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61 18 1 0 7 18 0 14 0 0 0 .295 .456 .656
They crossed paths on the field and met in occasional headlines and high jinks. Like many baseball relationships, theirs has improved over time, at least in Frank's memory. "I had a lot of success with Mickey," he tells me. "He didn't like my herky-jerky motion." Which might explain why nine of the 14 times Frank struck him out, the Mick was caught looking. "I think he hit only four home runs off me," Frank says.
Actually it was seven, only 1.3% of Mantle's 536 career home runs (surrendered by 224 pitchers) but enough to tie Frank for sixth place on the list of Pitchers Most Victimized by the Mick. You might call it a long-distance relationship.
May 21, 1954, was a raw, dank day in New York City. Frank thought the game might well be called on account of rain. Then a photographer knocked on the door of his room at the Commodore Hotel and said, "I'm here to take your picture. You're pitching tonight."
Nobody had said a word to him about making his first major league start that day. He was a rookie, bearing the burden of possibility, just as Mantle had in 1951. Everything was before him.
He had survived 4½ months on the line in Korea, where he rehabbed a sore arm by chucking hand grenades. "I'd just as soon have had a sore arm forever," Frank tells me.
Mantle had yet to fulfill the tantalizing promise ignited in '51, when he had what Yankees infielder Gil McDougald called "a spring you only dream about" and manager Casey Stengel prevailed upon the Yankees' higher-ups to put the 19-year-old rookie on the major league roster after only two years in the minors. "He has more speed than any slugger and more slug than any speedster—and nobody has ever had more of both of 'em together," Stengel declared. "This kid ain't logical. He's too good. It's very confusing."
McDougald was named Rookie of the Year. Mantle's season ended in disappointment and despair in the fifth inning of Game 2 of the '51 World Series, when he tore up his right knee trying not to run into the man he called "Joe F---' DiMaggio" in centerfield at Yankee Stadium. Mantle would never set foot on the field again without pain. He would play the next two seasons on an undiagnosed unstable knee and would not have surgery until November '53. It was too little and too late to repair the damage, which was compounded by a misguided post-surgery hunting trip with Billy Martin in the winter of '54. Mantle was operated on again just weeks before spring training.
He was limping when the Yankees reported to camp in St. Petersburg. Yankees pooh-bahs fumed at his lack of maturity and his irresponsibility. The violence of his urgent lefthanded swing placed extreme torque on the compromised right knee. Stengel had benched Mantle in the 10 previous games against righthanded starters; he was batting .136 lefthanded, with three measly singles. But Stengel had him in the lineup and batting third against the righty Sullivan and the last-place Red Sox on May 21.
Dr. Bobby Brown, the Yankees' infielder just back from two years in Korea—who notes that he was the only man ever to take medical school exams in the home locker room—was aghast when he saw the condition of Mantle's knee. He had lost two inches to atrophy. "I measured it," Brown says. "I told him, 'Your knee is going to continue to buckle until you get that quadriceps built back up where it should be.'"