Commerce, Oklahoma was the hometown of baseball legend Mickey Mantle, whose boyhood home appears pretty much unchanged since his youth. Baseball’s greatest power hitting switch-hitter learned to hit in the side yard, his father and grandfather would take turns pitching to him. Since one pitched righty and the other lefty, the young Mantle practiced hitting from both sides of the plate, hence his switch-hitting prowess.
Oh lordy I was quite the porker a few years ago. Kids, this is what happens when you let a donut fetish get out of control. Look and learn.
As a child growing up in New York in the 1960s, Mickey Mantle was my favorite player, and not just because we shared the same initials. My mom even got an iron-on #7 to put on a t-shirt so I could pretend I was wearing his jersey.
The funny thing is, as I was motoring along Route 66 I didn’t even know Mantle’s home was nearby. I just happened to stop at a Dairy King in a converted gas station that had a sign out front advertising “Route 66 cookies.” One look at me in the picture above and you’ll realize I stopped for signs like that back then. (Ok, truth be told, I still do.)
Charles in front of the Dairy King he operates with his mother. The store used to be a Marathon station.
As I was chatting up Charles the shop owner, between bites of cookies shaped like the Route 66 road sign, he happened to mention that Mantle’s home was only a few block away. He called his mother to watch the store and drove me over to the house. (Another great reason for taking road trips on back roads, these serendipitous moments don’t happen on the Interstate.)
The house, at 319 South Quincy Street, is just a few hundred yards off Route 66. The tin-sided barn you can see in the background of the picture at the top of this post even bears baseball dents from the “Commerce Comet’s” early batting power. If you’ve made it this far, drop by the ball field at Commerce High School to see the 9-foot tall statue of the Mick that was dedicated in 2010.
When I visited the Mantle home a few years ago it was closed but you could walk right up onto the porch and peer in the windows. A neighbor told me there was talk of turning it into a museum but I’m not sure if that’s happened yet. It seems a shame to let the sight go to waste, a view of the empty storefronts of downtown Commerce belies the town’s name, it could sure use some visitors.
An old gas station straddling Route 66 in Commerce, Oklahoma.
Further information: Mickey Mantle’s father worked at the lead and zinc mines in nearby Picher, Oklahoma. Read how the mines turned Picher into a modern American ghost town.
You may be interested in seeing a tribute to one of Mantle’s teammates at the Roger Maris Museum in Fargo, North Dakota.
Larissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive our free quarterly newsletter with updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.