By Kelly Eisenhauer
In the corporate world of advertising, there are a lot of things to consider when choosing a pitchman to sell a company’s product. The individual has to be well respected, good looking, able to reach a given demographic, and has to be a winner or successful in his field. In today’s world, athletes like Derek Jeter, Peyton Manning and Tiger Woods all command big bucks for their commercial endorsements. In the 1950s and 1960s, Mickey Mantle was king of the advertising and sports world. His testimonials were associated with hundreds of different items ranging from dog food to lottery tickets. He even appeared in the 1971 J.C. Penney Winter Catalog (Photo No. 665) as a model.
In the 1950s and 1960s, it was fairly common for companies to manufacture large standup advertisements that would appear in stores throughout the country. Visibility was the key. These large pieces of cardboard would usually be displayed at high-traffic areas throughout the store. Varying in size, it was common to see them displayed near cash registers, in storefront windows and even next to the product that was being sold. It was the hope of the advertiser that if a consumer had to choose between two similar products made by two different competitors, the one with the larger display would get the consumer’s dollar. This is still true in advertising today. By using Mickey’s picture, advertisers hoped that the consumer would associate their product with Mickey’s name and likeness. If the consumer was a Yankees or a Mantle fan, that would usually be good enough and the product was purchased. It was all about product recognition, and by using a famous athlete with the clout of Mickey Mantle, it suddenly became a no-brainer about which product to buy. Mickey’s name was as good as gold.
Most display advertising pieces were made of hard, durable cardboard that had a stand-up easel on the reverse side. Some of the displays were posters or banners that were hung on walls, while other items were even made of metal. In this segment of “Mickey Mantle: The Complete Collectibles Guide,” I’ll be focusing on the many different display ads that featured “The Mick.” The ads that will appear are mainly display ads, but there are a few that were regular “common” ads that were either oversized or just caught the author’s fancy because of their uniqueness. Either way, Mickey pitched more products during his days than any other athlete, bar none. The volume of advertisements requires that this section be broken in multiple issues of SCD.
In 1953-54, Timex, the world’s largest manufacturer of wristwatches, produced a series of advertisements that featured some of the world’s most-famous athletes putting their newest wrist watches to the test. Mantle appeared in two different black-and-white ads. In the first ad, Mickey is shown in a swinging pose, while a second photo shows him inspecting his bat that has a Timex wristwatch taped to the barrel (Photo No. 666).
In the second ad, Timex used the same photo of Mickey swinging, along with boxing champion Rocky Marciano, skater Barbara Ann Scott and golfer Babe Didrikson Zaharias. The later three are all shown in action (Photo No. 667), while wearing their Timex watches.
This is not where the story ends however. Timex also produced one of the rarest Mickey Mantle collectibles known to exist. This display piece featured a color picture of the before mentioned “swinging” Mantle. The color photograph, a 5-by-7-inch piece of back-lit film, was illuminated when a low-watt bulb was inserted in the cardboard standup. Free standing in design, the display promoted that the Timex “Marlin” and “Sportster” watches were shock resistant, waterproof and dustproof, while the color photo of Mickey lit up the display. With only having seen two of these displays in over 40 years of collecting, it is interesting to note that Timex used a yellow and dark blue cardboard for each of the standup designs. The back-lit photo of Mickey was identical in both variations. Both items were said to have come from a Timex salesman. (Photo Nos. 668-670)
The Rawlings Store Banner
One of the rarest Rawlings Mickey Mantle items is a blue store banner that measures 23½-by-17½ inches. The banner is part of a long string of individual players known as the “Panel of Stars.” A head shot of Mantle is shown with a blue background in caricature form with a Mickey Mantle Personal Model glove and the words, “Rawlings – Finest in the Field.” Some of the other players who were included in the Panel of Stars display were Stan Musial, Duke Snider, Smoky Burgess, etc. The banner dates to 1958. (Photo Nos. 671-72)
Rawlings Display Pieces
Reviewed in its own section later in the series, Rawlings produced several display pieces featuring Mantle in the 1950s. In 1956, Rawlings made a two-pane 20-by-31-inch ad piece that promoted Mantle gloves on the left side by showing a “MM” Mickey Mantle Professional Model glove. On the right side, a wood-grained frame borders a picture of Mickey kneeling with his bat and glove. At the bottom of the picture, a golden nameplate contains Mickey’s old-styled facsimile signature with the caption, “Player of the Year 1956.” (Photo No. 673)
1953 – Version 1
Two of the earliest and most valuable Mantle display pieces date back to 1953. Printed in patriotic red, white, and blue with a black background, this ad piece with easel shows Mickey standing with his glove on his left hand and right hand on his hip. Printed over a red background, the word “Rawlings” appears in white print, while an old-script Mantle signature stands atop the words “Baseball Gloves.” At the bottom of the blue background base are the words, “The finest in the field.” (Photo No. 674)
