In an auction last December, I won a ticket stub from the game in which Mickey Mantle hit his “537th” home run.
Little could I have imagined that my modest memento would wreak havoc in my 92-year-old mother’s life but, ultimately, would bring Christmas joy.
Clean Sweep Auctions, who sold me the ticket, provided this description:
A rare ticket stub to witness Mantle’s home run hit during the 1973 Old Timers Day at Yankee Stadium. His home run marked his last one at the original Yankee Stadium and the 537th of his career. Mantle was said to be most fond of this homer compared to his statistical major league total of 536 because he hit it off of his old friend and team mate Whitey Ford. A must-have for the serious Mantle collector.
I paid $112, about half the market value.
Because I’m working on a Mantle book, the ticket appealed to me as a tangible source of inspiration. I maintain that Mantle’s 537 home run marked a turning point in his popularity, triggering a wave of Mantle Mania nostalgia that still grows by the year.
Because Clean Sweep deemed my ticket “near mint” and only 10 tickets in all grades appear in PSA’s “population report,” I decided to submit it to PSA, the top grading company, last August at the East Coast National for the cheapest price possible: “ECONOMY:$20—ESTIMATED TURNAROUND: 65 Business Days.” (Shipping was an extra $18.)
Though I am an infrequent Internet collector–preferring sporadic purchases at shows and from friends–what few items I do receive in the mail I have sent to my mother’s address in Ossining, NY 45 miles north of my home.
I reside in a seedy, old apartment building in central Brooklyn that has never “seen better days” because there were none to begin with. My lobby is a shipment-receiving battle zone. Packages are strewn across the floor and, for some inexplicable reason, beneath the stairwell.
Package piracy occurs often enough that a neighbor once taped a notice inside the elevator that if he caught the thief he would beat him to a pulp. Heck, the other day, someone ripped off one of the two lonely poinsettias in the lobby, the only holiday decoration.
In addition, the sullen mail carrier has shoved a few inexpensive signed 8×10 photos in envelopes that caution “DON’T FOLD” in my mail slot, leaving creases down the middle.
I recently lucked out on eBay with a rare signed Topps 1969 Tom Seaver for $112 (worth more than twice that). Instead of putting the 3” x 5” Jiffy envelope in which it arrived in my slot, he left it out on the lobby window sill where it sat for a week while I was out of town.
The New York Times has reported that my local post office “has been reviled by many as the worst in New York City.” One poor schlub gave up his living as an eBay seller because it was too stressful and unreliable.
Unfortunately, when I initially submitted my ticket to PSA last August on the order form, I mistakenly put my Brooklyn zip code rather than my mother’s. The package boomeranged back to California. (I learned by email that PSA deemed it to be in good condition, four grades below the purported near-mint in the catalog description. (Memo to self: blow up digital images of auctions items).
PSA’s friendly customer service manager, Stephanie Marine, immediately straightened things out. She told me that she would reship at no charge, but the recipient had to accept the package in person for insurance purposes.
Alas I forgot to tell my poor mom this crucial fact (or even to tell her about the contents because I figured she wouldn’t care).
Naturally, she wasn’t home to receive my package, so she signed the Post Office card left in her mail box. The next day another card appeared in her mail box, so she called the post office. “I had to schlepp to the Ossining post office and stand on line for 10 minutes,” she later told me.
My mother (ne Elisabetta DiVirgilio) turns 92 on January 2nd. I’m blessed that, thanks to being hearty peasant stock, she is as feisty as the day she was born in the small town of Orsogna in the Abruzzi Mountains in 1927. She also remains an adept driver. (NY State just extended her driver’s license to 2027 when she’s 101!)
Since I’m a true New Yorker, I don’t own a car and very seldom drive. On my visits to my mom, our local road trips are more like Mrs. Daisy Driving.
By the time the post office clerk handed her the package, she was shocked to discover that it wasn’t much bigger than the ticket inside.
“After so much fuss, I was expecting at least a baseball or maybe a bat,” she said. “The more important thing is I finally got it for you in time for your holiday visit, and that I had a nice cup of coffee and a cookie at a new cafe across the street from the post office.”
So my Mantle ticket’s five-month odyssey finally ended on Christmas Eve when she gave it to me to open the next morning. A holiday miracle, indeed.
Merry Christmas, Mom!
Here’s a popular YouTube video (xx views) of Mel Allen calling Mickey’s 537th home run: