By Kelly Eisenhauer
The 1950s and 1960s was surely the age of innocence. Life was so much simpler back then. Our lifestyle reflected the times and baseball was simple, too. Our favorite players were rarely traded and if you had a favorite player, the odds were pretty good that he would be with your favorite team for the long haul. Yes, there were exceptions, but for the most part, things didn’t change.
As a child growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, we were pretty content. The toys we bought and played with were simple, too. There weren’t a lot of bells and whistles to distract us. We didn’t have video games and computers to occupy our time. We played outside, not inside.
Toy companies would gear their advertising toward the younger kids. We were their target audience and in the world of baseball, Mickey Mantle was King. No one in baseball had more games and toys named after him than “The Mick.”
After hitting .353, with 52 home runs and 130 RBIs in 1956, and .365, 34 home runs, and 94 RBIs in 1957, Mickey Mantle, the All-American boy, was corporate America’s dream come true. Toy and game companies were scrambling to get Mickey to endorse their products. The Gardner Toy Co. of Chicago was one of those companies that wasted no time in signing Mickey to a contract that give them the rights to use his image and likeness in their products.
In this section, I am going to examine the many different “games and toys” with Mickey Mantle’s name and likeness. The words “games and toys” are stretched in some situations, as some by definition would not fit into this description.
Mickey Mantle 4 Bagger by Gardner
One of the first games to feature Mickey Mantle was the Mickey Mantle 4 Bagger. There would be a total of three different versions of this game. The standard game measured 22-by-34 inches and came with four “ultron” pockets and three rubber balls. The objective was to throw the balls into one of the pockets for points. A single was worth 100 points, a double was worth 200 points, a triple was worth 500 points and a home run was worth 1,000 points. The game board featured a colorful, lifelike figure of Mickey batting at the plate. The game also had a heavy wire easel that prevented the game from being tipped over. The 4 Bagger had a suggested retail price of $5. (Photo No. 335)
The second and third versions of the game basically used the same Mantle color photo for the front of the game. Sides were added to these versions to make the game sturdier. The 4 Bagger Deluxe as it was called, featured a single pocket in the middle of the display, where the thrower would score by aiming and tossing a bean bag in the single “ultron” catcher located in the area of Mickey’s chest. The sides of the Deluxe 4 Bagger show various pictures of Mickey in batting stances from both the left and right side, a pose of Mickey holding three bats, and a photo of Mickey down on his right knee fielding a ball. This deluxe version listed for $8 back in 1957.
The third version had the same design on the front and the same pictures of Mickey on its sides, but instead of a single scoring pocket, three scoring pockets that were rectangular and square in design would be used. The two rectangular pockets were labeled as “hits” and “ runs” and the middle square was not labeled (Photo Nos. 336-337). The suggested retail price of this variation was also $8. Trade advertisements featuring Mickey Mantle and all the Gardner products exist. They appeared in toy magazines and were sent directly to toy store owners. Most of the trade ads were 8-by10 inches in size.
Mickey Mantle’s Grand Slam Baseball
Gardner would also market other Mickey Mantle games in 1957. One of the most sought-after games was Mickey Mantle’s Grand Slam Baseball. This metal game, popular with collectors of toys and Mantle memorabilia, featured Mickey’s picture in the upper left corner and his signature on a baseball in the upper right. It was a game of luck, mystery, action, skill, and sound (Photo No. 338). The player would strike the bat with one hand and open the chute of the game with his other hand. The metal ball would then travel through a runway and then land in an area that determined the outcome of the at-bat. The result would be a walk, sacrifice, ground ball, single, double, triple, foul out, strikeout, foul out, or a home run. The game retailed for $5 and is valued in excess of $3,000 in excellent condition. A pack of Mickey Mantle Grand Slam scorecards accompanied the game.
Mickey Mantle’s Big League Baseball Game
Gardner also made Mickey Mantle’s Big League Baseball Game from 1957-59. The game featured a drawing of Mickey batting on the front of the box (Photo Nos. 339-340) and contained a playing board with spinner that featured a colorful picture of Mickey batting left-handed (Photo No. 341). Below the spinner, which was used to play the game, was a scoreboard that would be used to keep track of runs, etc. The game also included a 4-by-6-inch record card that had Mickey’s statistics up to and including 1956 (Photo No. 342). A black-and-white, 7-by-9-inch facsimile-autographed photo (Photo No. 343) accompanied two yellow-and-black “play cards.” The play cards measured 4½-by-11½ inches and were also used to play the game. A die and eight pegs to keep score were also included in the box.
