Mickey Mantle, CF, New York Yankees. Bats B, throws R. Born 10-20-1931, Spavinaw, Oklahoma; died 8-13-1995, Dallas, Texas.
Mantle played eighteen seasons for the Yankees, from 1951 to 1968. He appears on an amazing number of the all-time offensive leaderboards. He was an All-Star selection every year of his career except for 1951 and 1966. His offensive profile is almost unique, as he provided one of the best combinations of power and plate discipline in history. While he was not a stellar defensive outfielder, he was certainly adequate to good in center field, and his bat more than compensated for any lack of defensive excellence. Mantle's range factor was above-average over his career for an American League outfielder, but the data available from his era does not distinguish among left, center, and right fielders. Based on recent fielding data, his career range of 2.26 plays per game is somewhat low for a center fielder.
The Yankees experimented with Mantle as a shortstop and third baseman when he was young (his rookie year was at age 19) but the experiments didn't turn out well; he played seven major-league games at short, and one each at second and third base. For the last two seasons of his career, Mantle was moved to first base, where his production remained solid, albeit unspectacular.
Mantle's offensive profile resembles that of Ken Griffey, Jr. and Barry Bonds among contemporary players. There's not much of an argument for Mantle as the best ballplayer of all time; it's even debatable whether he was a more valuable center fielder than Willie Mays or Joe DiMaggio. Nonetheless, Mantle was a great ballplayer, among the greatest of all time both at his position and overall. He was a vital offensive cog in the Yankee dynasty of his career, played in twelve World Series, and won three MVP awards.
Mantle suffered from alcoholism and died at 64 of liver cirrhosis. This is, perhaps, a more common end for professional athletes of his era than we would like to acknowledge; it has received significant media attention because of Mantle's stature as a ballplayer. As a human being, I have insufficient data to judge him; as a baseball player, he was one of the best to play the game.
Sources: baseball-reference.com, The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract