As Alex Rodriguez tries for the 600th home run of his career, he is unlikely to get the gift pitch another Yankee once received. It occurred on Sept. 19, 1968 in Detroit when Denny McLain, who went 31-6 that season, fed Mickey Mantle a fastball for his 535th homer, which enabled Mantle to surpass Jimmie Foxx on the all-time list. It was the eighth inning and the Tigers led, 6-1, at the time.
Mantle, who retired after the 1968 season, retold the tale over the years.
"The real story behind it is that Denny McLain is the guy that threw it to me. Denny was pitching that day, he’s having a great year. I come up to hit, it was my last time in Detroit and he calls time out and comes walking up to home plate and called Bill Freehan, the catcher, out behind the plate and he says `Let’s let him hit one, this is probably his last time in Detroit.' I heard him say that, you never know whether to believe him or not. When Freehan comes back I said `Did I hear what he said, he wants me to hit one?' He said, `Yeah, he's not going to work on you, he’s just going to throw you fastballs.' I said great, but I was still a little leery. The first pitch he threw was right down the middle and I took it. He goes like `Hey, what’s the matter?'
"Then, of course, I knew he really wanted me to hit one, so the next pitch I swing a little too hard and I got under it and popped it up foul. Freehan gets another ball and throws it back out to Denny and the next pitch he thew me he really grooved it. I really hit one in the upper deck. I’m going around first, second and I kind of peak at him. He’s looking, grinning. I come around third I look around at him. He kind of goes and gives me a big wink and [Joe] Pepitone is the next hitter, he's hitting behind me and he sees what’s going on. He comes up to hit, he’s the next hitter. And he looks out at Denny and he goes `Hey, right in here, you know, pitch me one right here.' The first pitch to Pepitone, he knocked him down.’’