Mike Trout, the New Mickey Mantle? All Rise … Court is in Session!

Many times over the past few years and at least twice since the 2019 baseball season started, I’ve heard comparisons of Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout to New York Yankees Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle. Now I’ve never been a Yankees fan or a Mantle fanatic so I have no compunction to jumping on board the Trout bandwagon, but my first instinct is to scoff at such a notion. Perhaps it’s the baseball card collector in me that sees Mickey Mantle as an untouchable given he’s the single most coveted post-war subject on cardboard and the primary reason for the almost 70 year reign of Topps, but I also realize that his popularity in the hobby is much larger than his actual accomplishments on the field, because as grand as they obviously were, there are plenty of baseball players with a superior body of work overall. OK, so I’m open to the discussion. I don’t really follow Trout all that much other than to know he’s really good, so as I put this blog together, I’m going in with an open mind and a blank slate; no preconceptions. I’ll learn the ins and outs of this comparison as I write it, and I’ll play the advocate and cross-examiner for both parties. At the end of this, I’ll issue a ruling. Here we go:

Mickey Mantle: A Pinstriped Legend

Mickey MantleAs I said, it’s difficult to entertain a comparison of any modern day ballplayer to Mickey Mantle, and I imagine to the majority of Yankees fans, them’s fightin’ words! He’s so beloved to collectors that anything Mantle related immediately moves to the head of the class. But OK, let’s put that on the back burner and talk accomplishments, and to be fair we’ll toss out the partial stats of his rookie year and stick to the first 7 full seasons of his career, same amount of time Trout has been in the league. While Mantle’s first three seasons were solid, he really didn’t have the breakout year worthy of being named Joe DiMaggio’s heir apparent until 1955, when he led the American league in triples (11), homers (37), walks (113) and slugging percentage (.611). And of course, Mantle has the 1956 Triple Crown season under his belt (52 homers, 130 RBI, .353 batting average and an AL MVP award). I haven’t even looked at Trout’s accomplishments yet but I’m pretty confident he can’t match that. Mantle followed up that season with another AL MVP performance, posting 34 homers and batting .365 while walking a league-leading 146 times for a gaudy .512 on-base percentage, second to Ted Williams in large part due to “Teddy Ballgame’s” .388 batting average (no shame there). In the final year of our seven season comparison, Mantle once again took the home run crown with 42 round-trippers and topped the league with 129 walks while batting .304. In all,, Mantle smacked 234 dingers, batted .319, stole 69 bases, led the league in homers three times, runs scored four times, triples once, RBI once and won an AL batting title and two AL MVP Awards.

Mike Trout: Baseball’s Modern King of the Hill

While Mantle was “the next in line after Ruth, Gehrig and DiMaggio” to lead the decades long Yankees dynasty, Mike Trout received no such fanfare.There were 24 players selected ahead of him in the 2009 MLB draft, six of which never spent a second on a big league diamond. Merely being mentioned in the same sentence with Mickey Mantle is already an amazing feat, but let’s be fair and put “The Commerce Comet” on the bench, it’s Trout time! In his first full season with the Angels, Trout won Rookie of the Year honors and finished 2nd in AL MVP voting with 30 homers, a .326 batting average, a league leading 49 stolen bases and 129 runs scored. Following a 27 homer, 33 stolen base and .323 batting average performance the next year that left him runner-up in the voting once again, Trout took the AL MVP crown in 2014 off of 36 homers with a league-leading 111 RBI and 115 runs scored, and a .287 average. He followed that up with a 40+ homer season, mashing 41 taters while batting .299 and leading the league in slugging percentage. Another MVP season in 2016 with 29 homers, 100 RBI, and league leader in walks (116) and runs scored (123) was followed by campaigns of 33 and 39 home runs respectively, thriving above the .300 mark all three seasons (.315, .306 and .312). Trout’s 7-year total: 235 home runs, .310 batting average, stole 185 bases, led the league in runs score four times, RBI once, stolen bases once, walks three times, and won two AL MVP Awards.

