COMMERCE — To most pitchers in the American League, Mickey Mantle looked just like the 9-foot, larger-than-life statue that will be dedicated here at 6:07 p.m. on Saturday.
There’s significance to both the time and date of the ceremony:
* The time — Mantle’s number with the New York Yankees originally was 6 as a continuation of Babe Ruth’s 3, Lou Gehrig’s 4 and Joe DiMaggio’s 5. Equipment manager Pete Sheehy gave him No. 7 after his 1951 mid-season recall from Kansas City.
* The date — June 12 was the day Mantle joined the Independence (Kan.) Yankees for a scheduled KOM League game at Chanute, Kan., against the Athletics. The game was rained out, so he didn’t make his professional debut until June 13, 1949.
“This is where the Mickey Mantle legacy began,” said Brian Waybright, who has spearheaded the project. “Our plan is to create a monumental park type area that highlights all of the local areas and information that had something to do with Mickey Mantle’s life, and make it a walking museum of sorts.”
The statue is located beyond the fence in center field of Mickey Mantle Field — the area “The Commerce Comet” patrolled during his storied career with the Yankees.
It depicts Mantle swinging from the right side of the plate.
Mickey Mantle Field and the statue plaza are located on the south end of Commerce on U.S. Highway 69.
The ceremony coincides with reunions of the Commerce High School classes of 1945 through 55 as well as the Picher Mining Reunion, so many of Mantle’s classmates and childhood friends will be in attendance.
Danny Mantle, Mickey’s youngest surviving son, is expected be in attendance.
The statue was funded by the Oklahoma Centennial Commission and was done from a cast by the late Nick Calcagno, original created for Sooner Pride.
There is a plaque on the base of the statue recognizing the commission and Calcagno, who also did statues of Heisman Trophy winner Steve Owens and Odin, the mascot of Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College.
Waybright said the next phase of the project is a parking lot and sidewalk leading to the statue, possibly benches and other landscaping along with listings of Mantle’s career and accomplishments.
While there will be limited bleacher space, Waybright said those attending should bring lawn chairs.