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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Schoenfield: There will never be another Mickey Mantle

Agreed. Or as my old NYC swanky-jernted veteran barmaid used to tell me…“Mickey Mantle was handsomest man she ever saw…and the ugliest man she ever met.”

There will never be another Mickey Mantle. That’s what the Baseball Writers are protecting.

To be fair, they’re not the only ones. Baseball-Reference.com has something called the Fan EloRater, where readers can vote on player comparisons. The top 15 hitters are Ruth, Mays, Wagner, Speaker, Williams, Cobb, Aaron, Hornsby, Musial, Gehrig, Mantle, Collins, Lajoie, Kaline and Foxx.

Not a single player who began his career after 1954. Not a single player who played a game in the ‘80s, ‘90s, ‘00s or ‘10s. Nine of 15 who never played against a black player. The top five pitchers all played before World War II, and four of those pitched in the dead-ball era. At least Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens and Randy Johnson crack the top 15.

This is how we view baseball. The greats of yesteryear are untouchable.

Players today can’t hit home runs as far as Mantle or throw as hard as Feller or pitch like Cy Young. The players were better in the old days. Of course they were.

You can believe that if you want. The stories, after all, do help tie baseball’s present to baseball’s past. Or you can believe this: You can believe that when you see Mike Trout, you’re seeing the ghost of Willie Mays, excepting that Mays is still very much alive, of course. When you watch Justin Verlander, you can see Bob Feller, only with much better control. When Clayton Kershaw pitches, he evokes the dominance of another Dodgers left-hander. Miguel Cabrera is a right-handed Lou Gehrig.

The greats are playing now, just like they played in the ‘30s and the ‘50s and the ‘80s. So create your own stories, your own legends. I remember that game when ...

Repoz Posted: January 15, 2013 at 06:11 AM | 124 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, yankees

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   101. Ron J2 Posted: January 15, 2013 at 06:18 PM (#4347811)
#99 Not clear about football. The sheer size advantage along the line is going to matter a lot. I don't see how an older team could run against modern players. The linemen are just too big and the linebackers too quick. Jerry Kramer talks a great deal about the problems a young Alan Page gave him just based on size. Thing is that while he was big for his day (at the start of his career at any rate. Lost a great deal of weight and by the end of his career was among the smallest tackles in the game) he'd be considered too small to play tackle these days.

And I don't think the modern players would take too long to learn to use things like head slaps. Learning to comply with the holding rules though would be very tricky.

Not sure that every team could adjust to the smaller rosters.
   102. McCoy Posted: January 15, 2013 at 06:24 PM (#4347819)
A few years back one of the networks did a look back on some iconic game of the 50's. I think it was the 1958 Championship Game ad anyway, they had Andy Reid breaking down the tape and one of the things he was surprised by was how primitive the blocking schemes, plays, and coverage was as compared to nowadays.
   103. McCoy Posted: January 15, 2013 at 06:32 PM (#4347827)
Found some of it in an Atlantic piece:
It also lacked many of the refined mechanical and tactical innovations that are commonplace in modern football. For instance, Reid was surprised to note that wide receivers assumed a three-point stance before the snap of the ball—today they stand upright, which allows them a broader view of the defensive backfield. The pass defenders, meanwhile, stood upright on the old film, with one foot forward, one back, and then just backpedaled to stay with the receivers. In the modern NFL, backfield defenders poise in a forward crouch with their weight evenly balanced on both legs, and retreat by taking short stutter-steps backward, ready to bolt in either direction and avoiding the crossover step, a potentially costly mistake that can offer a receiver the split-second advantage he needs to break away.

Basic positioning along the line of scrimmage has changed as well. A few plays in, Reid noted that the Giants defensive tackles, Dick Modzelewski and Rosey Grier, were “flexed back off the ball”—that is, set up more than a yard away from the Colts linemen. “That’s probably for the run game,” Reid said, explaining that by hanging back from the line of scrimmage, the defenders could get a better look at the direction of the play before attacking.

I asked, “Why wouldn’t you do that today?”

“Well, you give those big guys a head start on you,” Reid said. “At that time I would imagine that the linemen were fairly equal athletically, and now the offensive linemen are so big and the defensive linemen are relatively smaller.” If you’re a defender today, he went on, and you spot a 300-plus-pound blocker a two-step running start, he’ll knock you “right on your ass.”