1953 – Version 2
Printed in patriotic red, white, and blue with a black background, this second example shows Mickey kneeling with his glove hanging downward toward his right knee area. Located to the extreme right of the display are the words “Mickey Mantle Baseball Gloves.” Mantle’s name is written in the old-fashioned script and embedded among red and white decorative stars. (Photo No. 675)
Rawlings also produced six large display posters that were 28-by-22 inches. In 1967, Rawlings, in conjunction with Benjamin Printing, sold Mantle’s book, The Education of a Baseball Player. The book was a giveaway item with the purchase of the new Mantle Fastback glove. A store display of Mantle holding the book was given to local sporting goods dealers to promote the glove and book. (Photo No. 676)
PF Canvas Shoes
In the 1950s, PF Canvas Shoes produced three different, hard-cardboard standups that promoted their sneakers that would “Help you play your best longer.” The first of these display/counter ads, measuring 24-by-191/2 inches, featured head shots of Mantle, Ted Williams, Roy Campanella, Robin Roberts, Mickey Vernon, Al Rosen, Harvey Kuenn, Warren Spahn, Red Schoendienst and Minnie Minoso in a dark-blue background. The ad also had stadium lights at the top of the display, which obviously was promoting night baseball in the major leagues. (Photo No. 677)
The second PF Canvas Shoes ad, which also measured 24-by-191/2 inches, featured the same players’ head shots, but had a different design with a white background. The counter display was also die-cut in design as the layout of the players was different. The name B.F. Goodrich also appears in the ad. (Photo No. 678)
The third PF Canvas Shoes display ad was die-cut in design and featured only four players. Headshots of the four players featured were Mantle, Campanella, Roberts and Stan Musial. They are shown over the infield of a baseball diamond. The die-cut ad is light-green and yellow in color and measures 181/2-by-11 inches. (Photo No. 679)
Big Yank Amblers Menswear
In the early 1960s, circa 1961-62, the Big Yank Corp. of New York had a series of print ads that featured Mantle, Whitey Ford and Roger Maris. These ads appeared in many sports magazines throughout the country. The company, capitalizing on their Big Yank name and their three superstar pitchmen, sold men’s slacks and leisurewear. Also appearing in men’s clothing stores throughout the New York area were a series of very creative counter and rack displays. Perhaps one of the most-desirable displays to feature Mantle, Big Yank produced a 3D standup of Mantle, Ford and Maris wearing their Amblers’ leisurewear against a green background below a large New York Yankees baseball cap. The ad showed Mickey and Roger looking to their left, while leaning on their respective baseball bats. Whitey, standing in between the M&M boys, has his right hand on his hip. (Photo No. 680)
Big Yank also produced another very rare Mantle collectible. The display featured a cardboard, die-cut baseball glove with a picture of Mickey and his name placed in the center of a white baseball. Located at the bottom of the glove’s heel were the words “Big Yank.” These “glove displays” were usually placed at the top of the men’s clothing racks and featured a double-sided image. This was done so that the consumer could view the display from both sides of the display rack. (Photo Nos. 681-682)
Big Yank also produced glove displays that featured Ford and Maris. (Photo Nos. 683-684)
Amblers Big Yank also produced a counter display that showed Mickey dressed in leisurewear while holding a bat on his left shoulder. Green and yellow in color with an artist’s drawing of a baseball stadium in the background, Mickey states, “Amblers slacks are great for all leisure hour activities. The fabrics and styles are tops. Get a few pair now!” Mickey’s signature is also located beneath his testimonial. The Maris display ad is also shown. These counter displays measure 18-by-13 inches. (Photo Nos. 685-686)
Big Yank also made a blue and yellow pants tag. Affixed to the back pocket of men’s slacks, the tag showed small headshots of Mantle, Ford and Maris that included the caption, “The Big Yanks Wear Big Yanks. Smart Styles For That Modern Youthful Look.” (Photo No. 687)
There are at least six other magazine ads that feature Mickey, Whitey and Roger. Most of those black and white ads appeared in Sport magazine and showed the threesome in various poses. (Photo Nos. 688-690)
One color ad featured only Mantle and Maris. This ad showed headshots of the M&M boys that were each placed inside a baseball. Below the photos, the ad copy read, “Big Yanks Wear Big Yank.” (Photo No. 691)
Around 1969, the Standard Milling Co., owners of Maypo cereal, hired art director George Lois to produce a series of television ads promoting Instant Maypo Cereal. Lois came up with one of those advertising slogans that people still remember today, some 40 years later. World-famous athletes like Mantle, Wilt Chamberlain, Johnny Unitas, Tom Seaver and Oscar Robertson were all heard crying while saying, “I want my Maypo.” The ads worked and made Maypo the top-selling cereal for kids up to age 16. A large display ad shows Mickey crying in his Yankees jersey with the words, “I want my Maypo.” The display piece measures 18-by-13½ inches. (Photo No. 692)
