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Monday, September 14, 2015

If Mickey Mantle had retired after 1964, he'd be an even bigger legend.

baseball-reference.com has this cool "Cumulative Batting" under "More Stats" for a player.  It has the data by year and here it is for Mickey Mantle through 1964, Mantle's 14th season when he was still only 32 years old.
Mickey Mantle 1962 Baseball Guide and Record Book by J. G. Taylor Spink [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
In 1965-1968, Mantle's final seasons, neither Mantle nor the Yankees did much that was especially noteworthy. The Yankees did not even contend for a pennant.  Division play began in 1969, the year after Mantle retired.  Mantle would not have been tarnished with those losing teams after being on 12 pennant winners.  The demise of the Yankees would have been directly attributed to the absence of Mantle.

The only major milestone reached by Mantle was home run number 500 in 1967.  All things considered, The Mick would have been much better off by leaving while he was still at or near the top of the American League.  Mantle already had three MVP awards (1956, 1957, 1962) and three seconds (1960, 1961, 1964).

Mantle broke his tie at 15 with Babe Ruth for career World Series home runs with a walk off winner in game three, then homered in games 6 and 7 with his team facing elimination in each game.  WS homer 18 was off Bob Gibson.  With the Yanks facing elimination in game 4 of the 1963 WS Mantle homered off Sandy Koufax in the 7th inning to tie the game 1-1.

Mick had 454 home runs through 1964, one more than Willie Mays in many fewer at bats (AB): Mays 7,036, Mantle 6,533.  In 1965 Mays hit 52 homers to zoom past Mantle.  In retirement, there would have been the speculation, no matter how unrealistic, that Mantle might have matched Mays.

Mantle's batting average would have remained well over .300: .309.  His OPS would have been over 1.000: 1.011.  Mantle's slugging average would have been higher than that of Joe DiMaggio (.582 to .579) and the length of their careers much closer: plate appearances: Mantle 7,979, DiMaggio 7,673.

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