He was born in Spavinaw, Oklahoma. He was named in honor of Mickey Cochrane, a famous baseball player, by his father, who was an amateur player and fervid fan. Apparently his father was not aware that Cochrane's real name was Gordon, and in later life, Mickey Mantle expressed great relief that his father had not known Cochrane's real first name, as he would have hated to be named Gordon.
Mantle was a switch-hitter whose career was mostly in center field. He had played shortstop in the minor leagues, but on arrival at the Yankees became the regular centerfielder (playing only a few games at shortstop and third base in 1952 to 1955) until 1967, when he was moved to first base. As a centerfielder, he replaced Joe DiMaggio, whose retirement coincided with Mantle's arrival. Among Mantle's many accomplishments are All-time World Series records for home runs (18), runs scored (42), and runs-batted-in (40).
Mantle announced his retirement from baseball on March 1, 1969 and in 1974 he was inducted into the United States Baseball Hall of Fame; his uniform number 7 was retired by the Yankees. (He had briefly worn uniform number 6, as a continuation to Babe Ruth's 3, Lou Gehrig's 4, and Joe DiMaggio's 5, in 1951, but the pressure on him that this caused led to his being switched to number 7 later in that season.)