Apparently, even the great Mickey Mantle cheated at baseball.
Grey Flannel Auctions is putting up for bid a used Mantle bat from the 1964 season that, X-rays show, was doctored with cork.
"Say it ain't so, Mickey," the New York Post writes.
But is this revelation all that shameful? Hollowing a bat's barrel and inserting cork has long been against the rules, though its actual effect on how the ball travels is dubious at best. You get conflicting answers when asking people who might know. Still, it's cheating. Or trying to cheat.
Here's what the item's capsule description says of the only such doctored bat ever to surface:
In his autobiography, then Minnesota Twins equipment manager Ray Crump admitted that he had corked some bats for Mickey. Until now, none of these bats have surfaced…taking nothing away from the icon and legend of Mickey Mantle, this is indeed a one of a kind piece of NY Yankees and baseball history…a Mantle corked gamer.
I have not read Crump's "Beneath the Grandstands" from 1993, or remember hearing accusations of Mantle ever corking a bat. Except for one place: A classic Seinfeld episode from earlier the same year. He might be more of a New York Mets fan, but some of the best work from the "Seinfeld" TV show refers to the New York Yankees. And, as it pertained to Mickey Mantle, one of the most popular Yanks ever, one of the most iconic Seinfeld lines ever sprang:
"They're real ... and they're spectacular."
It was said by actress Teri Hatcher, who was referring to her breasts, which Seinfeld wondered — to the eventual undoing of their budding relationship — might have implants. Jerry definitely had a prejudice against breast augmentation, and he used Mantle as a hypothetical analogy to express it:
JERRY: You're sure?
ELAINE: Positive! This chick's playin' with confederate money.
JERRY: Well then, that's it. That's the end of that.
ELAINE: What? Just 'cause of that?
JERRY: Just 'cause of that? It's like finding out Mickey Mantle corked his bat!
ELAINE: Oh, come on! You've dated women with nosejobs, what's the difference?
JERRY: You don't touch the nose! You don't aspire to reach the nose. You don't unhook anything to get to a nose, and no man has ever tried to look up a woman's nostril.
Funny guy, that Seinfeld. While I might agree with him about breast implants, by and large, I can't believe that his ideal of Mickey Mantle would be ruined because of one bat. Mantle probably used it in a game, or maybe 10 games or 50. Did it help him? We don't know.
Rather than implants, look at it more like someone stuffing her bra with tissue paper back in the day, or wearing a Wonderbra today. It's a lie, but there are worse lies.
However, the next time someone bemoans the so-called "Steroid Era," or complains that today's Major League Baseball players remain bloated on performance-enhancing drugs of some kind and asks: "Why can't things be the way they used to be?" remind them of Mickey Mantle corked bat auction from May 2013. Care if you want to, let it affect what you think of The Mick and his 536 home runs, or just be rational about it. Players from every era of baseball have tried to stuff their bras. The next generation will too.
The Mick might have corked one of his bats, but that doesn't mean he wasn't real. And spectacular.
Big BLS H/N: Jeff Passan
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