Friday, May 31, 2013

Mickey Mantle's Corked Baseball Bat

Mickey Charles Mantle was a god to multiple generations of baseball fans. Grown men would break down at the mere prospect of meeting him and shaking his hand. Nearly two decades after his death, Mantle still holds a special place in the hearts of many, which makes a new revelation particularly hard to accept. Compelling evidence links Mantle to an altered, “corked” bat.

The bat in question, which is the only corked Mantle bat ever to have surfaced, is featured in Grey Flannel’s June 5, 2013 sports memorabilia auction. It’s a 35-inch long, 32.6-ounce Hillerich & Bradsby Co. ash baseball bat manufactured in 1964 with “a light coat of pine tar at the mid handle,” according to the description on the Grey Flannel Auctions website. Prior to entering it in their auction, the Westhampton, N.Y., company had the Mantle bat examined by the foremost game-used sports equipment authenticators, PSA/DNA. Not only did the firm perform a rigorous visual examination, its expert John Taube also X-rayed the bat. The X-ray image revealed the truth – cork had been inserted into the barrel end of the bat.

Taube’s written analysis said: “During our examination of the bat, we noticed a circular area .75 inches wide in the center of the top barrel. The finish in the area has also been touched up to mask the circular area. Alterations of this nature indicate the barrel has been drilled and filled with cork (so) we had the barrel X-rayed and (it) confirms that the barrel has been drilled and filled with cork...this is the first corked bat of Mantle that we have seen or heard of.”

In his autobiography, then-MLB equipment manager Ray Crump admitted he had corked some bats for Mantle. Until now, however, none of the alleged corked bats had surfaced. There have long been rumors that the Yankee slugger sometimes used a corked bat, but up till now “none of the bats have surfaced,” the site claims. Corking a bat, which supposedly makes it lighter thus enabling the batter to swing faster, is illegal in Major League Baseball. But Mantle, who hit 536 homers before retiring in 1968, isn’t the first hitter to be accused of that. Chicago Cubs star Sammy Sosa was suspended for eight games in 2003 for using a doctored bat. And last month, a cork-filled Pete Rose bat was sold for $8,000 at auction.

“Mickey Mantle remains an icon and a legend. This discovery does not define his career or achievements, but there’s no denying the bat is a remarkable piece of New York Yankees and baseball history,” said Grey Flannel Auctions’ president Richard E. Russek.

The bat will be offered in the Internet and absentee auction together with the X-ray and letter of authenticity from PSA/DNA. Bidding on the bat begins May 20, with a required opening bid of $5,000.

This is an accusation against a man and a player whom aspiring athletes worshiped and baseball junkies enshrine as the gold standard of sluggers. Mantle is a unanimous selection for the Mt. Rushmore of Yankees, which is no small task considering their storied history. Surely, a situation like this calls for reflection upon the accused's career. Granted, this was a bat used in Mantle's age-32 season, so he was on the downswing of his prime. But he still hit .303 with 35 home runs and 111 RBI that season and finished second in the MVP voting.

So make what you will and draw your own conclusions about the seasons (or games, even) prior and beyond. But the suspicion lingers when the proof is there and the numbers are huge. (It's been theorized that cork in a wooden bat doesn't help the ball to go any farther and might actually deaden the impact. But many players who have corked likely did so in order to achieve the use of a lighter, longer bat that allowed them to swing harder and reach more areas of the plate.) Want to buy a potentially historic piece of Baseball Memorabilia? Here's your chance. Auction ends in a few days!

For additional information about the Mickey Mantle bat, visit the Grey Flannel site.


Sojoni said...

Great post!

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Rita Woods said...

Hi Martin Grams!
Your blog is so so beautiful!
I love your blog very much! How do you cork a baseball bat?seen it on mythbusters just wondering they say its illegal to show you how to on tv, so can anybody tell me how to cork it!

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