts laughing.
    This repeats for the rest of the hour and things go very well with the interview and book promotion for Mick.
    He takes off the earphone and comes over to me and shakes my hand and says:]
    "Thanks a lot, Bill, for helping me out!"
    Mickey Mantle, the god, thanking me, useless mortal, with no hope of ever being elected to the Hall of Fame, for helping HIM.

  2. WOW! Dream come true! Thanks for that Earl.