COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — ‘The Commerce Comet” is well represented at the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Mickey Mantle is prominently featured in one exhibit on the New York Yankees at Cooperstown, a village located in central New York state.
His No. 7 jersey hangs in a locker with several other items.
An oversized photo of “The Mick” taking a swing at the plate highlights the exhibit, which also includes a photo of him signing his 1956 contract.
Large files filled with clippings mentioning Mantle are stored in the Hall of Fame’s library.
“It’s tough to put a figure on all of the artifacts and pieces, but its probably well over a dozen three-dimensions artifacts and in terms of documents, certainly well over a thousand individual documents,” said Craig Muder, director of communications at the Hall. “That doesn’t include books and other pieces like that which mention Mickey.”
Everything on display and in storage at the hall has been donated.
“We don’t buy or sell anything,” Muder said. “It’s all the generosity of people who want to see these artifacts preserved and protected for as long as possible. This is the place where people come to feel that. They come to see the artifacts and feel that connection to the game.”
Mantle, who played for the Yankees from 1951 to 1968, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1974.
He hit 536 home runs, winning American League home run and slugging titles four times.
He hit .300 or better 10 times, including .365 in 1957.
Mantle was a three-time MVP and played in 20 all-star games.
He was a member of five World Series championship teams.
“He was an American original,” Muder quipped. “Really, when you look at a certain generation of baseball fans. Mickey Mantle meant baseball — he was the embodiment of the game. When you talk of America coming of age in that decade after World War II, you can see why he is still is so important to baseball fans everywhere.
“Along with Babe Ruth, it’s a name that means baseball.”
In 1963, he became only the fifth player in MLB history to sign for $100,000.
The others were Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Willie Mays and Joe DiMaggio.
That was a raise of $15,000 from 1962. Mantle’s original contract with the Yankees was for $7,500.
The library was not originally part of the Hall of Fame, which was built in 1966.
The hall opened in 1939 and the library started collecting documents soon after that.
Muder said the genesis of a lot of the contents came in the 1960s thanks to librarian Lee Allen, who began to collect information on the Hall of Famers who were elected to that point.
“Then he said ‘you know what, I might just try to get everybody who played major league baseball,’” Muder said. “There weren’t many of them. At that point, there were probably less than 10,000 people that played major league baseball, so he started writing letters and collecting information. Now, our library contains a file on all 19,000-plus men who have ever played major league baseball. Some of the files are rather thin, just basic pieces of information for guys who may have appeared in one or two games. Some, like Mickey’s are three or four files apiece.”
Staffers comb newspapers for articles on players.
One of the stories in Mantle’s file — which is at least 3 ½ inches thick — is a 1994 News-Record article on his being inducted in the Joplin Hall of Fame.
“Now we can use the Internet — you don’t have to clip anything any more, so there is much more information available,” Muder said. “The idea is to have a place where researchers can start. It’s certainly not the end-all, be-all point in research, but it’s a start.”
Other items in Mantle’s file are scouting reports when he played in the minor leagues.
According to a report filed by Joplin Miners manager in 1950, Mantle “can be a great hitter … exceptional speed … just an average SS … has a fine arm and a good pair of hands … lets the ball play him too much.”
Craft’s report says, “He has everything to make a great ball player. I would like to see him shifted to 3B or the OF.”
Several stories dated from 1983 deals with Mantle and Mays banned from baseball by then-commissioner Bowie Kuhn after both joined an Atlantic City casino.
Peter Ueberroth, who succeeded Kuhn a year earlier, lifted the ban in 1985.
Cooperstown’s population is about 1,800, but more than 300,000 fans flock to the shrine each year.
“You do the math and figure out, that’s a pretty large percentage of people coming through this village,” Muder said. “It’s a pilgrimage to come to Cooperstown to experience it.”
Jim Ellis is sports editor of the Miami News-Record. He can be reached by phone at 918-542-5508 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mnrsportsguy.