Still reeling from the stimulation of his debut season, Mickey Mantle signed for the long haul: with his bride, Merlyn. Engaged in a fruitless search for lodging on his December 23, 1951 wedding night, Mantle contacted a friend from his Western Association playing days and was finally provided with a hotel room. In appreciation, the Yankee outfielder autographed this baseball and bestowed it upon his friend’s young son. The clean and creamy orb (grade “8”) was subsequently signed by “other” big leaguers and remained in the recipient's hands for more than half a century. Headlining the list of (18) pennings are Dickey (“6-7” strength), Mantle (“7-8”), Ruffing (“6”), Slaughter (“5-6”) and Speaker (“7”). Impeccable provenance accompanies. Full photo LOA from JSA. More on our website.
In the 1940s-1950s rural surroundings of Fort Smith, Arkansas, the Andrews Field baseball diamond was a far less glamorous stage than the one in the Bronx. For the locals, however, the Class C Western Association provided all the action they needed, with hometown players and neighboring opponents viewed as “their own,” regardless of the subsequent detours they might take to land in big league cities. Players, too, seldom forgot their bush league “roots.” Such are the sentiments of this baseball signed by a 20-year-old Mickey Mantle on his wedding night. A star whose meteoric rise had just begun, Mantle had all of 13 career home runs to his credit, having just completed his rookie season. With one “beginning” behind him, Mantle started his family on December 23, 1951 and was driving with his new bride from his native Oklahoma to New York. Deciding that a night’s lodging would be a good idea, Mantle stopped in Fort Smith only to find the local facilities filled. That’s when the youthful switch-hitter called an acquaintance from his minor league days. Grady Secrest, Business Manager of the Fort Smith Giants was delighted to hear from the local boy who made good and promptly used his pull to secure a hotel room for the newlyweds. In his appreciation, Mantle autographed this unofficial baseball and personalized it “To Larry” for Secrest’s young son.
Pre-dating the ridiculous salaries that would eliminate the need for endeavors such as Mantle’s that night, this clean and creamy sphere (grade “8”) is a telling reminder of simpler days and loyal ties. Mantle’s ballpoint penning (“7-8” strength) is among his earliest as a Yankee and very likely his first as a married man. Enthralled with the signature of this “can’t-miss” phenom, the youngster was inspired to obtain even more scriptings, which decorate the panels as follows: Sweet Spot Speaker (“7”) and Passeau; North Panel Lobert, P. Martin, Reynolds and Gowdy; South Panel Mack, Jr., Street, D. Mitchell, Foster, Dickey (“6-7”) and Ruel; West Panel Ruffing (“6”), E. Ryan (Indians owner) and Schacht; East Panel York, Mantle and Slaughter (“5-6”).
Accompanying is a notarized LOA from the ball’s original recipient. Composed on Fort Smith Indians letterhead, the correspondence details the ball’s origin and is signed by Larry Secrest. Additionally, there are (2) 1956 original correspondence pieces in which Grady Secrest acknowledges Mantle as his personal friend. Finally, there is a photocopied likeness of Mantle and Larry Secrest that was captured that night, as well as a PSA/DNA LOA from a 2003 auction.