Reid surmised correctly. I checked the average weight of the starting offensive and defensive linemen in the ’58 game: the Colts’ offensive front five weighed an average of 243 pounds, and the Giants’ defensive front five weighed an average of 244 pounds. Today, offensive lines on average weigh nearly 25 pounds more than defensive fronts.

But while the 4–3 has survived to the present day, the simplicity of the old game often amazed Reid to the point of disbelief. The offensive formations were so basic that many of them are no longer even used in the pro game. The Giants frequently lined up in the T-formation—the quarterback behind the center, and the three running backs lined up horizontally about three yards behind him—and both teams employed the antiquated “single wing,” where one halfback and the fullback line up beside each other, behind the quarterback, while the other halfback splits wide, sometimes all the way out to the flanker position.

The game as it was played in 1958 “is still an entertaining sport to watch, but it’s just not near as complicated,” Reid said. “If I’m calling the plays” on offense, he went on, “I get paid to get into a rhythm with the guy calling the defense” on the other side. When a coach achieves the right “rhythm,” he can sense what his opponent is thinking—and for Reid, grasping the “rhythm” of the classic game was fairly easy. “I can see what the offense is doing,” he said. “You can almost call it offensively and defensively.”
   104. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: January 15, 2013 at 06:44 PM (#4347832)
In basketball its about rule changes. Under the rules of their day, the Mikans would mop the floor with the modern players, who would turn the ball over virtually every time they tried to dribble.

And how long do you think it might take for modern basketball players to adjust to those different rules? Do you think that they wouldn't be thoroughly drilled in them before entering into competition?

The same, I suspect, is true in football.

I'm not sure exactly what the answer to the same question in football would be, but I'm pretty sure it would be a lot less time than it'd take for the old time physiques to adapt to going against players half a foot taller, about 60 pounds heavier, and quite a bit more "athletic" to boot. You could hamstring a modern NFL defensive line with any rules you want, and by the end of the first half they'd be chasing Otto Graham or Johnny Unitas halfway back to the goal line every time they dropped back to pass. That's no reflection against the early 50's Browns or the late 50's Colts, it's simply a matter of size, strength and agility. The average all-NFL team offensive lineman in the 50's averaged 249 pounds. In 2011 the average NFL offensive lineman weighed 311.
   105. Moeball Posted: January 15, 2013 at 07:03 PM (#4347836)
True, but isn't that the case in all sports? It's probably far more pronounced in basketball and football because the level of athleticism has changed so much in the last 50 years,l but if you sent a AAA team back to the 20's in a delorean they'd be able to compete with any of the top teams of that era.


One of the things to keep in mind when comparing histories of various sports - baseball is a much older sport professionally than either football or basketball, so we're at a totally different place on the timeline. Consider:

1)NFL formed in 1920 - we're now 92 seasons later. When MLB was 92 seasons in from the formation of the National League in 1876, it was 1968. Think what baseball was then - Bob Gibson and a whole lot of 1-0 games (like the AS Game). Denny McLain won 31 games. Carl Yastrzemski won a batting title with a .301 average. The regular starting shortstop for the champion Tigers was Ray Oyler who had a .135/.213/.186 slash line but was in the lineup for his glove. The game today is very different from that game - as it should be - it's more than 4 decades later now.

2)Even more dramatic - the first NBA season was 1946-47. We are now in the middle of the 66th NBA season since then. MLB's 66th season was in...1942! We were in the middle of the era of Joltin' Joe DiMaggio and Teddy Ballgame(ok, some things never change - the media was obsessed with the Yankees and the Red Sox back then, too). Think how radically different baseball is today, 70 years later! So when basketball fans are asked to imagine the game as it was played in, say, 1960 - the days of Wilt and Russell - only 13 years in since the beginning of the NBA - baseball fans would be thinking of baseball as it was played in 1889! At least I can name Deacon White as a player from those days, and probably King Kelly, too. So think of how advanced the NBA will be 70 years from now - long after I'm gone, so I'll never see it - but the level of play will basically be what we're seeing in baseball today.
   106. Morty Causa Posted: January 15, 2013 at 09:35 PM (#4347903)
There will never be another Mickey Mantle?

