Joe Pepitone
MONTCLAIR, NJ – APRIL 29: Former New York Yankee Joe Pepitone attends the press conference announcing Mickey Mantle Signed Contract Auction To Assist Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund at Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center on April 29, 2013 in Montclair, New Jersey. (Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images)

Joe Pepitone Suing Hall Of Fame

Former Yankee First Basemen and Outfielder Joe Pepitone is suing the Baseball Hall of Fame for $1 million and ownership of the bat Mickey Mantle used to hit his 500th career home run. In a lawsuit filed in New York, Pepitone claims the bat displayed is a loan and would be returned to Pepitone should he ever requested it back, a report from the Athletic says. The bat has been displayed for the last 54 years.

Pepitone reportedly attempted to seize the bat on September 1st, 2020, and the Hall of Fame would not give in, stating that Pepitone does not have any rights to the artifact.

“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 museum said in a statement Friday. 

How Does Pepitone Correlate to Mickey Mantle’s 500th Home Run?

Pepitone, who is now 80, claims that the bat Mantle used was through an endorsement deal with Louisville Slugger and that Mantle had borrowed that bat when he hit his 500th home run on May 14th, 1967. Here is where it gets interesting. According to the lawsuit, then-Yankees Executive Robert Fishell told Pepitone the bat would only serve as a loan. Hall of Fame staff, including former public relations director William Guilfoile, assured the bat would be returned upon request. The problem here, not only has Mickey Mantle passed but so have both Fishell and Guilfoile as well.

Pepitone’s Alleged Conversation With Mantle

Pepitone also recollects a conversation with Mantle after he (Pepitone) hit a home run against the Baltimore Orioles earlier in the game, he includes it in the lawsuit as well.

“In the next inning of the game, Pepitone handed his bat … to Mantle and told Mantle that the bat ‘had another home run in it,’” the suit claims. “Mantle smiled at Pepitone and took the bat to the plate.”

According to Daniel Kaplan of the Athletic, Pepitone’s Lawsuit States:

“Pepitone’s Bat is a one-of-a-kind historical baseball artifact with an estimated value of more than $500,000. Pepitone did not gift, sell, assign, or in any way transferred his sole ownership interest in the Bat to any person or entity. Pepitone unequivocally demanded that the Museum return the Bat on September 1, 2020, as promised. 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.”

I get where Pepitone is coming from. Technically, sure, he lent his bat to Mickey, and Mickey coincidentally enough hit his 500th home run with it. This is the first time many of us are hearing about this story. This leads me to believe that Pepitone will not win this lawsuit. Perhaps if he has in legal writing from Fishell, Guilfoile, or Mantle about the hand-shaken agreement to return the bat to Pepitone whenever he requests. Otherwise, it looks bleak for Pepitone.

Who was Pepitone To The Yankees?

Joe Pepitone was a Yankee from 1962 through 1968. Playing in the shadow of Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra, Pepitone never received the same attention. However, he received three all-star selections and won three gold gloves while serving his time in pinstripes. Nevertheless, certainly a successful tenure. It seems the Hall of Fame is keen on keeping the bat, especially after the Yankees donated it in 1967.

Mantle, on the other hand, is a Yankees legend. He is one of the greats of the sport, despite his health issues and off-field rockstar lifestyle. He hit .298 with 536 home runs and 1,509 runs batted in 18 seasons.

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