The game is fairly common and is valued around $100-$200 depending on condition. The trade ad that promoted the game stated that it was made to be played while traveling in a car and or train. It had a suggested retail price of $1 back in 1957.
Gardner’s Big 6
In the late 1950s, circa 1957, Gardner produced a very large game called “Big 6.” This was actually a game that had a total of six different games in one. The Big 6 included Mickey Mantle’s Big League Baseball, All-Star Basketball, All-Star Football, Verne Gagne’s Wrestling, Stock Car Race, and Golf. Complete versions of the Big 6 go for about $200-$250 depending on condition. (Photo No. 344)
Mickey Mantle’s Baseball Action Game
In the late 1950’s, Kohner Brothers, 155 Wooster St., New York, NY, was another company that produced a Mickey Mantle game for youngsters. It was called Mickey Mantle’s Baseball Action Game (Photo No. 345). The game featured a 3-inch-tall generic plastic batter that would hit a small ball that was affixed to a string (Photo No. 346). The ball would then land on a plastic baseball diamond that had specific designated areas that would reward the batter with a hit (single, double, triple or home run) or an out.
The game measured 6-by-4-by-3½ inches and would fit in the palm of the players hand. The game’s directions followed the same rules as in regular baseball and would require the player to push a spring-loaded button that would make Mickey swing to hit the ball off a batting tee. The underside had a black and white picture of Mantle with the directions (Photo No. 347).
As is the case with so many collectibles, the display box is worth more than the actual game itself (Photo No. 348). The box contains pictures of Mickey batting left-handed in a red background. There are two different versions of the game. A white plastic playing field exists, as well as a clear plastic version. The generic batter is different in both versions as well. The suggested retail price was $1. A 1957 trade ad also exists for this product. (Photo No. 349)
Mickey Mantle’s Backyard Baseball
Sold in the late 1950s, this toy featured a red or blue stick with a heavy cord attached to a rubber ball that possessed a facsimile Mickey Mantle autograph (Photo Nos. 350-351). Made to be held by another individual, the 21½-inch stick with a yellow Mickey Mantle backyard sticker was used to help a youngster improve batting practice skills while building muscles, speed and timing. The clear plastic package contained an insert paper that contained Mickey’s picture in the upper left and a personal message from the Yankee slugger. The message read, “Here’s a chance to get your average up to where you want it,” signed Mickey Mantle.
The packaging also contained a header label that had the same Mantle photo with the suggested retail price of $1.98 (Photo No. 352). Mickey Mantle’s Backyard Baseball was made by the Liberty Combustion Corp., Syracuse, N.Y.
Mickey Mantle’s Official Zoom Ball
Circa late 1950s to early 1960s, the Zoom Ball was a great toy that taught youngsters how to throw and catch while teaching hand-eye coordination. The toy featured a white Mickey Mantle stamped signature rubber ball that was attached to a long rubber band that was to be affixed to the thrower’s glove. When thrown or “zoomed,” the ball would come back very quickly.
Marketed for a very brief time, it was allegedly discontinued because too many kids were getting black eyes. Directions were printed on the back of the toy and instructed the user to hook the safety clip to lace of glove. The front and back of the package features a head shot picture of Mantle with facsimile autograph (Photo No. 353). The Zoom Ball’s original price was $1 and was made by Toplay Products Incorporated, New York, N.Y.
Mickey Mantle’s On-Deck Bat – Weight Adjustable
The Mickey Mantle On-Deck Bat was pretty much just a plastic, whiffle ball baseball bat that had an opening where sand could be added to make the bat heavier. A hard cardboard header card shows a picture of Mickey Mantle batting and states that the product is easy to use and “great for on-deck or training.” (Photo No. 354)
The bat also features a Mantle facsimile signature on the barrel of the “Official Bat” (Photo No. 355). Although no manufacturer’s name appears on the bat or header card, it is a good guess that the On-Deck bat was made by the Alvarn Co. of Newton Centre, Mass.
In addition to the bat, a white whiffle ball and booklet were included in the original packaging (Photo No. 356). The small Mantle booklet was called, “How To Play Various Positions and Batting Tips by Mickey Mantle.” The booklet is dated 1962 and was made by Alvarn.
