In the 1960s, the likelihood of taking at least one photograph of Mickey Mantle ripping — or pretending to rip — a fart during spring training was, evidently, quite high. Perhaps LIFE magazine's editors weren't aware of this, because in February 1961 they handed 25-year-old shortstop Tony Kubek a professional-grade camera and set him loose on his teammates.
The results were (unsurprisingly) lighthearted and, in their own way, quite revealing, with the likes of Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Roger Maris, Elston Howard and other pinstriped legends blithely clowning in front of the lens, each in his own singular way. None of the photos, however, ended up running in LIFE — and a memo sent from Florida to the magazine's editors by Bob Fellows, a LIFE reporter who accompanied Kubek to Florida, offers a plausible reason why the pictures were never published. While the players "hammed it up wonderfully for Kubek's camera," Fellows wrote, "the grisly business" of photographing ballplayers who had better things to do than pose for pictures ultimately torpedoed the endeavor. In the end, the editors deemed Kubek's photos unworthy of printing in the long-running, storied weekly.
Poppycock! Fifty-odd years later, here they are. Kubek (a supremely cool individual and the 2009 Ford C. Frick Award honoree) was gracious enough to chat with LIFE.com about those photos, his old teammates and the ever-diminishing appeal of hearing oneself talk.
Ben Cosgrove is the editor of LIFE.com. Picture This is his weekly (and occasionally more frequent) feature for The Stacks.
Photo Credit: Tony Kubek—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images