Yes, and some will be glad of that. When Hank Williams died a fan gushed in pathos and adoration to Williams's erstwhile friend and collaborator Don Helm, "There will be another like him." All Helm could say was, "Let's hope so." One of Ted Williams's ex-wives said that she was going to entitle her memoirs, "My Turn At Bat Was No Ball."
   107. phredbird Posted: January 15, 2013 at 10:05 PM (#4347908)
The 2012 14 y.o. Babe Ruth may well already weigh 300 lbs., be pre-diabetic, and be playing Call of Duty all day."


ridiculous. babe ruth was a big, strapping, muscular youth. he would be browbeaten into football and would have busted up knees and several concussions by age 25 and be a wreck before middle age. think dick butkus.
   108. Morty Causa Posted: January 15, 2013 at 10:34 PM (#4347916)
106: "There will 'never' be another like him."
   109. jingoist Posted: January 15, 2013 at 11:10 PM (#4347930)
1954 - Willie, Mickey and the Duke.
Those 54 Dodgers were my favorite team....I was 8 years old that summer and they had players named Preacher Roe, Pee Wee Reese and Duke Snyder - cool names to a young kid just getting the hang of baseball.

I lived just outside Pittsburgh and I became a Pirate fan mid-way through the '55 season.
Frank Thomas - the "original Frank Thomas" was our star player and a new young black latin american player named Clemente had shown up.
I wasn't sure he'd be great, what 9 year old really undersatnds greatness when it's manifested before their eyes and ears.
Of course it took Roberto about 6 or 7 years to truly become the player we all remember from that '71 series

I say ears as I only got to go to one game a year and that was invariably when the Card's came to Forbes Field as the old man was a big Stan Musial fan. I became one as well as the years went by.

I eventually grasped the fact that Willie Mays, Frank Robinson, Stan Musial and Hank AAron were a cut above any of my Pirates.
But we did have 1960 when a true team effort overcame the monumental skills of a superior talented Yankee team.

Will there ever be another Mantle?
Skillwise; I sure hope so. Harper and trout could be his equal - too soon to tell.
Squandered talent; I sure never hope so.
I know the Mick tore up his knee early on but his personality would have cratered him one way or the other.
I'd like to think MLB would do a better job watching out for a new Mantle.
I like to think the Nationals will do everything in their collective power not to squander Harpers talent; likewise LA and Trout.
   110. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: January 16, 2013 at 01:17 AM (#4347956)
So would the 1927 Yankees play here? Or here?
   111. SandyRiver Posted: January 16, 2013 at 01:47 PM (#4348243)
Will there ever be another Mantle?
Skillwise; I sure hope so. Harper and trout could be his equal - too soon to tell.
Squandered talent; I sure never hope so.
I know the Mick tore up his knee early on but his personality would have cratered him one way or the other.
I'd like to think MLB would do a better job watching out for a new Mantle.
I like to think the Nationals will do everything in their collective power not to squander Harpers talent; likewise LA and Trout.


Good points all. For those not acquianted with "The Last Boy", in it the 1951 injury is postulated as a torn ACL, with Mantle playing with that damage unrepaired ("I never had a pain-free day after that") the rest of his career. The personality comment is probably valid, but a modern Mantle wouldn't have had a father and uncles who worked in the mines and died of cancer in their 30s. Mick's pre-teen osteomyelitis certainly added to his "...for tomorrow we die" lifestyle as well.
   112. base ball chick Posted: January 16, 2013 at 03:22 PM (#4348345)
when legend becomes fact, print the legend. mickey mantle, all 5-10 170 lb hit a baseball 6 hunnert feet. OKAYYYYYYYYYY

i don't get the obsession with comparing players of completely different eras against each other.
only thing that is the same is no females allowed on mens teams

the fields were different, the balls were different, the rules were different - even stuff like not changing the baseball after every single time a bat touches it, the pitches were different, the players were different, the bats were diffrerent

if you magically transpoorted the 27 yankees as they were back then suddenly to right now, they be facing 90+ MPH pitchers, sliders, splitters and fielders who can seriously pick it. their pitchers would have to deal with a slicker ball and throwing a clean ball to a team in which every guy except the pitcher can actually hit (excepting the astros of course) and the station to station/bunting/hit n run isn't done much at all. they would also have to face relievers, changing pitchers every batter or so, LOOGYs, ROOGYs. they would have a lot more bench guys and be short 4 pitchers. they would have a better field, but grossly inferior gloves. they also lack the nice modern bats with the hard surfaces/thin handles.

