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This Day in Yankees history: The Mick hangs ‘em up

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Mantle retires; the Boss is back; Boone gets cut

Mickey Mantle Day At Yankee Stadium Photo by Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images

Welcome to This Day in Yankees History. Spring training is upon us, and baseball is back on the field. It’s early days yet, without many meaningful conclusions that may be drawn from the first exhibition game, so in the meantime let’s dig into the history books. These daily posts will highlight a handful of key moments in Yankees history on a given date, as well as recognize players born on the day. Hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane with us!

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This Day in Yankees History (March 1)

52 Years Ago

It was a sad day in Yankees Universe and around the baseball world. In spring training 1969, the 37-year-old Mickey Mantle called an end to his storied 18-year career. The Yankees legend had battled knee injuries since his rookie season, and felt he could no longer contribute up to his own standards.

“I can’t hit when I need to,” Mantle concluded, bringing an end to an illustrious era in Yankees and MLB history.

The Mick was unequivocally the greatest switch-hitter to ever play the game, and was arguably the most prodigious power hitter to ever swing a bat. Some legends claim that he launched bombs in excess of 600 feet. Regardless of their veracity, the frequency with which Mantle launched these immense home runs led to the coining of the term “tape-measure home run” by Yankees traveling secretary Red Patterson.

At the time of his retirement, Mantle placed third on the all-time home run list, behind Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron, at 536. He also held the record for most games played in pinstripes at 2,401, a mark that would stand until Derek Jeter’s 2,402nd game on August 29, 2011. To put Mantle’s numbers in modern perspective, his 170 career wRC+ places him seventh all-time, right behind Mike Trout(!) at 172. Additionally, his 112.3 fWAR is the 14th most amassed in a MLB career, just behind Alex Rodriguez and ahead of Mel Ott.

28 Years Ago

Nearly three years after he was banned from day-to-day management by MLB Commissioner Fay Vincent, George Steinbrenner was reinstated prior to the start of the 1993 season. The Boss was permanently suspended from the game after he paid Howard Spira $40,000 to expose dirt on Dave Winfield to avoid making a $300,000 contribution to Winfield’s foundation as stipulated in the star outfielder’s contact.

The Boss’ suspension was perhaps a blessing in disguise for the Yankees. They were in the midst of one of the worst stretches in franchise history, going twelve years without a World Series win at the time of his suspension. With Steinbrenner out of the way, this allowed the likes of Gene Michael to seize the reins of baseball operations, paving the way for a new generation of stars to redefine the look of the team. Had Steinbrenner not been suspended, who knows if the Yankees would have developed Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Jorge Posada into a dynasty-leading quintet?

17 Years Ago

Only five months after his ALCS heroics, Aaron Boone was released by the Yankees after violating the MLB player contract. Boone tore his ACL in a a pickup basketball game that January, an activity which was explicitly prohibited by the stipulations of the Uniform Player’s Contract. Boone’s release came two weeks after the blockbuster trade that brought Alex Rodriguez to the Bronx, making Boone surplus to requirements on top of being out for the season.

Boone would get his eventual redemption when he was named manager of the Yankees following the 2017 season. It remains to be seen if he can achieve the same heights as the skipper as he did as a player that fateful October night.

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Birthdays

Ron Klimkowski was born on this day 77 years ago. The junkballer had an insignificant career with the Yankees across two separate stints. He was traded to the Yankees alongside Elston Howard, and was shipped out of the Bronx the next season for Felipe Alou.

Happy birthday to Joe Mantiply, who turns 30 today. Mantiply enjoyed a cup of coffee with the Yankees in 2019, allowing three earned runs in his lone appearance in pinstripes.

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We thank Baseball Reference, Nationalpastime.com, and FanGraphs for providing background information for these posts.