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Sunday, March 20, 2016

Mickey Mantle batting right handed against a right handed pitcher.

Hoyt Wilhelm started several games for Baltimore against the Yankees in the late 1950s.  In two of those Mickey Mantle grounded out to SS & 3B and did not hit anything to the right side, suggesting that he batted righty.

Friday, May 22, 1959, Memorial Stadium Baltimore:

Wilhelm had pitched a no-hitter against the Yankees Saturday, September 20, 1958, Memorial Stadium Baltimore Attendance: 10,941.  The Mick was 0 for 3:
flied out CF
flied out short CF
strike out (SO).

On May 22, 1959 the Yanks were in last place 9.5 games out of first.  Wilhelm walked six but allowed only one hit, a single to Jerry Lumpe in the 8th.  Mickey was 3 for 5 in his previous game in Detroit raising his batting average (BA) from .263 to .280.

New York Times May 22, 1959 by John Drebinger:

Even Mickey Mantle, causing a mild sensation by batting right-handed against a right-handed pitcher, did nothing to change either his luck or that of his team-mates.  He did draw two passes, but in two other tries he grounded out, once to the shortstop, then to the third baseman.

It was the first time The Switcher had batted right-handed against a right-handeder since Labor Day of 1957 in Washington.  He tried this trick that day against Jose Santiago of the Senators.

Wilhelm pitched to Mantle 67 times and faced only three other batters more: Al Kaline, Rocky Colavito, Frank Malzone.  Prior to May 22, 1959 Mantle had 18 PA against Wilhelm:
4 BB, 2 intentional (IBB)
3 SO
1 single (1B)
1 for 14

For his career Mantle .v Wilhelm:
BA OBP SLG OPS
.192 .358 .327 .685

Two HR, one 2B, 11 SO in 52 AB.

Regarding Times writer John Drebinger: he has at least two errors: Wilhelm’s 1958 no-hitter against the Yankees was in Baltimore, not at Yankee Stadium as Drebinger wrote.  His reference to “Labor Day of 1957 in Washington ... against Jose Santiago” is also incorrect.  In 1957 the Yankees played in Washington Friday, Saturday, Sunday Sep 6, 7, 8.  The Saturday game was started by Pedro Ramos but Mantle’s 1957 game log shows that he did not play in any of those games.

There was no Jose Santiago on Washington ever.  There were two pitchers named Jose Santiago.  One pitched for Cleveland and Kansas City in 1955 and 1956 and faced Mantle five times none later than August 27.  The other pitched for the Red Sox and Athletics 1963-1970.

In 1957 Washington had both Ramos and Camilo Pascual, both born in Cuba.  They  pitched for Washington respectively 1955-1960 and 1954-1960.  Was Drebinger thinking of one of them and confusing Labor Day in early September with Memorial Day in late May?  In 1957 the Yanks played in Washington Wednesday May 29, (Ramos started) and a doubleheader Thursday May 30 (Pascual started game one).

Ramos pitched a complete game 6-2 victory in which Mantle went 2 for 3 including a "438-foot carom shot into the center-field bullpen for his tenth round-tripper" according to Times writer Louis Effrat.

Camilo Pascual pitched 5.33 and beat the Yankees 5-1; Mantle was 1 for 3 plus a walk.

However, we finally find what the confusingly inept Mr. Drebinger was attempting to convey.  In game two of the Memorial Day doubleheader the Yankees won 9-0 and Times writer Louis Effrat reports:

So one-sided was the nightcap that Mickey Mantle twice elected to try something that he never had attempted in the big league.  He batted right-handed against Evelio Hernandez, a right-handed pitcher.

Perhaps some of the 24,892 spectators, including Vice President Nixon, making up the season's largest crowd here, were startled to see Mantle swinging from the "wrong" side of the plate in the sixth inning.  With the Yankees nine runs to the good, no possible harm could be done, even though Mickey grounded to Rocky Bridges, who started a double play.

Billy Martin, who had singled before Mantle's first switch, again singled in the eighth, before Mickey went up.  This time the Oklahoma Kid , still on the right side of the plate, bounced to Milt Bolling at third base.  The latter bobbled the ball and Mickey was safe on the error.

Here are two other references, neither of which mentions Mantle’s second PA righty against the righty:

St. Petersburg Times Associated Press (AP) June 2, 1957 "Right Was Wrong":

WASHINGTON, (AP) - Mickey Mantle, switch hitting New York Yankee centerfielder, batted righthanded against a righthanded pitcher for the first time in his major league Career Thursday and hit into a double play.

Mantle came out swinging righthanded against Evelio Hernandez in the sixth inning of the second game with Washington after Billy Martin had singled.  Mickey grounded to Rocky Bridges who started the twin-killing.

