2017-06-08 / Sports

BASEBALL’S BEST

1956 was a memorable baseball year
By LAMAR GARRARD
baseball historian

“Somebody once asked me if I ever went up to the plate trying to hit a home run and I said, yes every time.” – Mickey Mantle

I have fond memories of the summer of 1956 and some of the cool baseball events of that season. Dwight Eisenhower was President of the United States and Marvin Griffin was the governor of Georgia. 1956 saw Carl Perkins record his famous song, “Blue Suede Shoes” at Sun Studio in Memphis. Norma Mortensen changed her name to Marilyn Monroe. Elvis Presley hit the music charts for the first time with the ever popular “Heartbreak Hotel.” One of the greatest basketball players of all time, Larry Bird was born on December 7, 1956.

I was in junior high school and played on the school’s championship baseball team and my Pony League team won first place that year. For fun I was playing on the church softball team in the evenings after getting off work from my summer construction job.

It was a fun year and one event in baseball made it especially enjoyable.

1956 was the year Hall of Fame superstar Mickey Mantle hit his peak and won the Triple Crown of Batting while also winning the MVP award, made the All-Star team and played for the World Series winner, the New York Yankees. That summer Mantle was on multiple magazine covers, enjoyed constant newspaper coverage and the Yankees were on TV many many times not to mention radio and newsreel footage.

The Triple Crown is given to a player that leads the league in batting average, home runs, and runs batted in. There have only been 17 winners in the history of the big leagues. Ted Williams and Rogers Hornsby are the only players to win the award twice.

Mantle had a pretty impressive year with the Yankees whose record was 97 wins and 57 losses. Yankee manager, Casey Stengel had a fairly easy job of winning with Mantle in the lineup and four more Hall of Fame players joining the Mick. Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, Phil Rizzuto and Enos Slaughter all played into the mix to make this team unstoppable.

Remember too that Don Larsen pitched his perfect game in contest No. 5 of the series and the Yankees took four games out of seven. Mantle hit a home run in Larsen’s perfect game.

Mantle’s numbers to win the Triple Crown were pretty impressive. He had a .353 batting average with 52 home runs and 130 runs batted in. He stole 10 bases while scoring 132 runs with 188 hits. His onbase percentage was .464 with a slugging percentage of .705. 1956 was a power offensive year for the Yankees.

Similarly there have been tons of homers this year in the majors. What is going on this year with the pitching? Many more pitchers are being used and the ball seems to be flying out of the stadiums. We may just have another Triple Crown batting champion in 2017 if the offenses keep up the heat.

In closing, congratulations to Tennessee Tech baseball coach Justin Holmes as his team has had a superb year. They are the Ohio Valley Conference Champions and were the only team to beat Florida State in the Tallahasee regional last weekend! Justin has close ties and connections in Washington, Georgia.

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