May 18th, 1956: Mickey Mantle Becomes All-Time Switch Hitter Home Run Leader

Real History |

Batting from both sides of the plate is one of the hardest things to do in sports, but Mickey Mantle did this better than anybody. His long career with the New York Yankees was legendary for a lot of reasons: the home run chase of 1961, his 7-time World Series championships, his 3-time AL MVPs, and his 1956 Triple Crown, just to name a few. But the fact that he hit so many home runs from both sides of the plate is just phenomenal.

Most switch hitters have a more dominant side of the plate, usually corresponding to their throwing arm. Not Mickey. He may have been naturally right-handed, but he could swing just as well from the left side of the plate. 1956, the year when his record-setting switch-hitting home run record was set, saw Mantle lead the way in home runs, batting average, and runs batted in. Many of those were hit from the left side.

Mantle's physical strength was unprecedented, and it allowed him to hit some of the longest home runs in Major League history. On September 10, 1960, four years after his Triple Crown year, Mickey hit a ball left-handed that cleared the right-field roof at Tiger Stadium. Yes, the actual roof enclosing the stadium. Years later, baseball historian Mark Gallagher estimated the ball traveled 643 feet.

On April 17, 1953, Mantle hit a right-handed homer off Chuck Stobbs at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C. that was measured by Yankees traveling secretary Red Patterson at 565 feet. Over the course of his career, Mantle hit three balls off the third-deck facade at Yankee Stadium.

Although Mickey had an incredible, Hall of Fame career, he was also plagued by injuries. Beginning in high school, Mantle suffered from acute and chronic injuries to his bones and cartilage in his legs. Throughout his pro career, he'd wrap his knees before every game. Historians can only imagine how much more successful Mantle could've been had he been totally healthy.

So now we come to 2017, and the spectacle that is Mike Trout. At 25 years of age, he's already garnering comparisons to Mickey, and deservedly so. Both are strong, like, really strong, and they're blazing fast, and they know how to rock the buzz-cut look. At the end of their careers will they be in the same conversation?

Through six seasons, Trout has reached a .306 batting average for his career, compared to Mantle's .308. Keep in mind, Mantle played on MUCH better teams than Trout. But either way you slice it, the men are near carbon copies of each other.