Transplant experts say public awareness of the need for organ donors increased dramatically as a result of Mickey Mantle's liver transplant.
"Mick has done more good for organ donations than probably anybody else ever has. This may become Mickey's ultimate home run," said Dr. Goran Klintmalm, head of the transplant program at Baylor University Medical Center, where Mantle received a new liver June 8."Don't let Mick's untimely death deter from this enormous impact he's had on his fellow man," he said.
Mantle died Sunday from cancer that had aggressively spread from his old liver to other organs.
The Southwest Organ Bank in Dallas saw requests for organ donor cards go from about 12 per week to more than 700 a week after Mantle's operation.
"We've sent out thousands" of donor cards since Mantle's transplant, said Alison Smith, director of the organ bank, which found Mantle's new liver.
"There is no other event that has occurred that would explain the increased interest. His legacy is that he has increased awareness for the need for organ donors. It's been a very positive experience for us."
The Delaware Valley Transplant Program in Philadelphia also saw an increase, although not as marked, director Howard Nathan said.
"We on average distribute 150 to 200 (donor cards) a month," he said. "In June, it went up to 350. We also had the highest number of (organ) donations in one month that we've ever had, and we think that (Mantle's case) had a lot to do with it."
About 10,000 donor cards were passed out at an event related to the All-Star game July 11.
At his last public appearance that same day, Mantle said he wanted to live long enough to help raise awareness of the need for organ donations.
"If you want to do something great, be a donor," he said.
Roy True, Mantle's longtime friend and adviser, said he will lead an effort to establish The Mickey Mantle Foundation, which Mantle said he wanted started to increase awareness of the need for organ donors.
"We've got an awful lot of work to do, but we're going to try to make Mickey's wish come true," True said.
Mantle, however, was unable to donate any organs.
"A patient with the metastatic, widespread cancer he had would not be an organ donor," Klintmalm said. "His family asked about it."
In a 1993 Gallup poll, 93 percent of Americans asked said they would donate a deceased relative's organs or tissues if that person had expressed that wish before death. Sixty-nine percent said they would be willing to donate their own organs. Yet thousands die each year waiting for organs.