They were the faces of the greatest dynasty baseball has ever seen, and between them they amassed 13 World Series rings and 30 All-Star Game selections.
So it was only fitting that 39 years ago this week – on Jan. 16, 1974 – Yankees teammates Whitey Ford and Mickey Mantle were elected to the Hall of Fame together.
Mantle was elected in his first appearance on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot, and it hardly came as a surprise. Mantle was named on 88.2 percent of all ballots cast to become just the seventh player since the inaugural Class of 1936 to earn Hall of Fame election in his first year eligible.
“To us, Mickey Mantle was the New York Yankees,” said former teammate Tony Kubek. “You had to see Mickey day after day, year after year, and watch him play on days when his knees hurt so bad that he could barely walk to fully appreciate his greatness as a player.”
Mantle finished his storied 18-year big league career in 1968 with 536 home runs, 1,509 RBI and a .298 career average. He was selected to 20 All-Star Games, won the American League Most Valuable Player Award three times and played on 12 pennant winners and seven World Championship teams.
For many fans growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, Mantle simply was the National Pastime.
“Mickey Mantle was a legend before his time, an enormous burden for even so wondrously gifted an athlete,” said author Robert Lipsyte.
And for much of Mantle’s career, Ford was right there beside him in pinstripes. The Chairman of the Board went 236-106 in 16 years with the Yankees, good for a .690 winning percentage that is tops among modern-era pitchers with at least 200 victories. Ford’s 2.75 earned-run average is the best among starting pitchers whose career began in the post-1920 live ball era.
Ford was a part of 11 AL pennant winners and six World Series champions with the Yankees. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in his second year on the ballot.
“I don’t care what the situation was, how high the stakes were – the bases could be loaded and the pennant riding on every pitch, it never bothered Whitey,” Mantle said. “He pitched his game. Cool. Crafty. Nerves of steel.”
Ford and Mantle were inducted into the Hall of Fame in the summer of 1974 with Veterans Committee electees Jocko Conlan and Jim Bottomley and Negro Leagues electee Cool Papa Bell.
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum