Also considered: Stan Musial, Willie Mays
Mickey Mantle, the best switch hitter of all time, edged out the tightest race we’ve had during this series. The adage “forever a bridesmaid, never a bride” applies to Stan Musial, who for the second decade in a row comes in runner-up. There is also an argument to be made that Mays was the best player in the decade but he only really did it for 7 out of the 10 seasons. Mays and Mantle did cross paths in the ’51 World Series (both of their rookie seasons) as Mantle went to chase down a long fly ball off the bat of Mays before badly injuring his right knee. An injury that would plague Mantle for the rest of his playing career.
Not that you could really tell that the 3-time MVP was hampered throughout his career:
- Six seasons over .300 Average
- .425 OBP across the decade (.512 in ’57)
- .994 OPS across the decade (four straight 1.000+ ops seasons ’55-’58)
- Seven 100+ Runs seasons
- Seven 110+ RBI seasons
- 280 HR (Five straight 30+home run seasons)
- Eight time All Star
- Two time MVP
- Seven time AL Pennant Winner
- Five time World Series Champion
- 7.5 WAR/year
- Back-to-back 11+ WAR seasons (’56/’57)
(.311/.425/.569, 1,392 H, 280 HR, 841 RBI, 994 R)
*These numbers only reflect the seasons between 1950-59*
What really put Mickey over the top of Musial was the hardware. Musial won all three of his MVP’s in the 40’s, not 50’s, and did not play in the postseason throughout the entire decade. Mantle won two of his three MVP’s, his Triple Crown (’56), and five of his seven World Series in the 50’s. So while their numbers were very similar, their accolades were not.
Remember that injury that Mantle got while chasing down Mays’ fly ball in ’51? Well it forced The Mick to heavily wrap his leg and ankle prior to every game he played after that. Every. Single. Game. For 18 seasons.
Still not impressed? Mantle still holds the record for the fastest time clocked from home to first. 3.1 seconds.
Mickey Mantle was a switch-hitting, athlete, with immense power. Imagine Mike Trout. Now imagine Mike Trout, stronger, faster, and switch-hitting. Oh, along winning seven World Series titles.
Somebody once asked me if I ever went up to the plate trying to hit a home run. I said, ‘Sure, every time.’ -Mickey Mantle
Mickey Mantle comes in as the sixth selection to my Player of the Decade team. Continue to check back in as I will continue revealing my choice of players each day. Tomorrow will be the 1960’s.