May 8, 2009

YOU'RE NOT MICKEY MANTLE:

The Day the Tigers Tipped Pitches for the Mick (ALAN SCHWARZ, 5/09/09, NY Times)

A few weeks from retirement and tied with Jimmie Foxx with 534 career home runs, Mantle came to the plate in the eighth inning with the Tigers comfortably ahead, 6-1. Detroit had already clinched the American League pennant — this was before leagues were split into two divisions, let alone three — and McLain had already won his 30th game.

[Jim] Price, a second-year reserve who was playing to give Bill Freehan a rest, walked out to the mound to give the 9,063 fans in Tiger Stadium one last chance to pay their respects.

“When I got there, Denny said, ‘Hey, big guy, should I let him hit one?’ ” Price recalled Thursday night in a telephone interview. “I said it was a great idea. Mickey was always nice to me. So I went back behind the plate and Mickey, like he always did, was tapping the plate with his bat when I said, ‘Want us to groove one for you?’ ”

Mantle apparently didn’t believe Price, but when he saw McLain nodding on the mound, he understood what was going on.

“High and tight, mediocre cheese,” Price said Mantle responded.

McLain served up a few that were apparently not gift-wrapped quite as neatly as the Mick preferred. But then came exactly what Mantle was looking for, and he hit a rocket into the upper deck in right field, the next-to-last home run of his career.

“McLain was clapping as Mickey was rounding the bases,” Price said. “And when he crossed home plate, Mickey thanked me. The next batter was Joe Pepitone, and he said, ‘Give me one, too.’ And I go, ‘No way, you’re not Mickey Mantle.’ ”

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 8, 2009 4:56 PM
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