The Windsor Daily Star May 31, 1957 "'Dad Knew Best' Mick Knows Now":

WASHINGTON - Mickey Mantle is sure now that "father knows best."

The Yankee slugger broke a pledge to his deceased father Thursday when he failed to switch-hit in the sixth inning of the second game with the Washington Senators.

Mickey batted righthanded against Evelio Hernandez, a right handed pitcher.  And he hit into a double play.  He had twice just missed homers batting left handed and decided to take a shot at the bleachers from the right side of the plate.

Mantle always has said he would never stop switching because he made such a promise to his father, who died five years ago.

Here are all of Mantle’s PA in that game:
Top first: Ted Abernathy - Lineout: 2B
Top third: Dick Hyde - Intentional Walk
Top fourth: Evelio Hernandez - Flyball: LF
Top sixth: Evelio Hernandez - Ground Ball Double Play: SS-2B-1B
Top eighth: Evelio Hernandez - Reached on E5 (Ground Ball); Martin to 2B

Maybe those “just missed homers” were foul balls.

Billy Martin played only 12 more games for the Yankees.  That final Yankee game was June 14 in Kansas City against the Athletics.  He was traded to the Athletics and next played June 16 against the Yankees in Kansas City.  The Yankees won both games.

The Copacabana New York City nightclub fight on Martin's May 16 birthday is generally considered the specific reason that Martin was traded, along with the Yankees having so many other good infielders: Gil McDougald, Jerry Coleman, Andy Carey, Tony Kubek, Bobby Richardson and Jerry Lumpe.  But did Mantle's feeling frisky enough to bat righty against a righty following two singles by Martin cause the Yankees to fear that Martin's negative influence on their star had gone too far?

Why would Mantle bat from the wrong side against an unknown pitcher?
Photo of Evelio Hernández
Evelio Hernandez, who allowed Brooks Robinson's first MLB home run on Sept. 29, 1956, was the third Washington pitcher, all right handers, and the Yanks led 7-0 by the time Mantle batted against him the first of three times in the top of the fourth.  Batting left handed Mantle flied out to LF.  Those were the only three PA Mantle ever had against Hernandez who pitched 58.66 innings in 18 games all for Washington in 1956 and 1957.  In his brief career Hernandez averaged only 3.7 SO per 9 innings.  However, BR Bullpen has this:

Evelio threw a big year at the Longhorn League in 1955 when his 23 victories along with 227 strikeouts both led the league …  As of last report Hernandez makes his residence in Miami, FL.

Like Ramos (22) and Pascual (23), the 25 year old Hernandez was born in Cuba.  In the 5th inning Yankee pitcher Bobby Shantz hit a two run single off Hernandez.  With the Yanks up 9-0 Martin led off the 6th with a single and then Mantle batted righty.  But why?  The Yanks had lost the previous two games in Washington and had a big lead but that could not have been so unusual.  Was it OK with Yankee manager Casey Stengel?  Mantle repeated it again in the 8th inning after Martin’s two out single.

Another Wilhelm game to investigate:

Saturday, September 5, 1959 at Yankee Stadium

The aforementioned New York Times writer John Drebinger wrote at the end of his account of the game:

in the sixth ... Mickey Mantle, with one out, cracked a single to center, Stole second and then raced on to third on a wide throw from Triandos.

But that was as far as The Switcher got.  Incidentally, Mantle makes an exception in his switch-hitting tactics and bats right-handed against the right-handed Wilhelm.  The single, however, was his only blow in four tries.

Does that mean that The Mick batted righty against Wilhelm in most if not all games in 1959?  In 19 PA in 1959 the only groundouts to SS or 3B are in the two games examined.  There was one game between them (May 22, 1959 and September 5, 1959): May 28, 1959:
Walk
Single to RF; Kubek to 3B
Flyball: 3B
Groundout: 2B-1B

No indication of Mantle batting righty in The Times.  The April 22, 1960 home opener before  35,645, the largest Yankee opening crowd since 1952, was the next game in which Mantle batted against Wilhelm and Mantle had three plate appearances:
Strikeout Looking
Home Run
Walk

The redoubtable Mr. Drebinger makes no mention of Mantle batting righty:

Mickey Mantle, forgetting his various woes and ailments, banged a tremendous home run off the upper deck of the right-field stand.  Mickey later stole a base.

Although I did not check The Times account for each game, I found no indication in Mantle’s PA log against Wilhelm that Mantle batted righty against Wilhelm any other time.

Mantle bunted twice against Wilhelm:
Sunday, May 25, 1958 game two of a doubleheader in Baltimore top 9, Yanks leading 6-3: popped out to Wilhelm.

Monday, September 4, 1967 first game of a doubleheader in Yankee Stadium bottom 8, Yanks leading 3-2: single to 2B.

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