Yankee Stadium roared its approval as Mantle stepped into the batter’s box, flexing his bat. It was low and just barely caught the corner—strike one.
The wind was light, coming in from right field. The sun was bright, the day warm, buoyant. Mantle adjusted his stance, favoring his left leg which still hurt badly, even after the surgery.
He squinted at the pitcher, sixty feet away. Mantle hoped, prayed, for a decent pitch that he could hit over the right field wall since he knew he couldn’t run bases with any speed today.
Then another strike, high and inside. On the third pitch, Mantle grimaced in sharp pain as he swung mightily, slamming the baseball high and deep, deep, and finally over the wall, into the upper bleachers.
Mantle caught his breath from the pain, then jogged awkwardly around the bases amid thunderous applause, smiling at the crowd despite the throbbing agony in his leg and the slowly reddening stain on his uniform.