51 Years Ago Today – Mickey Mantle Plays In His Last All-Star Game July 9, 1968
Mickey Mantle hit the first home run ever at the Houston Astrodome, in an exhibition game on April 9, 1965. The Astrodome was then the new home of the National League’s, Houston Astros.
When Mantle next returned to the Astrodome in 1968 it was for the All-Star Game. By then Mickey Mantle’s heroic career was coming to an end and he knew it. Mantle’s once great skills had fallen into decline. The Mick was no longer able to run and was in great pain most of the time. Despite hitting only 11 home runs with 30 RBIs and batting .233, Mantle was named to the All-Star team for the 16th year by manager Dick Williams. It was Mantle’s 20th All-Star game appearance because there were two All-Star games played between 1959-1962. Mantle was also given the honorary title of captain of the team.
Today’s All-Star games the player’s are all buddy buddy. In 1968, the American League and National League had a real rivalry and wanted to beat one another. The National League had won the previous five All-Star games and the American League was determined to end the streak. The American League was stocked with sluggers like Harmon Killebrew, Frank Howard, Boog Powell and Carl Yastrzemski. Mickey Mantle, however did not start the game.
Willie Mays led off the game with a single, advanced to second on a pickoff error and then went to third on a wild pitch. Curt Flood walked and then Willie McCovey grounded into a double play and Mays crossed home plate for the first run of the game.
48,321 fans gave Mantle a huge ovation as he was called in as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning. Unfortunately for Mantle he was facing a young Tom Seaver of the New York Mets. On four pitches Seaver struck out Mickey Mantle swinging. Mantle was not Seaver’s only strikeout victim as he fanned a total of five batters in the seventh and eighth innings.
Willie Mays’ first inning run held up, and the National League won the game 1-0.
The only time I felt like crying over a professional baseball player. Not only did he strike out, he looked bad doing it. Mick! I loved you, man.