This week in history: Baseball great Mickey Mantle was born in 1931

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Mickey Mantle, one of the greatest players in baseball history, was born on Oct. 20, 1931. As a batter, he was known both for hitting for a high average and for his power. Mantle became especially famous for his towering home runs. Many of them traveled so far they were called “tape measure” home runs, a term that has since become part of baseball’s vocabulary.

Mantle played his entire major league baseball career, from 1951 to 1968, with the New York Yankees of the American League. During that time, Mantle was the league Most Valuable Player in 1956, 1957, and 1962. He won the batting Triple Crown in 1956 by leading the league in hitting with a .353 average while hitting 52 home runs and batting in 130 runs. He also led the league in home runs in 1955, 1958, and 1960.

Mantle has been called the greatest switch hitter in baseball history. Most players bat from either the left or right side of the plate. A switch hitter has the ability to bat both left-handed and right-handed. Mantle was also one of the fastest players of his time, both in running the bases and as a defensive player. In addition, Mantle was known for his defensive ability. He was an outfielder for most of his career, primarily as a center fielder. He won the 1962 Gold Glove award as the best center fielder in the American League.

During his career with the Yankees, Mantle played in 12 World Series, helping New York win 7 world championships. He set career World Series records for most home runs, runs batted in, extra base hits, runs, walks, and total bases.

Mickey Charles Mantle was born in Spavinaw, Oklahoma, and grew up in nearby Commerce, Oklahoma. During Mantle’s playing days, he was labeled the “Commerce Comet” in recognition of his speed. His father wanted the boy to play professional baseball and named him after Mickey Cochrane, a famous major league catcher.

Mantle began his baseball career in 1948 with a semi-professional team in Kansas. In 1949, after he graduated from high school, Mantle was signed by the New York Yankees and played in the minor leagues from 1949 until he joined the Yankees early in the 1951 season at the age of 19. Mantle played in the outfield for New York full-time until his final two seasons, when he was moved to first base. He ended his career with a batting average of .298 and 536 home runs, at that time third on the all-time list of home run hitters.

Mantle suffered from leg injuries during his career, leading many baseball followers to speculate how much more impressive his statistics would have been had he played on healthy legs. Mantle also suffered from alcoholism throughout his adult life, which contributed to the liver cancer that led to his death on Aug. 13, 1995.

Mantle was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974. In 1999, he was named to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.