If legendary New York Yankees centerfielder Mickey Mantle wanted to make a statement, all he had to do was step up to home plate, bat in hand. Mantle had the magic. During his storied 18-year career in the Bronx, Mantle claimed three American League MVP titles and played in 12 World Series and 16 All-Star Games. To this day, he still holds the records for most World Series home runs, RBIs, runs, walks and extra-base hits. Because of Mantle’s indomitable career statistics, mementos with a close association to the slugger are highly coveted by today’s collectors of baseball memorabilia.
On Dec. 8, the handwritten speech delivered by a gravely ill Mantle via national television days before he died will be auctioned in Westhampton, N.Y. In his final message to America, broadcast in August of 1995 from Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Mantle read from his personally handwritten notes, thanking fans for their cards and flowers, and urging youngsters to avoid the temptations faced by athletes.
“To all my little teammates out there, please don’t do drugs and alcohol,” Mantle urged. “God only gave us one body. Take care of it.” Mantle had battled severe alcoholism and received a liver transplant in June 1995 after being diagnosed with liver cancer.
In his speech, Mantle referred to Yankees grand-slam king Lou Gehrig’s courageous last address to fans, which Gehrig delivered at Yankee Stadium on July 4, 1939. “I said one time I didn’t know how Lou Gehrig could be … at home plate knowing he was going to die and say he was the luckiest man on the face of the earth,” the ailing Mantle said, reading from his notes. “Now I think I know.” Mantle concluded with an appeal: “If you want to do something great, be an organ donor.”
The handwritten speech Mantle read that day was given to an employee at Mantle’s golf club. Later, it was acquired by Mantle’s last manager, Greer Johnson.
Now framed with other appropriate keepsakes, Mantle’s last speech is entered in Grey Flannel’s auction with an opening bid of $5,000. “This speech captures a truly historic moment in Yankee and baseball history,” Grey Flannel Auctions’ president Richard E. Russek observed.
The Mantle speech is one of more than 1,000 articles of professional sports memorabilia offered in the Dec. 8 auction.