1960 Mickey Mantle’s Sky-Hi
This is a relatively simple game designed to develop skills and dexterity while using a hoop and two sticks. The object was to propel the hoop vertically or horizontally with speed and accuracy. The packaging included four sticks, one hoop, an official entry form with Mickey’s picture where the winner would win a trip to the 1960 World Series, and a colorful red-white-and-yellow header card that had a drawing of Mickey with illustrations of how to use the game. The game was made by Keen Eye, Butler, Wis. (Photo No. 357)
Official Mantle and Maris Home Run Derby
This Home Run Derby game is very rare and features the M&M boys, Mantle and Maris. Made in 1962 by Standard Toykraft, the game was played by throwing Styrofoam balls at a playing field that was filled with prongs or spikes. The ball would then stick in a designated area that would yield a strike, ball, hit, or an out.
The most valuable part of the game was the orange and clear see-through plastic cover, which featured caricatures of Mickey and Roger posing with their bats (Photo Nos. 358-359). In the background is an outline of the Yankee Stadium facade. Games with untorn or unripped covers are very rare as the plastic covers tore very easily. Prices usually range in the $600-$1,000 range depending upon condition.
Mickey Mantle’s Switch-Hitter by Irwin Corp.
In 1957, the Irwin Corp. of New York, N.Y., produced a Mickey Mantle toy that was designed to help youngsters develop their batting skills. Close to that of a pitching machine, the game featured an automatic, mechanical devise that would dispense polyethylene baseballs to the batter with the use of a remote control. The deluxe model came complete with baseball bat, plastic baseballs, and dispensing machine (Photo No. 360). The toy was packaged in a cardboard box that featured a caricature of Mickey Mantle in the upper-left corner of the box (Photo No. 361). A 1957 trade ad also exists for this product (Photo No. 362).
Mickey Mantle’s Catcher’s Equipment
Coming up as a shortstop and then switching to centerfield and finally ending his career playing first base, Mantle never caught a game in the major leagues. Yet, one of the strangest items to have Mickey’s name on it was a set of catching gear made by Hawthorne.
Made in the late 1960s, Hawthorne signed Mickey to endorse four pieces of catching equipment. A catcher’s mask (Photo No. 363), shin guards (Photo No. 364), catcher’s glove and catcher’s chest protector (Photo No. 365) all feature Mickey’s name. Individual pieces are usually available on eBay and are not that pricey. A complete set with glove can be found in the $400-$500 range. Although not really rare or scarce, the Mantle catcher’s glove is the hardest to find.
Mantle and Maris Returno Pitch-N-Hit
Made by Returno Incorportated, Long Island, N.Y., the Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris Pitch-N-Hit toy featured a great-looking box that contained beautiful, die-cut head shot photos of the M&M boys. Portrait images of Mantle and Maris are displayed both on the front and rear side panels.
Designed for either one or two players, the Returno would let a player pitch to a batter without ever having to chase the ball. A batter could also hit fungos without chasing the ball as well (Photo No. 366). There were two different versions of the Pitch ‘N’ Hit game. A red box featured two nails, an anchor or base and a baseball that was tied to about 50 feet of string (Photo No. 367). A green box featured all of the before mentioned items, but with a softball instead of a baseball (Photo Nos. 368-369). Both the softball (Photo No. 370) and baseball versions had facsimile signatures of Mantle and Maris. The Returno was made in 1962 and is valued in the $500-$800 range depending upon condition.
Pitch to Mickey Mantle
Made by George E. Mousley, Inc. of West Warwick, R.I., this was another game where kids would try to improve their hand-eye coordination skills by trying to throw a ball into one of the four circles on the Mickey Mantle game board. Three of the four holes were outs and one of the holes scored a home rum. The playing board featured a nice photo of Mickey batting left-handed with an airbrushed Yankee pinstriped uniform. The game dates back to the early 1960s. (Photo No. 371)
Paint A Player Oil Painting Set – Paint by Numbers
A very popular item in the 1950s was M+M Enterprises’ Paint A Player. Each box contained three large portraits of famous baseball players from both the National and American Leagues (Photo Nos. 372-373). Manufactured in Palisades, N.J., the game featured players from 16 different teams. Boxes were marked with codes such as A-200. This was the marketing code for the box that contained the Mickey Mantle canvas. In addition to the Mantle canvas, the box also included Jerry Coleman and Tom Gorman. The box also included Mantle’s picture along with Junior Gilliam – Dodgers, Hank Bauer – Yankees, Duke Snider – Dodgers, Phil Rizzuto – Yankees, and Ed Mathews – Braves. Also included in the box were different colored oil paints and a brush.
Mickey Mantle’s Bat Master
This Mantle toy was designed to raise a Little Leaguer’s batting average by 20 points. It was a toy that included a baseball that was attached to a tension cord (Photo Nos. 374-375). On one end, the cord was to be fastened to a metal spike that was included in the game. The other end was to be attached to a tree, so that the tension would be strong enough for the batter to practice his swing. Because of safety issues, the Barrett Manufacturing Co. never was able to market the game.
