The family of Mickey Mantle has applied a corkscrew to Grey Flannel Auctions.
On May 3, the auction house announced it would be auctioning an authentic Mantle bat at the end of May.
Oh, and it said there was something special about this particular bat: It was corked.
The auction announcement was accompanied by a statement from John Taube, a professional bat authenticator, which said, “During our examination of the bat, we noticed a circular area .75 inches wide in the center of the top barrel. The finish in the area has also been touched up to mask the circular area. Alterations of this nature indicate the barrel has been drilled and filled with cork. We had the barrel X-rayed and it confirms that the barrel has been drilled and filled with cork. This is the first corked bat of Mantle that we have seen or heard of.”
A Mantle corked bat? What would Roger Maris have said?
On Monday, Mantle’s family spoke out.
“Our Dad loved, revered and dedicated his whole life and professional career to the game of baseball,” the Mantle family said in a statement released by Mantle I.P. Holdings, Ltd. "… The legacy of our Dad’s professionalism, perseverance and integrity has endured for more than 43 years since his retirement from baseball and is a testament to his status as an icon in American sports and culture.”
“Recently, an on-line sports memorabilia marketer promoted an outrageously false, misleading and deceptive claim … that it was selling at auction a first-of-a-kind baseball bat: A ‘Mantle-corked gamer’ and a ‘corked bat of Mantle.’ The claim has spread throughout the Internet, and news media outlets nationwide have repeated and republished the marketer’s false claims, baseless implications, and purported statements of the marketer’s so-called authenticator.
“We no longer can remain silent. The statements and suggestions that Dad used a corked bat more than 49 years ago to cheat at the game he worshiped are false. Let us be clear: Dad didn’t need and never used a corked bat. Mickey Mantle was honest about the way he played the game that he loved and to which he devoted his professional life.
“Our Dad’s legacy must be protected and the injury to his reputation must be corrected — he does not deserve to be the subject of these outrageous fabrications.”
Of course, it could be that both sides are telling the truth. Just because there is an authentic Mantle corked bat doesn’t mean he used it in a game. Maybe it was used for batting practice. Maybe his teammates were pranking him. Maybe someone bought the bat years later and added cork so they could hit home runs like Mantle, who died in 1995.
The corked bat is no longer listed on the website of Grey Flannel Auctions, which did not return a call and an email seeking comment.