1959 Home Run Derby
In an effort to promote its television show hosted by Mark Scott, Ziv Television Programs Inc., produced an 8-by-22-inch display ad showing a swinging Mantle and the names of all the Home Run Derby participants. Some of the game’s biggest hitters were seen on TV each week. They included Mantle, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Duke Snider, Rocky Colavito, Ernie Banks, Harmon Killebrew and others. Filmed from 1959-61, the sluggers would face one another in a game of all or nothing. The player with the most home runs would win and then face another star the following week. The display piece would feature the time and station where the show could be seen. It is said that fewer than 60 of these were made. (Photo No. 693)
The Ballantine Blast
Any Yankee fan can tell you that when Mel Allen called his famous Ballantine Blasts, it was pure delight. As a sponsor of Yankees baseball, Ballantine Beer and Ale in 1954 produced a beautiful Yankee plaque celebrating the Yankees five consecutive Word Series victories from 1949-53. Mantle is shown standing fourth from the left in the last row. The plaque measures 17¼-by-15 inches and is laminated on hard-pressed wood. (Photo No. 694)
C&C Batter Up Pancake Batter
In the 1950s, Mantle was pictured on a 6-by-16-inch cardboard display ad that featured him doing a testimonial for C&C Ready to Pour Pancake Batter. Mickey is shown on the far left of the ad. Referred to as “Mr. Batter Up,” Mickey says, “Make Everyday a Batter Up Day. I Do.” The ad is orange, white and brown in color. (Photo No. 695)
In the 1950s, Mantle did a number of ads that showed his likeness and warned kids about childhood safety. In a very colorful, original art display, Mickey is shown on the face of a baseball with a street light and the words, “Play it Safe. Obey the Traffic Rules.” (Photo No. 696)
Dairylea sponsored the public service ad. Dairylea also produced a small reflective bicycle sticker that showed a headshot drawing of Mantle with the same words of safety advice. (Photo No. 697)
The Traffic Department Safety Education Program issued a 17-by-20-inch green-and-yellow cardboard standup in the 1960s that quotes Mickey as saying, “Cross at corners, not at blocks.” Mickey is shown in his Yankees pinstripe uniform in a follow-through swing. Two large hands are shown at the top of the ad with the words, “Play it safe.” (Photo No. 698)
1962 Post Cereal
Promoting “free trading cards” on the back of Post Cereal boxes, this advertising display featured nine oversized baseball cards for the upcoming 1962 season. Five interlocking cards were placed at the top of the display, while another four interlocking cards were found at the bottom. The nine cards showcased were Mickey Mantle, Jim Gentile, Sandy Koufax, Frank Lary, Vada Pinson, Jim O’Toole, Norm Cash, Ken Boyer and Roger Maris. The complete framed display measures an amazing 36-by-86 inches. (Photo No. 699)
Post also issued a two-sided banner that measured 24-by-34 inches and showed Mantle on one side and Roger Maris one the other. With a large color photo on the left side and the words, “Free Trading Cards on Post Cereals,” the banner shows a smiling Mickey in pinstripes with his bat on his right shoulder. (Photo No. 700)
In the 1960s, Cooper Tires used Mantle to promote its automotive tires. In two very similar hard cardboard display ads, one die-cut and the other with straight edges, Mickey is shown with his home Yankee uniform and four Cooper Tires. Yellow in color and 19-by-22 inches in size, the ad states: “For my money ... Cooper fields today’s best line-up of tire value. Every One, A Winner.” (Photo Nos. 701-702)
Mickey Mantle Tire Co.
From 1960-70, Mantle actually had his name on his own brand of automotive tires. The Mickey Mantle Tire Co. sold the MMHR565, a tire that was aptly named after Mick’s 565-foot mammoth home run in Griffith Stadium on April 17, 1953. The Mickey Mantle Tire Co. issued a metal, free-standing, baseball-shaped sign promoting its tires. The sign read, “Switch to Mickey Mantle Tires. Mickey Mantle Home Run Tires.” The sign also featured a very crude, facsimile autograph of Mickey’s that almost made it look fake. It is said that during the first year of business, the Mickey Mantle Tire Co. had only $3,000 in sales. (Photo No. 703)
Charles Antell Hair Care
Some of us can remember when Mickey Mantle promoted Vitalis in the 1950s. Well, Mickey also promoted another hair product: Charles Antell Formula 9 Hair Care. In a yellow-and-blue, hard-cardboard counter display, Mickey was shown from bust up in his Yankee pinstripes with a testimonial that stated, “Charles Antell Formula 9 keeps my hair in great condition.” The ad piece measures 161/2-by-12 inches. (Photo No. 704)
Kelly R. Eisenhauer of Lehighton, Pa., has been a fan and collector of Mickey Mantle memorabilia for more than 40 years. He supplied photography for the HBO documentary “Mantle, The Definitive Story” and is featured in Richard Wolfe’s current book, For Yankee Fans Only – Vol. 2. Eisenhauer owns and operates his own Mickey Mantle webpage at www.hofmemories.com. Anyone with questions or comments can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many of the photographs from this multi-part series, including a remarkable number of one-of-a-kind pieces, came from the Mickey Mantle Collection of B.S. Alpert.