Two different versions of the game exist. The first version featured a white box with red printing and a black-and-white drawing of Mantle (Photo No. 376). Inside the box was a template for home base and a batting box, a tension-suspended baseball and a spike. The ball and hitting area could be adjusted so that the batter could work on hitting balls in the waist, chest and knee areas.
The second version of the game featured a much more colorful red-white-and-blue box and contained a facsimile autographed black-and-white photo of Mantle, a Mantle batting average computer dial and a 12-page booklet, “The Secrets of Power Hitting.” The booklet featured a Louis Requena photo of Mickey.
Years later, The Bat Master was later sold as a collectible and not intended for any specific use. The second version featured a very colorful red-white-and-blue box with a drawing of Mickey holding a bat while kneeling. Complete boxes with all pieces usually can be purchased for around $150 (Photo Nos. 377-381).
Challenge the Yankees 1964-65
Challenge the Yankees was a board game that involved strategy and luck as players tried to “Challenge the Yankees.” The game was very popular with baseball fans, as well as collectors. The cover of the box showed a drawing of the “old” Yankee Stadium with Mickey Mantle, Tom Tresh and Elston Howard (Photo No. 382). The contents featured a game board, score board, strategy and result cards and 50 picture playing cards. (Photo No. 383)
There were 25 Yankee cards, including Mantle, Maris, Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford. The challenger cards included some of the all-time greats like Hank Aaron, Al Kaline, Ed Mathews and Juan Marichal. By rolling dice, various outcomes of hits and outs would occur. There were two variations of the playing cards. The first cards, printed in 1964, used 1963 stats; the second, printed in 1965, used stats from 1964. Complete games in mint condition are very rare because most of the picture playing cards have been used or removed.
Mickey Mantle Baseball Set No. 60
Manufactured by the Rollin Wilson Co. of Memphis, Tenn., the Mickey Mantle Baseball Set (circa 1957) featured a beautiful green header card with an 18-inch wooden bat and baseball. The dark-green header card contained three color pictures of Mickey and one of those being the facial shot from his 1952 Topps card. The header card is very rare and seldom seen.
Cranky Sam Endorsed by Mickey Mantle
The Cranky Sam was yet another toy that never made it off the shelf because of safety reasons. A very large and cumbersome mechanical toy, the batting trainer would let the hitter adjust a wheel, which in turn would adjust the height of the ball that was to be hit.
The Cranky Sam was about 5 feet long and weighed about 40 lbs. There are three different photos of Mickey on the box. The Cranky Sam is very rare and most collectors weren’t interested because of its bulkiness. The Mantle label on the box is what really makes this a Mantle collectible at $300-$500. The Cranky Sam was made by Sports Program of America in the late 1960s to early 1970s. (Photo No. 384)
Hartland Plastics Mickey Mantle
From 1958-63, Hartland Plastics of Hartland, Wis., produced 18 different 8-inch Major League Baseball players, including Mickey Mantle, who was shown batting left-handed (Photo No. 385). The lifelike statues retailed for $1.98 and came in their own individual boxes. The statue also featured a nametag that hung around the player’s neck (Photo No. 386).
Yellowing, paint chipping and missing bats are things to consider when purchasing. The Hartland Statues have long been a key element in the sports memorabilia hobby and probably served as the inspiration for an entire hobby niche of figurine collecting. The Mantle piece is one of the keys to the 18-player set; highest grade examples can reach to several hundred dollars.
The original Mantle box and name tag are very much sought-after items in the collecting market, as most were discarded by kids just wanting to play with the statues (Photo Nos. 387-388). Values for empty original boxes and tags can range from $150-$400 depending on condition.
In 1992, Hartland decided to test the original 1960s molds. While doing so, 5 or 6 pure-black Mantle statues were made (Photo No. 389). Two were given to sales reps and the remaining statues were in the Hartland offices in St. Louis, Mo. As fate would have it, a flood ruined the remaining inventory, leaving only 2 known to exist in the collecting hobby. Pure-white versions of the Mantle Hartland also exist (Photo No. 390). These are more plentiful than the black version, but are still considered very rare.
Hartland Plastics also manufactured a Mickey Mantle lamp that was extremely limited. The Mantle statue was copper in color and was mounted to a wooden base. The lamp came with figurine, light fixture and lamp shade. These are very rare and are valued around $1,200. (Photo No. 390a).