Published: July 20, 2021
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – Baseball history was made on May 14,1967, when the New York Yankees’ Mickey Mantle belted a 3-2 changeup from Stu Miller into the right-field stands at Yankee Stadium, marking his 500th career home run.
Now that history is being roiled by a lawsuit by former Yankees outfielder-first baseman Joe Pepitone, who contends that he lent Mantle the bat in the seventh inning that day and is suing to get his bat back from the Hall of Fame.
Attorneys for Pepitone, who is now 80, filed a lawsuit in US District Court for the Northern District of New York on June 21, and the case was filed on July 7. The suit seeks to have the bat returned to Pepitone, along with “compensatory and exemplary” damages to be determined at trial but no less than $1 million, according to the court documents.
In the suit, Pepitone claims that following the Yankees’ 6-5 victory against the Baltimore Orioles, Yankees executive Bob Fishel gave the bat to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum without telling him.
“Pepitone’s bat is a one-of-a-kind historical baseball artifact with an estimated value of more than $500,000,” the lawsuit alleges. “Pepitone did not gift, sell, assign, or in any way transferred (sic) his sole ownership interest in the bat to any person or entity.
Pepitone had demanded that the museum return the bat to him by September 1, 2020, but, according to the lawsuit, “The museum has unreasonably and unlawfully refused Pepitone’s demand to return the bat and continues to possess the bat without legal cause or justification over Pepitone’s objection and contrary to Pepitone’s legal and equitable right to possession.”
The Hall of Fame, disputing Pepitone’s claim, in a statement issued on July 9, said, “The bat that Mickey Mantle used to hit his 500th home run was donated to the Hall of Fame by the New York Yankees in May 1967. The Hall of Fame owns this historical bat and for more than 50 years, the Hall of Fame has preserved it and proudly put it on display for millions of fans to see as they tour the museum.”
The natural stain wooden bat weighs 29 ounces and is 35 inches long, with “Hillerich & Bradsby/125/Louisville Slugger/Powerized” located in the center of the barrel. Near the end of the barrel is a Pepitone facsimile signature, with “P104″ inscribed on the knob. The figure “30½” is handwritten in black on the end of the knob. It can be viewed online on the museum’s digital archive and by visiting the museum in Cooperstown.
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