In June of 1965, Yankees management feared that Mickey was at the end of his playing days so they announced that September 18 would be “Mickey Mantle Day” at Yankee Stadium. At that time, only four other Yankees had received such an honor. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Yogi Berra.
Upon learning of the special day, New York Times writer, Dick Young wrote, “Mickey gave more to his teammates because he had something more to give than strength in his arms and his shoulders. He had strength in his will, and today, at the last stage of the Mantle comet, he has it greater than ever, because it takes a special kind of strength to keep a man going when there is less and less to go on.”
On September 18, Yankee Stadium was full of signs and banners honoring Mickey. Messages like, “Don’t leave us, Mickey we need you”, “Mickey MVP forever”, “We’ve been cheering since ’51, not ’65”, and “Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle” adorned the massive stadium.
Mickey gave a short speech and a deafening ovation followed. The next day in the Washington Post, an article described it as, “Mantle didn’t quite know what to do. The muscles around his jaw tightened and he brushed at the tears in his blue eyes a little awkwardly. He pawed at the grass with his spikes and then put his arm around his attractive platinum-haired wife, Merlyn, and his red-haired, oldest son, Mickey Jr.”
The game that day was between the Yankees and the Detroit Tigers. Right hander, Joe Sparma was on the mound for the Tigers. When Mickey stepped to the plate in the bottom of the first inning, with two outs, he received an ear-splitting ovation. Sparma, then did something unprecedented in major league baseball – he stepped off the mound, walked to home plate, and shook Mickey’s hand in open admiration. He walked back to the mound and the game continued.