A Rio Rancho man will soon have his own spot in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown — and, if he can afford the trip there, visit his “stuff” anytime with his lifetime pass.
And it’s all because of two chance meetings he had with the legendary Mickey Mantle, the first nearly a half-century ago.
It was the summer of 1962. Joe Brown was 14 and playing on a baseball team in Cushing, Okla.
His father came home one day to announce vacation plans: “We are going to New Orleans, but we are first going to Kansas City to see the New York Yankees play the Kansas City Athletics. Joey needs to see his baseball hero, Mickey Mantle, play at least once.”
The family arrived at the Athletics’ home at the time, Municipal Stadium, three hours before the first pitch.
“That night I was in baseball heaven,” he recalled. “After we bought hot dogs, peanuts and Cokes, I sat in the seat nearest the locker room door and eagerly awaited the Yankees,” remembering being startled by a movement to his right.
“To my amazement, it was my hero, Mickey Mantle. He’d stuck his head out of the locker room door. I hollered, ‘Hey, Mick, I’m an Okie.’
“Mickey laughed. … ‘Well, I’m an Okie, too, and I’m Mickey Mantle.’”
“Yeah, I know, and I’m Joe,” Brown responded.
Mantle needed to know more: “Where’s your home? How old are you? Do you play baseball?”
“I know I answered all his questions, but I can’t remember what I said,” Brown said. “Mickey pulled over his teammates as they came out of the locker room and introduced them to me. … That night, I met Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, Bill Skowron, Bobby Richardson, Tony Kubek, Roger Maris and everyone else on the Yankees team.”
But that wasn’t enough: Brown told Mantle to hit a homer for him, and Mantle turned and smiled again: “Joey, I’ll sure try.”
In the first inning, Mantle homered to left field, a ball Brown remembers sailing “as high as the monster scoreboard and landed way out in the vast parking lot. … As he rounded second base, he looked directly up above third base, toward me, took his cap off and twirled it around.”
The Yankees lost the game, 7-2, so it wasn’t the perfect vacation night, but, says Brown, “That experience in August of 1962 ended the best summer I could have imagined.”
Meeting Mickey, Part II
The summer of 1970 led to his second encounter with The Mick.
By then, “I had married and lived in Lubbock. I was a retail store manager and was looking in the Lubbock newspaper for the advertisement my company had placed when I saw a full-page ad about Mickey Mantle coming to Lubbock to attend the grand opening of the ‘Mickey Mantle’s Country Cooking’ restaurant in two weeks. That notice made me feel as nervous and excited as I had eight years earlier in Kansas City.
“At lunchtime on the restaurant’s opening day, I tossed my store keys to a fellow worker and said, ‘I’m going to lunch with Mickey. I’ll be back when I get here.’”
Brown later took his place at the end of a long line and waited, and, once inside, observed that “a large table had been set up for Mickey to sit behind and sign autographs. He smiled at everyone he met, shaking hands, and making everyone feel special.
“I saw him being the Mickey I remembered from Kansas City. He looked up at each fan, asking their name and what they would like on the picture he was signing for them. It took another 15 or 20 minutes for me to arrive at the head of the line — finally.”
As it turned out, it was well worth the wait: “When Mickey looked up at me, he gasped and did a double-take. Then to my complete shock, he said, ‘Joey, how are you, and where were you after the game?’
“I wanted to say goodbye, Mickey. We waited a while, and then we had to leave. We had to go to our hotel to prepare to leave for New Orleans early the next morning.
“Mickey then said, ‘OK, now where have you been for all these years?’”
Strangely, knowing Mantle was the hero of a lot of youngsters back in the 1960s, Brown learned the Mick had a better memory than most: “It was August of 1962 in Kansas City, right?”
I said, “Well, yes, but how…?”
It turns out Mantle couldn’t forget that hot night in K.C.
“Joey, you had no way of knowing this, but I tried many times to hit a home run for a kid, but that night was the only time in my career I did it,” Mantle confessed. “That was an amazing night for me.”
Brown then got the Mick to autograph one of the hand-out photos — he still has it, of course — and turned to leave.
“Mickey said, ‘Oh, no, you come back here behind the table. We have a lot of catching up to do.’ Mickey continued to sign pictures and was very nice to everyone, but for the next couple hours, Mickey and me did a lot of catching up.”
Now, this summer, those two meetings with the legend took on new meaning for Brown.
He communicated with the Hall of Fame, relating his tales of the Mantle encounters and adding that he not only had a scorecard from that Yankees-A’s game in ‘62, but he also still had a signed, though stamped, autographed Yankees baseball his dad had bought for him in the team shop as well as a ball Jim Bouton had tossed him after warming up before starting the game for the Yankees.
That correspondence paid off. In a letter dated June 24 from Helen R. Stiles, senior acquisitions and cataloging specialist at the Hall of Fame, Brown was notified that he was being thanked for his donation of the above-mentioned items, “a fine addition to our collection,” and he’d be receiving a “donor’s certificate” and a lifetime pass to the hall.
That makes three summers Brown will never forget: 1962, 1970 and 2021.
Coincidentally, Mantle died in the summer of 1995, only 64 years of age but ending his hard life as the victim of liver cancer.
(The July 11 Observer feature on another Mickey Mantle collector in Rio Rancho drew correspondence from a man in New Orleans, with some of Mantle’s personal items. Of course, the Observer is concerned with featuring local collectors and hobbyists. If interested, contact Sports Editor Gary Herron at gherron@rrobserver.com.)

Joe Brown sits with some of his treasured Mickey Mantle memorabilia.