Extraordinary, newly discovered Mickey Mantle pro-model bat issued to Mantle for use during his first All-Star Game appearance in 1952. This is the only known Mickey Mantle 1952 All-Star Game bat and one of only a very few known Mantle pro-model bats dating from either his 1951 rookie season or 1952 sophomore campaign. In addition to its extreme rarity, it also is accompanied by the special provenance of originating directly from the family of Carl Lombardi, who was Mantle’s teammate on the 1950 Joplin Minors. The bat was just recently obtained by our consignor from Lombardi’s son, Carl Lombardi Jr, who has provided a one-page typed-signed letter of provenance detailing its history (His father passed away in 2009). According to the letter, his father and Mantle remained friends after the two left Joplin in 1950 (Mantle made the Yankees roster in 1951 and Lombardi retired from professional baseball). Two years later, following the 1952 All-Star Game, Mantle presented Lombardi with his All-Star Game bat as a gift. It has remained in the Lombardi family’s sole possession until now.
Advanced collectors have always placed a special significance on All-Star and World Series bats, especially those used during the respective player’s inaugural or final appearance in either event. The main reason for that is their rarity. Beginning in 1949, Hillerich & Bradsby began the tradition of supplying each All-Star participant with bats specially produced for the occasion. Position players received two bats, and pitchers one bat. Each bat issued was the same model as that listed on the player’s most recent order and featured a special All-Star Game stamping on the barrel. To date, no other Mickey Mantle 1952 All-Star Game bat has ever surfaced, and the offered example may therefore be unique.
The trials and tribulation of Mantle’s 1951 rookie season are well known, but it was in his second year, 1952, that his potential became a reality. DiMaggio had retired, taking his large shadow with him, and in his absence, Mantle flourished as the club’s new center fielder. At the All-Star-Game break Mantle was batting .318 with 9 home runs and 36 RBI. Although he failed to garner enough votes from the fans to earn a starting position on the American League All-Star team, the team’s manager, who also happened to be Yankees manager Casey Stengel, selected Mantle for a reserve spot on the roster. The game was held at Shibe Park on July 8th before a crowd of 32,785 on a dreary day. Played in the rain from the very start, the National League held a slim 3-2 lead before the umpires called the game after five innings due to the inclement weather. (It remains the only All-Star Game ever halted by weather.) Because of the early ending, Mantle never made an official appearance in the game, but his status as one of the game’s newest stars was all but assured. He finished the 1952 season with 23 home runs, 87 RBI, and a .311 batting average. Those numbers not only helped lead the Yankees to another World Championship, but also earned Mantle a third-place finish in the voting for the American League MVP Award.
The bat is accompanied by a letter of authenticity from John Taube of PSA, who has graded the bat GU 7.5. The 35-inch, 33.9-ounce bat features Mantle’s facsimile signature stamped on the barrel. Stamped in block letters above and below Mantle’s signature, respectively, are “All Star Game” and “Philadelphia 1952.” The model number “M110” is stamped in the knob. Also on the knob are the carved initials “CL,” which was done by Carl Lombardi. The bat is not cracked and displays light use. As noted in the PSA letter, since Mantle did not appear in the 1952 All-Star Game, the use displayed on the bat most likely occurred when Mantle used it during the second half of the 1952. (It was common for players to use their All-Star Game bats during the regular season as well.)
Mantle appeared in fourteen consecutive All-Star Games between the years 1952 and 1965, plus two more in 1967 and 1968. Despite his nearly annual appearance in the mid-summer classic for close to twenty years, his All-Star Game bats remain scarce. We cannot imagine a more significant example than that issued to him for his first appearance, which, as we have previously noted, remains the only known example. This is a one-of-a-kind Mantle piece, not to mention one of the earliest Mantle game-used bats in the hobby, the likes of which one would normally expect to find on display at the Baseball Hall of Fame.