Items on Mickey's Mantel Draw Millions of Dollars
"I measure it by Cadillacs. I used to pay $5,000 for mine. They pay $20,000 now. So if they make three times as much as I did, what's the difference?"
--Mickey Mantle, 1979
Guernsey's conducted an auction of Mickey Mantle memorabilia at Madison Square Garden last Monday that raised $3.25 million. The items were affixed with a "Mickey Mantle Auction" tag and accompanied by a certificate signed by a member of the Mantle family certifying that the items came directly from the family's archives. The proceeds from the auction are slated to pay for the college education and first homes for each of Mantle's four grandchildren.
YEAR SALARY 1951 $ 5,000 1952 $ 7,500 1953 $ 17,500 1954 $ 21,000 1955 $ 25,000 1956 $ 32,000 1957 $ 60,000 1958 $ 65,000 1959 $ 70,000 1960 $ 60,000 1961 $ 70,000 1962 $ 90,000 1963 $100,000 1964 $100,000 1965 $100,000 1966 $100,000 1967 $100,000 1968 $100,000
Mantle earned a total of $1,123,000 during his major league career, ranging from his rookie salary of $5,000 to his peak of $100,000 for the final six seasons of his career. Mickey received his biggest percentage increases after his outstanding sophomore season at the age of 20 and on the heels of winning the Triple Crown in 1956. Mantle's other raises were fairly pedestrian for a player of his accomplishments, especially when you consider that the Yankees were the best team in baseball during his career and regularly led the league in attendance throughout the 1950s and early 1960s. In fact, the $10,000 paycut that Mantle took for the 1960 season seems rather harsh given his production the previous year.
Mantle's 1959 Counting Stats:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO 144 541 104 154 23 4 31 75 21 3 93 126Mantle's 1959 Rate Stats vs. the League Average:
AVG OBP SLG OPS OPS+ Mantle .285 .390 .514 .904 150 League Avg. .257 .328 .393 .720 100Mantle ranked 2nd in the A.L. in runs and stolen bases; 3rd in walks; and 4th in home runs, times on base, extra base hits, and total bases. The Yankees slugger also placed 2nd in the league in OPS and OPS+. Moreover, Mickey led the league in Runs Created Above Average (RCAA) and Runs Created Above Position (RCAP).
1959 A.L. RCAA
1 Mickey Mantle 54
1959 A.L. RCAP
1 Mickey Mantle 43
Mantle also tied for the league lead in Win Shares along with Nellie Fox, the MVP honoree that year.
1959 A.L. WIN SHARES
Mickey Mantle 30 Nellie Fox 30 Rocky Colavito 29 Minnie Minoso 29 Tito Francona 27 Al Kaline 27 Eddie Yost 27 Harvey Kuenn 25 Jim Landis 25 Camilo Pascual 24 Pete Runnels 24Given that the Chicago White Sox won the pennant in 1959, I don't really have a problem with the writers voting for the slick-fielding second baseman despite his inferior offensive stats (.306/.380/.389). To Fox's credit, he hit over .300, had 71 walks against just 13 strikeouts, captured a Gold Glove, and was the best player on the best team.
Nevertheless, it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever that Mantle ended up 17th in the MVP balloting in 1959. Mantle was simply held to a higher standard than his peers and almost anyone else who ever played the game. The Yankees finished in third place that year, one of only two times between Mickey's rookie year in 1951 and his last great year in 1964 in which the team did not win the American League pennant (1954 being the other). Rather than winning three MVPs, Mantle could have won as many as ten based on the fact that the Yankees center fielder led or tied for the league in Win Shares every year from 1954-1964, except 1963 when he was injured and played in only 65 games.
Win Shares MVP Actual MVP 1954 Mantle Berra 1955 Mantle Berra 1956 Mantle Mantle 1957 Mantle Mantle 1958 Mantle Jensen 1959 Mantle/Fox Fox 1960 Mantle Maris 1961 Mantle Maris 1962 Mantle Mantle 1963 Yaz/Tresh Howard, E. 1964 Mantle Robinson, B.As Bill James wrote in The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, "Of course, Mantle didn't win all of those awards, as the writers went through an annual process of figuring out, (a) who do we give the MVP Award to this year, other than Mantle, and (b) why is it we're snubbing Mickey this year?"
Mantle was not only snubbed by the MVP voters in 1959, but he was slighted in 1954 (15th), 1955 (5th), and 1958 (5th) when he failed to pick up a single first-place vote in any of these four years. Mickey earned some respect in 1960, 1961, and 1964 when he trailed the winner only. However, one could argue that he deserved better in 1960 when he was the recipient of more first-place votes (10) than Roger Maris (8), yet finished three points behind his teammate.
Mantle's Runs Created Above Average and Runs Created Above Position yearly rankings also validate his greatness.
RCAA RCAP 1951 23rd 24th 1952 1st 1st 1953 3rd 4th 1954 2nd 2nd 1955 1st 1st 1956 1st 1st 1957 1st 1st 1958 1st 1st 1959 1st 1st 1960 1st 1st 1961 2nd 1st 1962 1st 1st 1963 10th 9th 1964 1st 1st 1965 15th 28th 1966 5th 6th 1967 7th 11th 1968 9th 11thAs detailed, Mantle topped the A.L. in both categories nine times (1952, 1955-1960, 1962, and 1964). He also led the league in RCAP in 1961 when he finished second (behind Norm Cash) in RCAA. Whether Mickey earned ten MVPs (based on Win Shares and RCAP) or nine (RCAA), this study at least points out that Mantle was robbed of as many as seven MVP Awards during his career.
As another indication of Mantle's lack of proper respect, he received raises of only $5,000 and $10,000, respectively, after his MVP campaigns in 1957 and 1962. Furthermore, he topped out at the $100,000 mark and made the same salary for each of his final six seasons. In fact, his 1968 contract had a special covenant that read as follows:
"It is specifically understood and agreed that of the $100,000.00 provided for, $25,000.00 shall be paid during the 1968 year. The remaining $75,000.00 shall be paid as follows: $25,000.00 on January 15, 1969; $25,000.00 on January 15, 1970; and $25,000.00 on January 15, 1971. The above sums cannot be withdrawn before the maturity date."
Can you imagine a player of Mickey Mantle's stature today getting three quarters of his pay deferred without even any interest? Don't get me wrong, Mantle was paid as well as any player in the game in the early 1960s. I recognize that Mantle's seemingly "paltry" salaries and increases were more a function of the times than anything else. However, it is still a fun exercise to compare his pay back then to the players of today. Even if you exclude the salaries that were negotiated at the top of the market a few years ago prior to the establishment of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, it would be safe to assume that Mantle would be "worth" at least $15 million per year in today's world. That is 150 times Mantle's highest annual level. Using Mantle's reasoning about the correlation between Cadillacs and salaries, that would mean General Motors should now be charging $750,000 for its luxury automobile.
Given that most Caddies go for about $50,000 now, one can deduce that Cadillacs were either overvalued back then or are dramatically undervalued today. Alternatively, one could argue that Mickey Mantle was either unbelievably underpaid in his playing days or the current superstars are overpaid. No matter where your opinion falls, there is no doubt that Mantle--even as great and as beloved as he was--was still underappreciated throughout his Hall of Fame career.