i don't know how they'd do against even the freaking astros.

any modern team instantly transported back to 1927 would have to deal with the shtty fields, the ballpark being MUCH larger, so fewer el cheapo 315' homers. also with spitters and scuff balls which they pretty much never see. along with simply dirty balls. the guys these days, even if they are pretty much the same size average (minus enlarged roid bodies) are simply better conditioned and trained. no i do NOT believe reported heights/weights. they LIE. pretty much ALL of them. but then they'd have to play day games and lots od double headers, which they are really NOT used to doing.

and i would bet there was a whole lot of pushing guys off base (kent hrbek) and belt holding, spiking, tripping - stuff our Nice Clean Chiorboys are not allowed to do these days

   113. SandyRiver Posted: January 16, 2013 at 05:10 PM (#4348418)
when legend becomes fact, print the legend. mickey mantle, all 5-10 170 lb hit a baseball 6 hunnert feet. OKAYYYYYYYYYY

i don't get the obsession with comparing players of completely different eras against each other.
only thing that is the same is no females allowed on mens teams

the fields were different, the balls were different, the rules were different - even stuff like not changing the baseball after every single time a bat touches it, the pitches were different, the players were different, the bats were diffrerent


IMO, these are overstated.
--BBRef lists Mantle as 5'11" and 195. I've never seen him listed at 170 - maybe when he was in the low minors? It's for sure that Yankee PR created the "tape measure hr" to publicize Mantle, but it's also true that he's the only one in MLB to hit the old YS facade (twice, though the 1st time was just a very high flyball, and I've heard unconfirmed anecdotes of Josh Gibson hitting one over the facade.) It's also true that he put more hr into the distant left-center bleachers of YS than anyone else, and it's not particularly close. 600' - that's a stretch, even for facade-ball #2 if unimpeded. Lots of 450-500+ footers? No doubt.

--We compare players across eras because it's fun, and because baseball is statistical in a way far beyond any other sport. The rules/practices for things like changing baseballs, mound height, spitballs, etc are different, but the basic framework of the game has remained constant for well over a century, since the rubber was moved back from 50' to 60.5' in 1893 (and BBs were issued for only 4 called balls, 1889 on.) IMO, every change since those, including the DH, has been minor compared to things like pitching distance and the ball-and-strike counts.
   114. Morty Causa Posted: January 16, 2013 at 05:20 PM (#4348429)
And women can play any time they can make the cut--and are willing to wear a jockstrap on the outside.
   115. The Chronicles of Reddick Posted: January 16, 2013 at 07:15 PM (#4348493)
Every young up and coming CF is usually first described as the next Mantle or the next Mays. It would be nice if one of them was described as someone who had played in the 80's as there have been a lot of great athletes who have been given the short end of the stick because everyone wants to romanticize that position. To be honest, if I was a manager I would just be happy with the next Devon White or Tori Hunter.
   116. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: January 16, 2013 at 08:00 PM (#4348519)
It's for sure that Yankee PR created the "tape measure hr" to publicize Mantle, but it's also true that he's the only one in MLB to hit the old YS facade (twice, though the 1st time was just a very high flyball, and I've heard unconfirmed anecdotes of Josh Gibson hitting one over the facade.) It's also true that he put more hr into the distant left-center bleachers of YS than anyone else, and it's not particularly close. 600' - that's a stretch, even for facade-ball #2 if unimpeded. Lots of 450-500+ footers? No doubt.

Griffith Stadium stood for 51 years as a baseball park.

In 51 years, only one batter ever cleared the back wall of the LF bleachers: Mickey Mantle

In 51 years, only five balls were ever hit over the 30' CF wall that was 421' from home plate. Two of those home runs were hit by Mickey Mantle in a single game. The others were hit by Babe Ruth, Larry Doby and Ted Williams.

