Mickey Charles Mantle (October 20 1931 August 13 1995) nicknamed ''The Commerce Comet'' or ''The Mick'' was an American professional baseball player. He was a Major League Baseball (MLB) centerfielder and first baseman for the New York Yankees for 18 seasons from 1951 through 1968. Mantle is regarded by many to be the greatest switch hitter of all time and one of the greatest players in baseball history. Mantle was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974 and was elected to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team in 1999. Mantle was noted for his ability to hit for both average and power especially tape-measure home runs. He won the Triple Crown in 1956 leading MLB in batting average home runs and runs batted in (RBI). He was an American League (AL) Most Valuable Player (MVP) three times and All-Star sixteen times playing in 19 of the 20 All-Star games he was named to. Mantle appeared in 12 World Series his team winning 7 of them. He holds the records for most World Series home runs (18) RBIs (40) runs (42) walks (43) extra-base hits (26) and total bases (123). He is also the career leader (tied with Jim Thome) in walk-off home runs with a combined thirteen twelve in the regular season and one in the postseason. Minor league baseball (1948 1950) Mantle began his professional career with the semi-professional Baxter Springs Whiz Kids. In 1948 Yankees' scout Tom Greenwade came to Baxter Springs to watch Mantle's teammate third baseman Billy Johnson. During the game Mantle hit three home runs. Greenwade returned in 1949 after Mantle's high school graduation to sign Mantle to a minor league contract. Mantle signed for $140 per month ($1388 today) with a $1500 ($14868 today) signing bonus. Mantle was assigned to the Yankees' Class-D Independence Yankees of the Kansas Oklahoma Missouri League where he played shortstop. During a slump Mantle called his father to tell him he wanted to quit baseball. Mutt drove to Independence and convinced Mantle to keep playing baseball. Mantle hit .313 for the Independence Yankees. In 1950 Mantle was promoted to the Class-C Joplin Miners of the Western Association. Mantle won the Western Association batting title with a .383 average. He also hit 26 home runs and recorded 136 runs batted in. However Mantle struggled defensively at shortstop. Major League Baseball (1951 1968) Rookie season: 1951 Mantle was invited to the Yankees instructional camp before the 1951 season. After an impressive spring training Yankees manager Casey Stengel decided to promote Mantle to the majors as a right fielder instead of sending him to the minors. Mickey Mantle's salary for the 1951 season was $7500. ''He's the greatest prospect I've seen in my time and I go back quite a ways. I'll swear I expect to see that boy just take off and fly any time.'' ''Bill Dickey on Mickey Mantle Mantle was assigned uniform #6 signifying the expectation that he would become the next Yankees star following Babe Ruth (#3) Lou Gehrig (#4) and Joe DiMaggio (#5). Stengel speaking to SPORT stated ''He's got more natural power from both sides than anybody I ever saw.'' Bill Dickey called Mantle ''the greatest prospect [he's] seen in [his] time.'' After a brief slump Mantle was sent down to the Yankees' top farm team the Kansas City Blues. However he was not able to find the power he once had in the lower minors. Out of frustration he called his father one day and told him ''I don't think I can play baseball anymore.'' Mutt drove up to Kansas City that day. When he arrived he started packing his son's clothes and according to Mantle's memory said ''I thought I raised a man. I see I raised a coward instead. You can come back to Oklahoma and work the mines with me.'' Mantle immediately broke out of his slump going on to hit .361 with 11 homers and 50 RBIs during his stay in Kansas City. Mantle was called up to the Yankees after 40 games with Kansas City this time wearing uniform #7. He hit .267 with 13 home runs and 65 RBI in 96 games. In the second game of the 1951 World Series New York Giants rookie Willie Mays hit a fly ball to right-center field. Mantle playing right field raced for the ball together with center fielder Joe DiMaggio who called for the ball (and made the catch). In getting out of DiMaggio's way Mantle tripped over an exposed drain pipe and severely injured his right knee. This was the first of numerous injuries that plagued his 18-year career with the Yankees. He played the rest of his career with a torn ACL. After his injury he was timed from the left side of the batters box with a full swing to run to first base in 3.1 seconds. That has never been matched even without a swing Mantle moved to center field in 1952 replacing DiMaggio who retired at the end of the 1951 season. He was named to the American League All-Star roster for the first time but did not play (5-inning game). Mantle played center field full-time until 1965 when he was moved to left field. His final two seasons were spent at first base. Among his many accomplishments are all-time World Series records for home runs (18) runs scored (42) and runs