And The Verdict is …..

After going back and forth on the subject, I have to agree with what Tom told Tessio in The Godfather, “Can’t do it, Sally.” Baseball traditionalists tend to focus on the numbers when making player comparisons, more so than any other sport. Sure, Trout’s career stats are pretty similar to Mantle’s. But there’s one glaring distinction between the two: Mantle had captured four World Series Championships in six appearances during that time, hitting 11 homers in 130 at-bats with at least one in each of the six matchups. Mantle was the heart of a newest generation of the Yankees dynasty, and like great champions, made those around him better. Trout has one playoff appearance, and went 1-12 with a home run in a losing cause. Sure, Trout supporters may object to introducing championships into the comparison. Objection overruled. Part of what makes Mickey Mantle the player that attracts such a comparison is his ability to win. It’s why calling Trout “the new Mickey Mantle” is contentious to so many. If you called Trout the “the next Ken Griffey Jr.” most people wouldn’t bat an eye, and that might actually be the better comparison, both statistically and from a viewpoint of status among the baseball community at the same point of their respective careers. But comparing Trout to Griffey doesn’t carry the same stature as comparing him to Mantle. That’s the point. Not to say that Trout couldn’t someday be a modern day Mickey Mantle; he just hasn’t earned it yet. Few have.

Ruling for the defense, Trout is not the new Mickey Mantle.

The 500 Home Run Club – A Little Luck and A Whole Lot of Power!

On August 11, 1929, Babe Ruth sent a Willis Hudlin pitch over the right field wall for his 30th home run of the season. The Yankees lost that game 6-5 but “The Bambino” made history as the charter member of the legendary 500 home run club. Before Ruth, the concept of a 500 home run hitter seemed ludicrous as his predecessor to the throne, Roger Conner, held the top mark for 24 years with 138 dingers. Oh, you could make the argument that those were the “dead-ball” days and the game changed dramatically in the 1920’s (and of course, it did), but consider that the same day Ruth touched all four bases for the 500th time in his career, #2 on the list was 33-year old Rogers Hornsby, who also hit a home run and pushed his career total to 233. It takes a combination of consistent greatness and injury-free longevity to reach the magic number, with the long list of baseball players that came up just short including such icons as Lou Gehrig (493), Stan Musial (475) and Carl Yastrzemski (453).

Welcome to the Club! Ruth has Company

As the home run became a more integral part of the game, players came along with greater power and longevity. Though challenging Ruth’s 714-lifetime homers was still a pipedream, the idea that another superstar could join Ruth at the 500 home run plateau seemed attainable given the right circumstances. When Babe set the single-season record in 1927 by notching 60 round-trippers, a mark that would stand for over 30 years, he single-handedly hit more home runs than every TEAM in the American League. Teammates Gehrig and Lazzeri finished 2nd and 3rd with 47 and 18 respectively. But just five years later, with Ruth’s career winding down, the 30 home-run hitter was no longer an aberration. Eleven years after Ruth started the club, Jimmie Foxx next crossed the barrier and New York’s Mel Ott joined as the first member from the National League five years after that. Where once there was just Ruth now stood three. But it was time to set a few more places at the table, this party was just getting started!

The 1950’s – Going, Going …. Gone!

It would be another 15 years before baseball would see another 500 homer guy with Ted Williams gaining admittance in 1960, having lost several years to military service. And while the 1950s didn’t celebrate a 500 home run hitter, it produced a new wave of superstars that made it the golden age of baseball and opened the club to new membership. Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays started their assault on “The Big Apple” in 1951, followed by Eddie Mathews in ‘52, Ernie Banks in ‘53, Harmon Killebrew and Hank Aaron in ‘54, Frank Robinson in ‘56 and Willie McCovey in ‘59. Eight new members that began their careers in the 1950s had all crossed into the club, with Mantle and Mathews doing it two months apart in 1967 and Aaron joining exactly a year after Mathews. Adding in Reggie Jackson, Mike Schmidt and Eddie Murray, the 500 home run club was up to 15 members, all of which are enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Since 1999, 12 more members have entered the 500 home run club since; McGwire,Palmeiro, Bonds, Sheffield, Sosa, Griffey, F. Thomas, Thome, M. Ramirez, A. Rodriguez, Ortiz and Pujols.

