after one. Before I was born, my father lived and died for baseball and
he named me after a Hall of Famer: Mickey Cochrane. I'm not sure if my
dad knew it or not, but his real name was Gordon. I hope there's no Gordons
here today, but I'm glad that he didn't name me Gordon.
Mickey with fellow inductees James
Bell, Umpire Jocko Conlan and Whitey
|"Thank you very much, Commissioner.
I would really like to thank you for leaving out those strikeouts. He gave
all those records, but he didn't say anything about all those strikeouts.
I was the world champion in striking out and everything, I'm sure. I don't
know for sure, but I'm almost positive I must have had that record in the
World Series, too. I broke Babe Ruth's record for all-time strikeouts.
He only had, like, 1,500 I think. I ended up with 1,710. So that's one
that no one will ever break probably, because, if you strike out
that much, you don't get to play very long. I just lucked out.
"One of the reasons I'm in the Hall of Fame right
now is not because of my speaking, so everybody be patient here. I know
it's hot and I'll try to get through with what I gotta say real fast here. I was
named after a Hall of Famer. I think this is the first time it's ever happened
that a guy's ever come into the Hall of Fame that
"He had the foresight to realize that someday
in baseball that left-handed hitters were going to hit against right-handed
pitchers and right-handed hitters were going to hit against left-handed
pitchers; and he taught me, he and his father, to switch-hit at a real
young age, when I first started to learn how to play ball. And my dad always
told me if I could hit both ways when I got ready to go to the major leagues,
that I would have a better chance of playing. And believe it or not, the
year that I came to the Yankees is when Casey started platooning everybody.
So he did realize that that was going to happen someday, and it did. So
I was lucky that they taught me how to switch-hit when I was young.
lived in a little town called Commerce, Oklahoma, and my mother, who is
here today – I'd like to introduce her right now... Mom. We didn't have
a lot of money or anything. She used to make my uniforms and we would
buy the cleats or get 'em off of somebody else's shoes or somethin' and
then we would take 'em and have 'em put onto a pair of my street shoes
that were getting old. So that's how we started out. We lived in Commerce
till I can remember I was about in high school, then we moved out to a
farm. We had 160-acre farm out in White Bird, Oklahoma, I remember. I had
three brothers, but one of them was too little. My mom used to have to
make the twins come out and play ball with me. We dozed a little ballpark
out in the pasture and I think that I probably burnt my twins out on baseball.
I think by the time the twins got old enough to play ball they were tired
of it, because I used to make 'em shag flies for me and play all day, which
I'm sorry of because they could have been great ballplayers.
"My dad really is probably the most influential
thing that ever happened to me in my life. He loved baseball, I loved it
and, like I say, he named me after a baseball player. He worked in the
mines, and when he came home at night, why, he would come out and, after
we milked the cows, we would go ahead and play ball till dark. I don't
know how he kept doing it.
"I think the first real baseball uniform –
and I'm sure it is – the most proud I ever was was when I went to Baxter
Springs in Kansas and I played on the Baxter Springs Whiz Kids.
We had – that was the first time – I'll never forget the guy, his
name was Barney Burnett, gave me a uniform and it had a BW on the
cap there and it said Whiz Kids on the back. I really thought I
was somethin' when I got that uniform. It was the first one my mom hadn't
made for me. It was really somethin'.
"There is a man and a woman here that were
really nice to me all through the years, Mr. and Mrs. Harold Youngman.
I don't know if all of you have ever heard about any of my business endeavors
or not, but some of 'em weren't too good. Probably the worst thing I ever
did was movin' away from Mr. Youngman. We went and moved to Dallas, Texas,
in 1957, but Mr. Youngman built a Holiday Inn in Joplin, Missouri, and
called it Mickey Mantle's Holiday Inn. And we were doin' pretty good there,
and Mr. Youngman said, 'You know, you're half of this thing, so why don't
you do something for it.' So we had real good chicken there and I made
up a slogan. Merlyn doesn't want me to tell this, but I'm going to tell
it anyway. I made up the slogan for our chicken and I said, 'To get a better
piece of chicken, you'd have to be a rooster.' And I don't know if that's
what closed up our Holiday Inn or not, but we didn't do too good after
that. No, actually, it was really a good deal.
"Also, in Baxter Springs, the ballpark is right
by the highway, and Tom Greenwade, the Yankee scout, was coming by there
one day. He saw this ball game goin' on and I was playing in it and he
stopped to watch the game. I'm making this kind of fast; it's gettin' a
little hot. And I hit three home runs that day and Greenwade, the Yankee
scout, stopped and talked to me. He was actually on his way to Broken Arrow,
Oklahoma, to sign another shortstop. I was playing shortstop at that time,
and I hit three home runs that day. A couple of them went in the river
– one right-handed and one left-handed – and he stopped and he said, 'You're
not out of high school yet, so I really can't talk to you yet, but I'll
be back when you get out of high school.'
"In 1949, Tom Greenwade came back to Commerce
the night that I was supposed to go to my commencement exercises. He asked
the principal of the school if I could go play ball. The Whiz Kids
had a game that night. He took me. I hit another home run or two that night,
so he signed me and I went to Independence, Kansas, Class D League, and
started playing for the Yankees. I was very fortunate to play for Harry
Craft. He had a great ball club there. We have one man here in the audience
today who I played with in the minors, Carl Lombardi. He was on those teams,
so he knows we had two of the greatest teams in minor league baseball at
that time, or any time probably, and I was very fortunate to have played
with those two teams.
"I was lucky when I got out. I played at Joplin.
The next year, I cam to the Yankees. And I was lucky to play with Whitey
Ford, Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto – who came up with me – and
I appreciate it. He's been a great friend all the way through for me. Lots
of times I've teased Whitey about how I could have played five more years
if it hadn't been for him, but, believe me, when Ralph Houk used to say
that I was the leader of the Yankees, he was just kiddin' everybody. Our
real leader was Whitey Ford all the time. I'm sure that everybody will
tell you that.
"Casey Stengel's here in the Hall of Fame already
and, outside of my dad, I would say that probably Casey is the man who
is most responsible for me standing right here today. The first thing he
did was to take me off of shortstop and get me out in the outfield where
I wouldn't have to handle so many balls.
this time I'd like to introduce my family. I introduced my mother. Merlyn,
my wife, we've been married 22 years. That's a record where I come from.
Mickey, my oldest boy, David, Billy and Danny. That's my family that I've
been with for so long.
"I listened to Mr. Terry make a talk last night
just for the Hall of Famers, and he said that he hoped we would come back,
and I just hope that Whitey and I can live up to the expectation and what
these here guys stand for. I'm sure we're going to try to. I just would
– before I leave – would like to thank everybody for coming up here. It's
been a great day for all of us and I appreciate it very much."
Mickey Mantle, August 12, 1974