25 days of Yankee Numbers: No. 7 Mickey Mantle
Mantle helped the Yankees to 12 pennants in his Hall of Fame career
Leading up to Christmas, we're counting down each day with the best players to wear numbers 1-25 for the Yankees. The list includes Hall of Famers, recent stars, title-winning managers and fan favorites that have donned pinstripes over the last 115 years.
Let's continue with No. 7, Mickey Mantle.
Like nearly all the Yankees' single-digit numbers, No. 7 in pinstripes represents a first-ballot Hall of Famer with plenty of championships on his resume. In this case, Mickey Mantle, the greatest switch hitter of all-time, donned No. 7 in the Bronx on his way to seven titles.
Growing up in Oklahoma, Mantle was signed as an amateur at age 17. After two years of seasoning in the Minor Leagues, he broke camp with the Yankees in 1951 at 19, wearing No. 6 with the expectations of being a star. After struggling and getting sent down, he came up wearing No. 7, giving the star his iconic number.
Though a center fielder by trade, Mantle played right field in his debut season with Joe DiMaggio fielding center. After hitting 13 home runs and 24 extra-base hits in just 96 games as a rookie, Mantle played in the 1951 World Series. Infamously, Mantle was called off on a fly ball by DiMaggio. Stepping aside, Mantle's foot found its way into a drain in the outfield and led to a knee injury that he'd deal with his entire career.
Still, Mantle didn't let the knee injury -- speculated now to have been a torn ACL -- get in his way. He led baseball in OPS a year later en route to his first All-Star nod and a top-three finish in the MVP. The Mick truly came into his own in 1955, leading baseball with 11 triples and 37 homers, as well as 113 walks, at just age-23.
The following season was Mantle's crowning achievement (pun intended). The center fielder won his first MVP award while becoming the first switch hitter to win the Triple Crown, leading the American League with 53 homers, 130 RBI and a .353 average. He'd then cap off the year with three home runs during the Yankees' 1956 World Series victory over the Dodgers.
Mantle won his second MVP a year later while batting a personal-best .365 and drawing 146 walks. He kept up his illustrious production over the next few seasons, finishing second in the MVP in 1960 while putting up big numbers in the Yankees' World Series defeat.
In 1961, Mantle made waves nationally with his pursuit of Babe Ruth's single-season home run record alongside teammate Roger Maris. Medical issues limited Mantle down the stretch to a career-best 54 home runs while Maris would eclipse The Bambino with 61. Mantle finished second in the MVP to Maris while winning his sixth World Series title.
The Mick won his final MVP in 1962 along with his only career Gold Glove and his final championship. Though he was still a force at the plate, his numbers slowly declined afterwards while he was forced to the corner outfield and eventually first base in 1967-68, the final two seasons of his career.
A year after his retirement, his No. 7 was retired at Yankee Stadium. His 2,401 games played were a Yankee record at the time before Derek Jeter passed him in 2011. Overall, Mantle batted .298/.421/.557 with 536 home runs, 1,509 RBI and more walks than strikeouts in his 18-year career. He earned three MVPs and played in 16 All-Star games.
With the Yankees playing in 12 of 14 World Series from 1951-1964, Mantle's batting prowess found its way to the big stage. He holds the Fall Classic records with 18 home runs, 40 RBI, 43 walks and 42 runs scored.
Mantle was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1974 on the first ballot, enshrined in the same class as teammate Whitey Ford. After his death in 1995, he was given a monument within Monument Park.