MHCC Offering Collection of Game-Used Bats from Each Member of the 500 Home Run Club and More!

The March MHCC auction will feature a game-used bat from each of the 27 members of the illustrious 500 home run club, highlighted by a 1921-31 Babe Ruth Louisville Slugger Professional Model MEARS A6 and PSA/DNA, 1926-27 Jimmie Foxx Spalding Rookie-Era PSA/DNA GU 9, 1939-40 Ted Williams Rookie-Era Louisville Slugger PSA/DNA GU 9, 1943 Mel Ott Louisville Slugger PSA/DNA GU 8, 1950-1960 Frank Robinson Rookie Era Signed Louisville Slugger PSA/DNA GU 8.5, 1950s Harmon Killebrew Louisville Slugger PSA/DNA GU 8.5, 1959-60 Eddie Mathews Adirondack PSA/DNA GU 10, 1960 Willie Mays Signed Louisville Slugger Used to Hit Career HR #278 PSA/DNA GU 9 and 1965-68 Mickey Mantle Louisville Slugger PSA/DNA GU. In addition, there are several other highly-prized wood gamers that include 1969-70 Pete Rose Game-Used and Signed Louisville Slugger Bat PSA/DNA GU 8, 1990s Mike Piazza Mizuno Pro Limited Game-Used Bat PSA/DNA GU 9.5, 1998 Tony Gwynn Game-Used and Signed Louisville Slugger Bat Used for Career Hit #2825 PSA/DNA GU 10, 2002 Derek Jeter Signed Louisville Slugger LOA/Steiner and PSA/DNA GU 9, 2007 Miguel Cabrera Game-Used Nokona Bat PSA/DNA GU 8.5 and 2013 Mike Trout Old Hickory Bat PSA/DNA GU 10. The auction runs from March 4th through to Thursday, March 21st.

One Week Left in Mile High Card Company May Auction: 1952 Topps Mantle PSA 6.5 Reaches $165,000

Mile High Card Company’s May auction has just one week to go and the event’s headliner; a 1952 Topps #311 Mickey Mantle PSA 6.5, has already shattered the previous record price. “Oh, there’s still a long way to go for that ’52 Mantle” said MHCC President and CEO Brian Drent, “It’s the most spectacular example you’ll ever see at this grade and we anticipate a real battle in extended bidding. The card looks like a PSA 8!” The auction opened on April 18th and the ’52 Mantle quickly shot past the $100,000 mark within 2 hours, inclusive of the buyer’s premium.

Along with the Mantle, the 1955 Topps #164 Roberto Clemente rookie card remains the hottest commodity in the baseball card world with MHCC offering a pair of PSA 8’s that are currently $63,979 each. Other key items include a 1902-11 Sporting Life W600 Honus Wagner SGC 50 VG/EX 4 that is presently bid to $33,061, 1914 Cracker Jack #30 Ty Cobb PSA 8 NM/MT at $60,979, 1952 Topps #261 Willie Mays PSA 8 NM/MT at $32,922, 1965 Topps #350 Mickey Mantle PSA 9 MINT at $24,031 and 1984-85 Star #101 Michael Jordan BGS 9 MINT at $36,034.

Other lots expected to see strong bidding are near complete T-206 and 1933 Goudey sets, a 1934 New York Yankees Team-Signed Baseball with (24) Signatures featuring Ruth and Gehrig, and several unopened wax and rack pack football and hockey cases from the 1970s and 1980s. Several PSA Set Registry rated sets are receiving significant interest, with a link to each provided on our website to give bidders an opportunity to seethe grades and population of each individual card in the set.

