Even one of the greatest hitters of all time wasn't above cheating to get a little extra bat speed.
There've been allegations before that Mantle, as he got older, turned to corking his bats to get around a little quicker on those fastballs. Now we've got some hard proof. A game-used Mantle bat from 1964, which will go up for auction later this month, was x-rayed—and there's a little chunk of something illegal in the barrel.
Here's how John Taube, the PSA/DNA authentication expert who examined the bat, describes it:
“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."
You might remember Taube from our story three years ago, having examined a corked, game-used bat from Pete Rose, baseball's all-time hit king. The story sounds similar—the bat was used at the end of Rose's career, when a hitter whose reflexes are slowing wants a lighter bat without sacrificing power.
Mantle is long dead (like Rose's career), so this'll be rightfully laughed off as a wily vet just looking to gain an edge. But anyone who takes that tack, or blows off claims of spitballs, isn't allowed to complain about PEDs ever again.