Ex-Yankee Joe Pepitone suing Cooperstown baseball museum for storied Mickey Mantle bat

PEPITONE: In this September 2014 file photo, baseball player Joe Pepitone attends a charity event hosted by Cantor Fitzgerald and BGC in New York. Paul Zimmerman/Cantor Fitzgerald/Getty Images/Tribune News Service

NEW YORK — It’s a Yankee Doodle Dandy of a lawsuit.

Former Bronx Bomber Joe Pepitone, in an upstate federal court complaint, claims legendary teammate Mickey Mantle used one of his loaned bats to smack historic home run No. 500 — and now he wants the National Baseball Hall of Fame to return the pricey piece of baseball memorabilia and pay him at least $1 million in damages.

According to Pepitone, he handed future Hall of Famer Mantle his Louisville Slugger before the pinstriped superstar became the first switch-hitter in baseball history to crack the 500-homer barrier against the Baltimore Orioles back on May 14, 1967, at Yankee Stadium.

“After Mantle’s home run, Mantle returned the Bat to Pepitone,” read the 10-page Utica Federal Court filing. “Pepitone brought the Bat into the Yankees locker room and secured it within his personal locker. Thereafter, however, the Bat was removed from Pepitone’s locker ... without (his) knowledge, approval or consent.”

The bat was allegedly snatched by a team executive, who asked Pepitone after the fact if he would “allow the bat to be loaned to the museum in commemoration of his friend Mantle’s landmark achievement,” the court papers said.

Pepitone claims he agreed to lend the bat to the Hall of Fame if officials would return the historic item upon request. Court papers estimated the value of the Mantle home run bat at more than $500,000.

In a bit of baseball trivia, Pepitone noted that he used the same bat an inning earlier to smack a two-run homer. The 35-inch, 29-ounce bat “had another home run in it,” said Pepitone just prior to handing it over to Mantle.

He was proven correct when the Mick took Orioles right-hander Stu Miller deep into the right-field seats on a 3-2 pitch.

The Hall of Fame released a terse two-sentence statement rebutting Pepitone’s claim.

“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 statement read. “The Hall of Fame owns this historical bat and for more than fifty years, the Hall of Fame has preserved it and proudly put it on display for millions of fans to see as they tour the Museum.”

Pepitone insisted in court papers that he was reassured in the years since the bat reached Cooperstown on May 25, 1967, that the valuable piece of memorabilia was “his for the asking and it would be returned to him at any time upon his request.”

But the museum, in September 2020, rejected a request from Pepitone to give back the piece of baseball history.

“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,” the ex-Yankee claimed in his court filing.