   117. base ball chick Posted: January 16, 2013 at 11:14 PM (#4348670)
sandy

according to bbref, jeff bagwell is 6' tall.

right. i've seen him standing near my mama and he's shortern she is. and she ain't no six feet tall

those heights and weights are not reliable. men lie more about height n weight than women do.

i've seen all KINDS of pics of mickey mantle, including ones of him nekkid (which are worth looking at believe me. well, if you are a straight woman or gay man) and he ain't no 5-11 195.

people like to believe that men have to be very large to hit long home runs. and that their heroes are literally larger than life. i say joe morgan. i say jimmy wynn - who hit a ball out of the cincy ballpark onto the freeway.
   118. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: January 16, 2013 at 11:59 PM (#4348709)
The only sport where you can find consistently reliable measurements of height and weight is boxing, where that metrics are officially recorded prior to each fight and have been since the 1890s. I used to laugh at how Charles Barkley was listed as 6'6 tall, he must've been standing on a phone book.

Here's a photo of Mantle standing next to heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano, who stood slightly under 5'11 in bare feet but was notorious for wearing shoe lifts when out in public. I think Mantle's listed height of 5'11 is most likely accurate. For comparison here's Rocky with Ted Williams. Ted looks his legit 6'3.5 or so here.

Babe Ruth with Jack Dempsey. Ruth is officially listed at 6'2, Dempsey was usually measured at 6'1 or just a smidge under. I'd guess the Babe was "heightening" but only a wee bit.
   119. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: January 17, 2013 at 12:11 AM (#4348717)
Well now here's The Babe with former champ James J Jeffries (R), who was actually slight taller than 6'2 during his championship heyday. This photo is from a 1944 edition of RING magazine. On Babe's left is former top heavyweight contender Sailor Tom Sharkey, who was typically measured at between 5'8 and 5'9.

As an aside, Sharkey fought Jeffries for the title in 1899, the first indoor heavyweight title fight to be filmed. Unfortunately the original film prints disappeared some time around the 1940s; all that remains is a few terribly blurry minutes recorded by a man who snuck a film camera into a movie theater that was showing the bout. The fight, which went 25 rounds, was one of the most violent ever seen, and a close inspection of the limited footage remaining does support this contention.

Might as well throw in a pic of prime championship Jeffries since I did the same for Sharkey. Imagine this guy with steroids, boy howdy.

   120. base ball chick Posted: January 17, 2013 at 12:23 AM (#4348729)
prime championship jeffries looks like movie star - kind of like that transporters guy
   121. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: January 17, 2013 at 12:29 AM (#4348735)
Naw, here's the movie star shot. Boy did Jim hate this, he couldn't have felt more like a monkey if he was hold a bunch of bananas.
   122. LargeBill Posted: January 17, 2013 at 01:45 AM (#4348793)
Have to be careful with looking at pictures and thinking heights are static. I never measured Ruth and can't testify to his height, but I think I'm safe in saying he was a big man for his time. That was not a reference to weight which he increased as he aged. Showing pictures of him in his later years next to a boxer may not work. I am an inch or so shorter than I was at 20. Carrying extra weight, Ruth may have lost height as he aged (and as his body was ate up by cancer).

Separately, great pic of Ted Williams in 118. His smile in that shot reminds me of one of my uncles.
   123. Srul Itza Posted: January 17, 2013 at 02:21 AM (#4348804)

Babe Ruth with Jack Dempsey. Ruth is officially listed at 6'2, Dempsey was usually measured at 6'1 or just a smidge under. I'd guess the Babe was "heightening" but only a wee bit.

...

Well now here's The Babe with former champ James J Jeffries (R), who was actually slight taller than 6'2 during his championship heyday. This photo is from a 1944 edition of RING magazine. On Babe's left is former top heavyweight contender Sailor Tom Sharkey, who was typically measured at between 5'8 and 5'9.


In the first photo, it is outside. I wonder if they are standing on level ground. I also have some question about slope in the second shot, as well as positioning. Just to say that judging things from photos is not as easy as CSI would lead you to believe.
   124. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: January 17, 2013 at 08:33 AM (#4348840)
I once stood next to Mickey Mantle (in a bar, of course). We were pretty much the same height. I'm just a hair under 6'1". Must be the shoes, Money.
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