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Numerous photo matches have irrefutably established this jersey as one of two home jerseys worn by Mickey Mantle during his epic 1956 campaign. Thus, it is the definitive collectible from the Mick's "perfect" Triple Crown season. Another Mantle gamer that even approaches the significance of this garment simply does not exist. When one seeks out exemplars for determining value, the only basis for comparison are game-used jerseys of pinstriped predecessors Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.
Essentially hidden in plain sight since entering the hobby, Mantle's Spalding size-44 jersey is actually tagged for 1955 and has flown under the radar as such. Yet exhaustive analysis by the John Rogers Photo Archives team using their extensive photographic research library has resulted in numerous bona-fide matches (all the way from '56 Spring Training through the '56 All-Star Game) and has definitively confirmed the following: 1) Mantle did not wear this jersey at all in 1955; 2) Mantle exclusively wore this jersey—and no other—for the entire first half of 1956; and 3) Mantle donned a different jersey for the remainder of the season. As detailed at length below, each photo match passed the "two-point test" (which essentially fingerprints the pinstriped pattern by two distinct points of reference). Even more incredible—and practically unprecedented—one of the photo matches actually shows the jersey hanging in Mantle's locker with its front tail completely visible! Thus, even the chain-stitched name and year have been scientifically matched under magnification, providing the silver bullet and proving veracity beyond a shadow of doubt.
With nice consistent use, exceptional preservation and intact tagging with solid wear (not to mention a striking blue-Sharpie signature), the jersey was poised to receive MEARS' highest grade...and very nearly did. However painstaking additional analysis by the MEARS team ultimately concluded that minor inconsistencies in the number 7 indicated a barely discernible, nearly seamless vintage replacement. In fact, due to the common practice of clubhouse managers such as Pete Sheehy re-using jerseys in the majors and minors, very few 1950s Yankees gamers exist in their original form. Of the half dozen Mantle home jerseys we are aware of, only one is 100% original and most have various levels of restoration (e.g. number, crest, patches, etc). Click Here to view the MEARS LOA.
THE TRIPLE CROWN
Not since the Babe's day had anyone terrorized opposing pitchers the way the mighty Mick did in 1956. Starting the season as a sixth-year star, Mantle emerged at the other end a full-fledged legend. His total domination kicked off at spring training, where the pinstriped Golden Boy predicted a Triple Crown title and slammed tape-measure home runs literally left and right. Opening Day saw Mickey launch two moon-shots that exited Washington's Griffith Stadium, and then he circled the bases twice more in his first Yankee Stadium home stand. But that prodigious start was nothing compared to Mantle's May onslaught. By month's end, he'd already compiled 20 HRs (4 ahead of Ruth's 1927 pace), 45 runs, 65 hits and 50 RBI to go along with his .414 batting average. Come June, Mantle graced the cover of LIFE Magazine where again he appears to be wearing this exact jersey. In July, he collected his sixth 2-HR game of the year (incidentally, the second time they were from both sides of the plate), plus cleared the fence off Warren Spahn in the All-Star Game.