Bidding continues through Thursday, May 5th. Initial bids must be placed by 9PM EST on Thursday to qualify for extended bidding on that lot. All registered bidders can place bids by telephone or online. If you are not registered to bid with MHCC and want to participate in the auction, you can visit our website at www.milehighcardco.com to register or call our office at (303) 840-2784.




The 1961 Topps Baseball Set – Nothing But Meat and Potatoes!

PSA Registry #2 Ranked Set in MHCC March Auction

61t300mantle9783It was just 3 weeks into the start of a new year and America was inaugurating John F. Kennedy as its 35th President. World War II was long behind us but a new threat emerged from its aftermath, one that would leave our nation on edge for decades and change the culture of our society. In a time marked by unrest and uncertainty, the Topps Company released a 1961 baseball set that brought order to chaos.

Gone were the wild color schemes of the 1958 and 1959 sets as well as the horizontal format of the 1960 collection. The 1961 Topps baseball set eliminated all of the gimmicky bells and whistles, offering a straightforward, no-nonsense format with brilliant color photos and rectangular name and team plates at the bottom. In addition to the usual lineup of superstars, Topps expanded their arsenal of star power with league leader cards, a “Baseball Thrills” subset that featured Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, a Most Valuable Player series and the high-numbered All-Star cards. While many collectors believe the 1961 set to be too conservative, sedate or just plain dull, it’s ample selection of Hall of Fame rookie cards (Ron Santo, Juan Marichal, and Billy Williams) and popularity of the Mantle and Maris cards due to “The Chase” has made the 1961 Topps baseball set a true classic!

It’s tougher than you think!

61t563cerv9973 61t484aaronmvp10871Many collectors are under the impression that the 1961 Topps set is the “easy” one to assemble in high-grade versus other sets of the decade. That might be true when compared to the troublesome 1962 and 1963 sets and their pesky colored edges, but statistics show that just over 6% of all 1961 Topps submissions have earned a grade of PSA 9 and only 0.24% (561 cards total) can claim GEM MINT PSA 10 status, making the 1961 Topps set tougher in elite grade than every Topps set from 1964 through 1969. Much of that is due to the higher number series (#523-589), among the toughest to complete of all Topps sets, which boasts many single pop PSA 9s and “one of one” PSA 10s.


1961 Topps Complete Set #2 On PSA Set Registry with Incredible 9.02 GPA

Presented for bidding, as a complete set as well as individual lots with the final sale going to whichever total (the set versus the sum of the individual lots) is higher, is truly a marvel in set assembly, ranked #2 on the PSA Set Registry with an astonishing overall GPA of 9.023. Of the 561 recorded PSA 10s, 24 are offered here, including the one and only PSA 10 specimens of #186 Valo, 255 Power, 405 Gehrig Benched, 438 Flood, 491 Phillies Team and 581 Frank Robinson All-Star. Other important PSA 10s are #260 Drysdale, 443 Snider and 484 Aaron MVP. Card #2 Maris, 150 Mays, 300 Mantle, 475 Mantle MVP, 559 Gentile, 563 Cerv, 578 Mantle All-Star and 579 Mays All-Star are all graded PSA 9 with just 15 cards in the entire collection graded lower. For a complete breakdown of cards and grades in this set, please visit our website for a link to the PSA Set Registry.
The auction opened for bidding on Monday, March 2nd and will conclude on Thursday, March 19th. All auction items are now available at our website, www.milehighcardco.com. MHCC is actively accepting consignments for our June auction, please call us at (303) 840-2784 to discuss any items you wish to consign or visit us in Philadelphia (March 6th – 8th) or Chicago (March 20th- 22nd) to drop off any consignment items and pick up a catalog for the current auction.

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