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On This Date: Mickey joins rarefied air

May 14, 1967

Entering the 1967 season, Mickey Mantle wasn’t the player he once was. Injuries to his knees and legs had caught up to him. The player who once gracefully roamed Yankee Stadium’s spacious centerfield was relegated to first base in the non-designated hitter era. But, there was still greatness yet to come.

Entering play on Mother’s Day, May 14, 1967, the Mick had hit 499 career home runs. To that point, Babe Ruth (714), Willie Mays (660), Jimmie Foxx (534), Ted Williams (521), and Mel Ott (511) were the only members of the 500-home run club.

The Baltimore Orioles were in town that Sunday, looking to complete a three-game sweep of the Yankees. Mantle came to bat in the seventh inning with right-hander Stu Miller atop the pitcher’s mound for the Orioles. Batting from the left side, Mantle quickly got ahead in the count, 3-1, but swung awkwardly and missed at Miller’s next offering.

After fouling off the next pitch, the Commerce Comet made baseball history.

The familiar swing put bat to ball and it soared over the short porch in right field for Mantle’s 500th career home run. He hobbled around the bases, head down in his customary fashion, and was met with a rousing ovation.

Mantle retired after the 1968 season with 536 home runs – third highest in baseball history at the time.