April 17 ~  Hear the Boos America's Prodigal Son

"I don't care who you are, you hear those boos." ~ Mickey Mantle

Mickey Mantle

On this day in history, sports icon Mickey Mantle exploded the baseball world twice.

The first time, in 1951, he made his New York Yankee debut. Two years later, he hit a 565-foot homer off Washington Senator's Chuck Stobbs. The towering homer has been called the longest ever hit.

"He has it in his body to be great," evaluated baseball's "Ol' Perfesser" Casey Stengel about Mantle's early baseball potential. "He should lead the league in everything. With his combination of speed and power he should win the triple batting crown every year. In fact, he should do anything he wants to do."

A switch-hitter, "The Mick" was a multi-talented offensive threat. A formidable power-hitter who ran the bases with skill and speed, he was also unbeatable on defense. "You never have to wait long, or look far, to be reminded of how thin the line is between being a hero or a goat," Mantle once philosophized.

Mickey Charles Mantle (1932-1995) was born in Spavinaw, Oklahoma, the son of a mine worker. The talented athlete learned how to switch hit by the time he was five.  "I figure I got all the breaks... otherwise, I'd have been in the mines," he said.

Mantle replaced the retiring Joe DiMaggio in centerfield for the 1952 New York Yankees and stayed there until 1966. He played through pain and played to win. He played with his heart and became one of the most beloved players of the 50s and 60s. His name was an inspiration to would-be sluggers in playgrounds and sandlots.

"A team is where a boy can prove his courage on his own," he said. "A gang is where a coward goes to hide."

The slugger hit 536 career home runs, led the American League in homers four times, and was chosen MVP three times. In 1974, he was elected to baseball's Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, a rare honor.

More BASEBALL Quotations

Mickey MantleIgnore the critics and keep swinging.