This month, Small Traditions LLC is pleased to offer more than a few high-grade regional and oddball issues from Mickey Mantle, Sandy Koufax, Roberto Clemente, Pete Rose, and other diamond legends in our inaugural "Set Registry Masters" Premium Auction, and I'll admit here that we will use the cliched term "condition sensitive," or better yet, "ultra condition sensitive," so many times that it will likely lose some of its meaning on those who bother to read our descriptions. When it comes to the offered 1956-57 Mac Boy Decal, however, let me be as forthright as possible when I say that this unusual item issued during The Mick's favorite summer of 1956 simply does not exist in the grades of Mint to Gem Mint condition.
The offered decal is composed of a rubbery plastic-like sticker affixed to a thin sheet of wax paper, neither of which will forgive even the smallest ding or other impression. One little bend or bump in either the front or back surface of one of these decals and you can say goodbye to its chances of ever grading higher than VG-EX or Excellent. For this reason, until recently, the highest graded copies on record at PSA had been a pair in the EX+ 5.5 grade.
Enter the offered anomaly in the grade of NM-MT 8. Not only is this resilient copy free of any surface imperfections, but it appears sharp and clean enough to make the case for even higher consideration in the Mint to even Gem Mint range. Given that it stands alone a full 2.5 grades above the next best copy, however, we are pleased to offer it as it is, the single finest copy on record.
For those who don't already remember it like they do their anniversaries and the birthdays of their children, let's take a moment to review what Mickey Mantle achieved in 1956 that made it his (and so many others') favorite summer. His 52 home runs didn't just surpass the AL runner-up Vic Wertz's 32 by almost two times, but they led all of baseball, as did his 130 RBI and .353 batting average. Leading both Major Leagues in these three categories earned Mantle the prized MLB Triple Crown for batting, and it put him into the same supreme category with Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, Lou Gehrig, and Ted Williams. The Triple Crown is typically awarded to a player who leads his respective league in these three categories, but only these five immortals have ever won the award for all of baseball, and no one has done it since The Mick in '56.
Not only that, he also led all of baseball with 130 runs, 376 total bases, a .705 slugging percentage, and a whopping 1.169 OPS (that's on base percentage plus slugging percentage). Rarely in baseball is it possible to say that one player is the best of them all. Maybe he's the best in the clutch, or maybe he's the best in the pen, or maybe he's the best on the base path. But it happened to Mickey Mantle in 1956, his superhuman performance helping him to his first of three career AL MVP awards and his fourth of seven World Series championships. He was also chosen unanimously as the winner of the 1956 Hickock Belt as the top American athlete of the year. All this in just his sixth year in the Majors and the 24th of his too-short life.