EXPLOSION!: MICKEY MANTLE'S LEGENDARY HOME RUNS by Mark Gallagher (Arbor House: $17.95; 373 pp., illustrated).
If you have a friend that is such a baseball junkie that he knows that Chuck Stobbs was a journeyman left-handed pitcher with the lowly Washington Senators in the 1950s, there's a good chance you may want to get him this book. Six full pages are devoted to what happened after the Senator southpaw served up a medium-high fastball to Mickey Mantle, the Yankees' leading power hitter for nearly two decades, in the fifth inning of a game on April 17, 1953. Mantle made "perfect contact," and the ball soared out of Griffith Stadium and landed several blocks away in the nation's capital. Measurements made that afternoon determined that the ball had gone 565 feet; according to the Guinness Book of World Records, that is still the longest ball ever hit in baseball history.
None of the other 535 home runs Mantle hit in his illustrious 18 seasons with the Yankees is discussed in quite this much detail, but many of them receive more than a page apiece, and 125 pages are consumed charting all the Mick's circuit clouts--date, place, inning, opposing pitcher, score of the game and Mantle's statistics for the day. There also are charts of the Yankees' records in games in which Mantle homered, how many he hit per month, how many he hit left-handed and right-handed, the 11 times he hit home runs in both games of a double-header and on and on. This is Gallagher's fourth book dealing with Yankee-related topics, and he appears to be in good command of his material. If you're a baseball obsessive--as this writer is--you'll find this book occasionally fascinating. Otherwise. . . .