Four decades after his retirement and nearly 15 years after his death, baseball legend Mickey Mantle finally received a larger-than-life tribute in his Route 66 hometown of Commerce, Okla.
Although Mantle was born in Sallisaw Spavinaw, Okla., his family moved to Commerce when he was 4 and remained there well after the New York Yankees slugger became known as “The Commerce Comet.” Charlie Duboise, who operates the Dairy King restaurant on Route 66 with his mother, said Mantle even owned a house in Commerce for a few years after he became a baseball star, until he eventually moved to Dallas.
Last week, Commerce officials dedicated a huge statue of Mantle swinging a bat, next to Mickey Mantle Field at Commerce High School. According to an article in the Joplin Globe, the statue is 9 feet tall and weighs 900 pounds. It sits on a 5-foot-tall pedestal. Artist Nick Calcagno designed the statue.
Local officials also plan to build a parking lot and sidewalk near the statue.
The project cost $75,000, and was paid with Oklahoma Centennial funds. The statue stands just west of a big curve of U.S. 69, aka Route 66, just outside the baseball diamond’s centerfield wall.
Commerce named a main street, a local baseball tournament, and the diamond after Mantle, but the town never had anything truly larger than life until now.
I found Calcagno’s creation to be an good likeness of Mantle, especially the facial features.
Mantle was baseball’s best player of the 1950s (only Willie Mays was close) and was one of the best of the 1960s. He was voted Most Valuable Player three times; won the Triple Crown in 1956 by leading the American League in home runs, RBI and batting average; earned a Gold Glove as a center fielder; led the league in home runs four times; hit more than 500 career home runs; and earned seven World Series rings.
He also was baseball’s best switch-hitter ever, bar none. If you want to see Mantle’s jaw-dropping statistics, go here.
Mantle, whose remarkable career was slowed somewhat by injuries, retired after the 1968 season. He died of cancer in 1995.