batted in (40). Although the osteomyelitic condition of Mantle's left leg had exempted him from being drafted for military service since he had turned 18 in 1949 emergence as a star in the major leagues during the Korean Conflict led to questioning of his 4-F deferment by baseball fans. Two Armed Forces physicals were ordered as a Yankee including a highly publicized exam brought on by his 1952 selection as an All-Star. Conducted on November 4 1952 it ended in a final rejection. After showing progressive improvement each of his first five years Mantle had a breakout season in 1956. Described by him as his ''favorite summer'' his major league leading .353 batting average 52 home runs and 130 runs batted in brought home both the Triple Crown and first of three MVP awards. His performance was so exceptional he was bestowed the Hickok Belt as the top American professional athlete of the year. Mantle is the only player to win a league Triple Crown as a switch hitter. Mantle won his second consecutive MVP in 1957 behind league leads in runs and walks a career-high .365 batting average (second to Ted Williams' .388) and hitting into a league-low five double plays. Mantle reached base more times than he made outs (319 to 312) one of two seasons in which he achieved the feat. On January 16 1961 Mantle became the highest-paid player in baseball by signing a $75000 ($591899 today) contract. DiMaggio Hank Greenberg and Ted Williams who had just retired had been paid over $100000 in a season and Ruth had a peak salary of $80000. Mantle became the highest-paid active player of his time. Mickey Mantle's top salary was $100000 which he reached for the 1963 season. Having reached that pinnacle in his 13th season he never asked for another raise. M & M Boy During the 1961 season Mantle and teammate Roger Maris known as the M&M Boys chased Babe Ruth's 1927 single-season home run record. Five years earlier in 1956 Mantle had challenged Ruth's record for most of the season and the New York press had been protective of Ruth on that occasion also. When Mantle finally fell short finishing with 52 there seemed to be a collective sigh of relief from the New York traditionalists. Nor had the New York press been all that kind to Mantle in his early years with the team: he struck out frequently was injury-prone was a ''true hick'' from Oklahoma and was perceived as being distinctly inferior to his predecessor in center field Joe DiMaggio. Over the course of time however Mantle (with a little help from his teammate Whitey Ford a native of New York's Borough of Queens) had gotten better at ''schmoozing'' with the New York media and had gained the favor of the press. This was a talent that Maris a blunt-spoken upper-Midwesterner was never willing or able to cultivate: as a result he wore the ''surly'' jacket for his duration with the Yankees. So as 1961 progressed the Yanks were now ''Mickey Mantle's team'' and Maris was ostracized as the ''outsider'' and said to be ''not a true Yankee.'' The press seemed to root for Mantle and to belittle Maris. Mantle was unexpectedly hospitalized by an abscessed hip he got from a flu shot late in the season leaving Maris to break the record (he finished with 61). Mantle finished with 54 home runs while leading the American league in runs scored and walks. In 1962 and 1963 he batted .321 and .314. In 1964 Mantle hit .303 with 35 home runs and 111 RBIs. In the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 3 of the 1964 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals Mantle blasted Barney Schultz's first pitch into the right field stands at Yankee Stadium which won the game for the Yankees 2 1. The homer his 16th World Series round tripper broke the World Series record of 15 set by Babe Ruth. He hit two more homers in the series to set the existing World Series record of 18 home runs. The Cardinals ultimately won the World Series in 7 games. Last seasons: 1965-1968 The Yankees and Mantle were slowed down by injuries during the 1965 season and they finished in 6th place 25 games behind the Minnesota Twins. He hit .255 with 19 home runs and 46 RBIs. In 1966 his batting average increased to .288 with 23 home runs and 56 RBIs. After the 1966 season he was moved to first base with Joe Pepitone taking over his place in the outfield. On May 14 1967 (Mother's Day) Mantle became the sixth member of the 500 Homerun Club. During his final season (1968) Mantle hit .237 with 18 home runs and 54 RBIs. Mantle was selected as an American League All-Star in 1968 for the 16th and final time his pinch hit at-bat on July 11 making his appearance in 19 of the 20 games he had been named to (MLB having had two All-Star games a year from 1959 to 1962). During his eighteen year career he was selected every season but 1951 and 1966 and failed to appear when chosen only in 1952. Retirement: 1969 Mantle announced his retirement on March 1 1969. When he retired Mantle was third on the all-time home run list with 536. At the time of his retirement Mantle was the Yankees all-time leader in games played with 2401 which was broken by Derek Jeter on August 29 2011.