The Mick and the Corked Bat

Award Winners, Football, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Management, Media, MVP, NFL, Players, Stats, World Series

The corked bat that was allegedly used by Mickey Mantle and was set to be sold at auction is no longer available after Mantle’s family hired attorneys to prevent the item’s sale. This entire episode tears another scab off the sordid nature of sports memorabilia.

Ironically in the past week the industry was in the news in a more serious court case as O.J. Simpson’s appeal of his kidnapping and armed robbery conviction was being heard in Las Vegas. Simpson was involved with memorabilia dealers and claims he was trying to reclaim his property and it expanded into guns, shady characters and a conviction. Simpson says it was an innocent misunderstanding. Sort of similar to going to the home of his ex-wife, just happening to be wearing the outfit of an inept burglar and carrying a knife, and proclaiming his purity when she and her friend wound up dead, bathed in pools of their own blood. It started so innocently with the best of intentions.

I don’t understand the memorabilia industry from the perspective of people who buy this stuff for their own enjoyment. The players themselves—including Mantle—thought it was a ludicrous endeavor, but went along because it was making him a lot of money with little effort and after his career was over, he didn’t have much money until the industry blew up. I get people buying it as an investment, but that goes back to the circle of preying on the childhood memories of others for profit. For those who think that having a “piece of history” in their homes are going to impress anyone when there’s no truly flawless method to verify the piece’s authenticity, it’s a momentary and mostly insincere “wow.” How much time can they spend staring at an old jersey? An old hat? An old glove? A bat that was supposedly laced with cork to lighten it, increase the hitter’s bat speed, and add a substance that may or may not add distance to the ball’s travels? And nobody can say whether or not the bat was actually used by Mantle.

Was it?

Based on Mantle’s style, he might have just used it as a joke once or twice just to see what happened. He wasn’t one to look before he leaped and did things because he could do them or because he thought it might be a kick. That didn’t extend to a long series of off-field incidents due to his drinking and womanizing as it would today because the writers were protective of players’ off-field lives during Mantle’s day, but if he was playing today you can bet there would be DUI incidents, an array of barroom brawls, and other stories of his exploits popping out all over.

For all of Mike Francesa’s bluster about the “reality” of sports, it takes little prompting for him to revert to the adolescent Mantle idol-worshipper when anyone dare question his hero and all-knowing, ignoring other factors statement that Mantle didn’t need to use a corked bat, therefore it is proven that he didn’t use one.

Mantle’s family stated that he never used a corked bat. How they would know this is not stated.

Did Mantle “need” to use a corked bat? Of course not. Did he use one a few times? Possibly. Does it tarnish his legacy? Not if his 535th career homer off Denny McLain in which McLain tossed a tailor made batting practice fastball specifically for Mantle to hit out the park didn’t tarnish his legacy and ruin the aesthetic for Francesa and the aging men who treat Mantle as their ideal.

Mantle was a “Yeah, what the hell?” guy and that might have extended to him trying a corked bat a few times. But with no one to guarantee that it’s legitimate or that Mantle hit with it to the degree that it truly affected his results and career numbers, a chunk of people only care because they want to shield their bubble of beliefs; the others seek to maintain the profits they can make from “real” Mantle memorabilia. I understand why they’re doing it, but I’ll never understand why people would pay money for that stuff to begin with.

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Jose Reyes Does What Baseball Players Do Sometimes…Especially Late In The Season

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Players have pulled themselves out of games in the interests of individual pursuits forever.

They’ve adjusted their competitiveness to be part of history.

They’ve been placed in different parts of the lineup.

They’ve bunted.

They’ve swung at pitches that were clearly out of the strike zone to get extra swings to achieve goals.

They’ve gone for doubles and triples to complete cycles.

They’ve done it all.

Baseball is an individual sport within a team concept.

There are 162 games in a baseball season and rules as to how many innings and plate appearances are necessary for players to be eligible for ERA and batting titles.

Do you really believe that as the season winds down that players are concerned—first and foremost—with winning?

No. They want to pad their stats and they do it intentionally.

Today Jose Reyes of the Mets went up to the plate leading the National League in batting over the Brewers Ryan Braun. (I’m not looking up the percentage points because, truth be told, I couldn’t care less about the batting title); Reyes had told Mets manager Terry Collins beforehand that if he got a hit, he wanted to come out of the game.

Then he bunted for a hit.

Then Collins took him out of the game.

Collins and Reyes admitted as such after-the-fact, in a matter-of-fact fashion.

Before this information was revealed, two of the most absurd places for the dissemination of fact on this or any other planet in the universe—Twitter and Michael Kay—went on abusive rants against the Mets as if they were the one perpetrating this act on an unsuspecting public waiting for aboveboard and fair victors in the all-important batting race.

Naturally, no one retracted their statements when the truth came out.

It was still the fault of the Mets somehow even if it wasn’t.

Never mind that Bernie Williams won a batting title in 1998 after starting the day tied with Mo Vaughn of the Red Sox and when Williams went 2 for 2 with a sacrifice fly, he was pulled.

Never mind that players like Bill Madlock won batting titles after taking themselves out of games to achieve that end.

Pete Rose bunted for a hit to win the batting title over Roberto Clemente.

Denny McLain threw a room service meatball to Mickey Mantle for Mantle to hit his 535th career homer because McLain wanted to be part of history; in fact, he asked Mantle where he wanted the pitch and Mantle obliged by telling him.

The St. Louis Browns let Napoleon Lajoie bunt to his heart’s content in an attempt to take the batting title away from the reviled Ty Cobb.

Reyes played in 126 games this season; George Brett played in 117 in the year he hit .390 and nearly hit .400.

Does the fact that Reyes pulled himself from a game to try and win the title and was injured with hamstring problems twice in 2011 “ruin” a title that few really pay attention to anymore? Does the fact that Brett was oft-injured as well somehow equate into the batting title needing to be put in a negative frame of reference in terms of competition?

When Roger Maris was chasing Babe Ruth‘s home run record, it was decreed that there would be two separate records, one for the 154 game schedule and the other for the 162 game schedule. Incredulous, Maris asked something to the tune of, “Which 154? The first 154? The last? The middle?”

The batting title is a resume builder; it’s an award; and it’s relatively meaningless.

This reaction is based on Mets hatred and the attempt to cast a negative light on a baseball player like Jose Reyes who looked to increase his own status with an “award”.

If you don’t know this or can’t handle it, you shouldn’t be talking about it in such a judgmental, holier-than-thou way.

They’re baseball players.

This is what they do.

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