Was Mickey Mantle The Fastest MLB Baseball Player?
Mickey Mantle is known as one of the greatest ball players to ever play in the MLB, and his statistics at the plate provide ample evidence. In addition to being a terrific hitter, Mantle was also known for his lightning speed on the base path. In this article, we’ll discuss whether Mickey Mantle was the fastest player in MLB history or if there’s another who deserves the title.
Mickey Mantle’s Speed
Growing up in Oklahoma, Mickey Mantle earned the nickname “The Commerce Comet” due to his blazing speed. The main reason why Mantle is argued by many to be the fastest player of all time is due to the fact that in 1959, he once clocked 3.1 seconds from home plate to first base. This was when he was batting left-handed. 3.1 seconds is an astounding feat, not just for the era Mantle played in but even in today’s game. Nowadays, it takes right-handed hitters an average of 4.3 seconds to get to first base from home, and 4.2 seconds for left-handed hitters.
Although he led the Yankees in stolen bases for many seasons, in retrospect, Mantle did not steal many bases during his career. Granted, players are much more likely to go for stolen bases nowadays than during the era Mickey Mantle played in. However, one would expect the fastest player of all time to rack up more than 153 stolen bases in a career spanning 18 years like Mickey Mantle’s did.
Mantle’s knee issues later in his career are another factor that affected his speed. The Mickey Mantle who played in 1966 wasn’t nearly as fast as the one who played 10 years earlier. Mantle’s knee injuries plagued him throughout his career, leaving many to wonder just how much faster and better he might have been had he not had so many knee issues.
Rickey Henderson’s Speed
Although the title for fastest baseball player will always be up for debate, Rickey Henderson may just edge out Mickey Mantle. Henderson’s stats on the base path are legendary. He owns the record for MLB all-time career stolen bases (1,406), runs (2,295), and single-season stolen bases (130). Henderson led the American League in stolen bases 12 times throughout his 25-year career. His speed also held up even into the end of his career, as he led the AL in stolen bases in 1998 at the age of 39.
In a 100-yard dash he ran, Henderson had a speed of 31 ft/second and clocked in at a time of 9.6 seconds. The “Man of Steal” was an instrumental part in the success of his teams, and was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2009 with a ballot percentage of 94.8%. For these reasons, Henderson is commonly regarded as the fastest MLB player of all time, even over the legendary Mickey Mantle.