Amazingly, Mantle achieved all that and more wearing none other than this very jersey on his brawny back. As indicated in our photo analysis, he wore the jersey exclusively for the first half of the season up to and including the All Star game. It is on this basis that we believe he hit as many as 17 home runs while employing this very jersey:
- (3rd) April 20, 1956, LH, Yankee Stadium vs. Boston Red Sox, Pitcher: Ike Delock (RH)
- (4th) April 21, 1956, LH, Yankee Stadium vs. Boston Red Sox, Pitcher: George Susce (RH)
- (5th) May 1, 1956, LH, Yankee Stadium vs. Detroit Tigers, Pitcher: Steve Gromek (RH)
- (6th) May 2, 1956, LH, Yankee Stadium vs. Detroit Tigers, Pitcher: Frank Lary (RH)
- (7th) May 3, 1956, RH, Yankee Stadium vs. Kansas City A's, Pitcher: Art Ceccarelli (LH)
- (8th) May 5, 1956, LH, Yankee Stadium vs. Kansas City A's, Pitcher: Lou Kretlow (RH)
- (9th) May 5, 1956, LH, Yankee Stadium vs. Kansas City A's, Pitcher: Moe Burtschy (RH)
- (10th) May 8, 1956, LH, Yankee Stadium vs. Cleveland Indians, Pitcher: Early Wynn (RH)
- (11th) May 10, 1956, LH, Yankee Stadium vs. Cleveland Indians, Pitcher: Bob Lemon (RH)
- (18th) May 29, 1956, LH, Yankee Stadium vs. Boston Red Sox, Pitcher: Willard Nixon (RH)
- (19th) May 30, 1956, LH, Yankee Stadium vs. Washington Senators, Pitcher: Pedro Ramos (RH)
- (20th) May 30, 1956, LH, Yankee Stadium vs. Washington Senators, Pitcher: Camilo Pascual (RH)
- (21st) June 5, 1956, LH, Yankee Stadium vs. Kansas City A's, Pitcher: Lou Kretlow (RH)
- (22nd) June 14, 1956, LH, Yankee Stadium vs. Chicago White Sox, Pitcher: Jim Wilson (RH)
- (28th) July 1, 1956, RH, Yankee Stadium vs. Washington, Pitcher: Dean Stone (LH)
- (29th) July 1, 1956, LH, Yankee Stadium vs. Washington Senators, Pitcher: Bud Byerly (RH)
- (All Star Game) July 10, 1956, Griffith Stadium vs. National League, Pitcher: Warren Spahn (LH) (See photo above)
Hot streaks down the homestretch in August and September held off Ted Williams in batting and Al Kaline in RBI, giving the Commerce Comet his coveted Triple Crown with a .353 average, 52 homers and 130 RBI. What's more, he became just the fourth player in history to lead the entire Major Leagues in those three categories, after Rogers Hornsby (1925), Lou Gehrig (1934) and Williams (1947). Only Mantle among them, however, went on to claim a championship that same October. And he did so in style, adding 3 World Series round-trippers—highlighted by the go-ahead home run in Don Larsen's perfect game. It was the ultimate capstone to Mantle's perfect year. No wonder the Mick himself later dubbed 1956 "my favorite summer." The awards he won that year were unprecedented and included Major League Player of the Year, A.L. MVP (100% of the first place votes), Hickok Award (Professional Athlete of the Year), World Series Champion and, of course, the near-mythic Triple Crown.
(Read the Photo-Matching document by clicking here)
We have embarked upon a comprehensive approach where we have pinpointed numerous home images of Mickey Mantle definitively dated to the first half of the 1956 season that could be used to photo match the subject jersey. The pool of photos was taken from newspaper archives, news service photos and private collections.
It is our opinion that there needs to be two independent points of reference for a photo to be considered a match. These two points can be any two of the following: crest, number, shoulder where front and back of jersey come together, sleeve where it attaches to the shoulder. Our photo matching went beyond simply "eyeing" the comparison as when possible we performed detailed proportional measuring techniques in order to verify the match. In short, if the photo had one point of reference we confirmed that it didn’t prove the jersey not to be from 1956, and if it had two points of reference we used it to prove that the image was a definitive match to the subject jersey.
The be-all-and-end-all match is an August 15, 1956 locker-room photo of Mantle being interviewed by Nicholas Baehr for "Life of Mickey Mantle" to air October 3, 1956. (A visible framed 6/18/56 Sports Illustrated cover image of Mantle further confirms this interview occurred that summer.) This photograph provides the unique opportunity to photo match the collar tagging as well as the chain-stitched name and year which is usually hidden in photos. In addition to the crest and shoulder you can see the “55” and “Man” chain stitching with the pinstripe running through the second “5” and between the “M” and “a” in Mantle.
The detailed analysis (read the entire document by clicking here) shows a handful of these comparisons dating from 1956 Spring Training to the All Star Game. We were unable to find a SINGLE home photo from Mantle definitively dated during this period of time where he was not wearing the subject jersey. Therefore, based on the aforementioned analysis, we have reasonably concluded that this is the only home jersey worn for the first half of his historic 1956 season through and including the 1956 All Star game.