Grandforks, one of the very best posters on this site, has submitted one of his usually interesting posts titled "Some Fast Players."
In it, he notes that Mickey Mantle has the fastest documented time from home to first. Relying on a Sporting News article, he cites Mantle's speed from home to first as 3.1 This is a widely reported number, and I have even read 3.0 from the left side.
He further argues that contemporary observers noted Mantle's speed:
Mickey Mantle did work Willie Mays never came near doing. He outran everyone...
...We looked in wonder at Mickey Mantle, amazed that anyone could do any of the things he did...
Bill Dickey (from the Sporting News): "...we divided the boys up for a series of 75-yard sprints, Mickey finished first in his group, looking over his shoulder at the others. Then we had a sprint for the winners and he won that, too. Then he got sick and explained that he wasn't in shape."
"I honestly believe Mantle is the fastest man I've ever seen in a baseball uniform."
Casey Stengel (from The Sporting News): "My God," he said on seeing Mantle at work, "the boy runs faster than Cobb."
In this post, Gforks lists the times of the fastest players in 1952, according to the Sporting News.
As many of you know, Ichiro is the fastest runner from home in the last few years, with a speed of somewhere between 3.7 and 3.8, depending on the source.
We are left, then, to reflect on whether Mickey Mantle's time really was that fast. If so,
1) He is faster than any player in major league history, or, conservatively speaking, at least since the 1950s.
2) Ichiro, the fastest player among a world-wide pool of talent, would rank behind half a dozen white guys if he were to have played in 1952. Rickey Henderson, Tim Raines, Vince Coleman et al would fall behind the likes of Gil McDougald, Johnny Groth, and Gene Woodling.
3) Mantle would not only be the fastest guy in baseball history, but also faster than Ben Johnson, who, (1) running from a set position against a device to push off from, (2) in running shoes, (3) on a cinder track, and (4) on steroids, could only muster a 4.25 40 yard dash (in the midst of his record-setting 100 meter dash).
Another possibility is that he was the fastest guy of his time, but that hand-timed devices and legend have exaggerated his time a bit.
Which of the following do you think most accurately describes Mickey Mantle?
Btw, Gforks, if I have some how misrepresented your argument or biased the preface, please add in your thoughts in succeeding posts. Thanks! I will refrain from voting.