A couple of weeks ago, I noted in this space -- and yes, without even the slightest tinge of skepticism -- that an on-line auction house was promoting a Mickey Mantle game-used bat that had been (gasp!) corked.
Well, turns out The Mantle Family (through Mantle I.P. Holdings, Ltd) wasn't real thrilled. They've released a press release, which includes the following:
Recently, an on-line sports memorabilia marketer promoted an outrageously false, misleading and deceptive claim, apparently for a quick buck and publicity, 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 worshipped are false...
The Mantle Family has retained lawyers, and the auction seems to have disappeared the corked bat with no explanation.
Maybe it should go without saying that many, many players in Mantle's era used corked bats, threw spitballs, stole signs, and abused amphetamines.
The Mantles' lawyers are trying to find out where the bat came from, how it was supposedly authenticated, etc. All of which would be interesting, at least to some people. Hell, I think every bat in the Hall of Fame's collection should be X-rayed, just so we can see what we see.
But it's impossible to prove a negative. You can X-ray 99 Mickey Mantle bats and find nothing, and there's still no guarantee the 100th wasn't corked and used for just one game. Mantle was a truly great player who spent most of his career playing in pain. But the notion that he was a paragon of integrity, whether true or not, is chimerical.