COMMERCE — Danny Mantle was genuinely moved when he first saw the statue dedicated to his father, New York Yankee Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle.
"When they first lifted that tarp off, I had tears," he said following Saturday night’s dedication ceremony at the high school baseball field bearing the name of Commerce’s best-known former resident.
"I was thinking about Dad the whole time," Danny Mantle said. "I know he would be very proud of it."
A crowd of more than 250 witnessed the event. Included in the crowd were Mickey’s brother, Ray, and numerous other members of the Mantle, LaFalier and Richardson families.
The 9-foot tall statue features Mickey Mantle swinging from the right side of the plate.
One side of the statue’s base is inscribed "Mickey Charles Mantle" and "A Great Teammate."
"Driving up, I was thinking that my dad accomplished so much, but he never wanted to take any of it" Danny Mantle said prior to the unveiling. "All he ever wanted to be remember as was a good teammate.
"You think of Mickey Mantle and you think of the long home runs, the Triple Crown year and the year he had with Roger (the 1961 home run chase with Roger Maris), but all he ever wanted to be remember as was a true teammate."
One of the major awards presented at the high school baseball tournament bearing Mickey’s name that’s been held since 2000 is the "Great Teammate" award.
The other side of the statue features Mick’s nickname — "The Commerce Comet."
"It’s a beautiful masterpiece … it really is," Danny Mantle said. "He did a wonderful job."
"He" is the late Nick Calcagno, who did the original cast of the statue for Sooner Pride.
Funding for the project, which was spearheaded by Mantle Classic director Brian Waybright, came from the Oklahoma Centennial Commission.
"He’s done a tremendous job and has spearheaded this thing too," Danny Mantle said. "He deserves a lot of credit. I know the town loves Dad, but Brian has really been driving this thing. He’s done a heckuva job."
The statue is the first phase of Mickey Mantle Monument Park.
Plans also are for a parking lot and sidewalk that will lead to the statue. A picnic area also is planned.
Three of Mickey’s Commerce High School teammates — Ivan Shouse, Joe Barker and Lee Bennett — were on hand for the ceremony.
"I remember pitching batting practice to him once in a while and I was beginning to sense that he was hitting the ball where it was pitched," Bennett said. "If you pitched to him low and inside, he hit it over third base. If you pitched to him outside, he would hit it over first base."
In addition to his baseball skills — he was an effective pitcher — Mickey also was a standout in football and basketball.
"You will see difference in 1947 and 1948 in Mickey’s physical stature," Bennett said. "He developed in 1948 into a good-sized man. In 1947 he was just a small boy playing with the Whiz Kids."
"I know that a lot of the opposing teams were glad to see Mick get out of high school," said Barker, a Mantle teammate in 1948-49.