Mel Ott

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Mel Ott
MelOttGoudeycard.jpg
Right fielder
Born: (1909-03-02)March 2, 1909
Gretna, Louisiana
Died: November 21, 1958(1958-11-21) (aged 49)
New Orleans, Louisiana
Batted: Left Threw: Right
MLB debut
April 27, 1926 for the New York Giants
Last MLB appearance
July 11, 1947 for the New York Giants
Career statistics
Batting average .304
Hits 2,876
Home runs 511
Runs batted in 1,860
Teams

As player

As manager

Career highlights and awards
Induction 1951
Vote 87.2% (third ballot)

Melvin Thomas Ott (March 2, 1909 – November 21, 1958), nicknamed "Master Melvin", was a Major League Baseball right fielder. He played his entire career for the New York Giants (19261947). Ott was born in Gretna, Louisiana. He batted left-handed and threw right-handed. The first National League player to surpass 500 home runs, he was unusually slight of stature for a power hitter, at 5 feet 9 inches (1.75 m), 170 pounds (77 kg).[1]

Baseball career[edit]

In his 22-season career, Ott batted .304 with 511 home runs, 1,860 RBIs, 1,859 runs, 2,876 hits, 488 doubles, 72 triples, 89 stolen bases, a .414 on-base percentage and a .533 slugging average.

A power hitter[edit]

Ott was a six-time NL home run leader, in 1932, 1934, 1936–38, and 1942. From 1928 to 1945, he led the New York Giants in home runs. This 18-season consecutive dominance is a record; no other player has ever led his team in more consecutive years in a single Triple Crown category. He was both the youngest player to hit 100 home runs and the first National Leaguer to hit 500 home runs. He passed Rogers Hornsby to become the all-time NL home run leader in 1937 and held that title until Willie Mays passed him in 1966.

Ott's 1940 Play Ball baseball card

Because of his power hitting, he was noted for reaching base via the base on balls. He drew five walks in a game three times. He set the National League record for most walks in a doubleheader with six, on October 5, 1929 and did it again on April 30, 1944. He tied an MLB record by drawing a walk in seven consecutive plate appearances (June 16 through 18, 1943). He also led the NL in walks six times: in 1929, 1931–33, 1937 and 1942. He twice scored six runs in a game, on August 4, 1934 and on April 30, 1944. He is still the youngest major leaguer to ever hit for the cycle, which he accomplished on May 16, 1929. Ott was the first NL player to post eight consecutive 100-RBI seasons, and only Willie Mays, Sammy Sosa, Chipper Jones, and Albert Pujols have since joined him.

He used a batting style that was then considered unorthodox, lifting his forward (right) foot prior to impact. This style helped with his power hitting. More recent players who used a similar style include Harold Baines and Kirby Puckett, as well as the Japanese home run king, Sadaharu Oh.

In 1943, all of his 18 home runs came at home; only two others ever had a greater number of all-homefield home runs. Of Ott's 511 career home runs, 323 of them, or 63 percent, came at home. (Home Run Handbook, John Tattersall, 1975). Because of this, his home run record historically has been downplayed, suggesting that a 257-foot (78 m) foul line at the Polo Grounds resulted in higher numbers at home. As a balance, the Polo Grounds had the deepest power alleys in baseball. Also, he hit more career home runs in foreign stadiums than any other National League hitter at the time of his retirement. In some of his better seasons, he hit more homers on the road than in the Polo Grounds.

Though there may be reason to believe that he was a better hitter than his record holds due to differences in National League and American League ball specifications ("All too forgOtten" Steve Treder, October 2, 2007). Those differences are considered the most outstanding in the history of the game and made it considerably harder for National League hitters to achieve home runs.

During the prime of Ott's career, eleven seasons from 1931 through 1941, American League batters averaged 21% more home runs--peaking at 41% more home runs--than their National League counterparts. Babe Ruth and Jimmie Foxx, contemporaries, and both American League players, were the only batters to surpass Ott's record during this time.

Postseason play[edit]

He played in the World Series in 1933, 1936 and 1937, winning in 1933.

He hit two home runs during the 1933 series. In game 1, he had four hits, including a two-run home run in the first inning. In game 5, he drove in the series-winning run with two outs in the top of the 10th, driving a pitch into the center-field bleachers.

In the 1936 World Series, Ott had 7 hits and 1 home run. In 1937, he had 4 hits and 1 home run.

Managerial career[edit]

Ott managed the Giants from 1942 until being succeeded by Leo Durocher midway through the 1948 season. The Giants' best finish during that time was third place in 1942. It was in reference to Ott's supposedly easy-going managing style that then-Dodgers manager Durocher made the oft-quoted and somewhat out-of-context comment, "Nice guys finish last!" Ott was the first manager to be ejected from both games of a doubleheader, when the Giants lost both games to the Pittsburgh Pirates on June 9, 1946.[2]

Baseball honors[edit]

GiantsMel Ott.png
Mel Ott's number 4 was retired by the New York Giants in 1949.

He was selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1951 with 87% of the vote. His number "4" was also retired by the Giants in 1949, and it is posted on the facade of the upper deck in the left field corner of AT&T Park.

He was a 12-time M.L. All-Star, from 1934 to 1945. He was also named four times to the Major League All-Star Teams of The Sporting News, in 1934–36 and in 1938. He is one of only six NL players to spend a 20+ year career with one team (Cap Anson, Stan Musial, Willie Stargell, Tony Gwynn, and Craig Biggio being the others). In 1999, he ranked number 42 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, and he was a nominee for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.

Broadcasting career[edit]

Ott (left) in the broadcast booth with Van Patrick, 1957

After his playing career ended, Ott broadcast baseball on the Mutual radio network in 1955. From 1956 to 1958, Ott teamed with Van Patrick to broadcast the games of the Detroit Tigers on radio and television.

Death and legacy[edit]

Ott died in an auto accident in New Orleans in 1958; he was interred in Metairie Cemetery. Ott died in a similar manner to two other N.Y. Giant Hall of Famers: Frankie Frisch in 1973 and Carl Hubbell in 1988 (the latter 30 years to the day of Ott's death). Ott is remembered in his hometown of Gretna, where a park is named in his honor. Since 1959, the National League has honored the league's annual home run champion with the Mel Ott Award.[3][4] In the 1989 film Field of Dreams, Ott was one of several deceased players portrayed in farmer Ray Kinsella's Iowa cornfield. In 2006, Ott was featured on a U.S. postage stamp, as one of a block of four honoring "Baseball Sluggers" — the others being Mickey Mantle, Hank Greenberg, and Roy Campanella. In announcing the stamps, the U.S. Postal Service stated, "Remembered as powerful hitters who wowed fans with awesome and often record-breaking home runs, these four men were also versatile players who helped to lead their teams to victory and set impressive standards for subsequent generations".[5] Ott is also remembered in the name of the Little League of Amherst, New York. The Mel Ott Little League began in 1959, named for the recently deceased superstar.

Ott is mentioned in the poem "Line-Up for Yesterday" by Ogden Nash:

Line-Up for Yesterday

O is for Ott
Of the restless right foot.
When he leaned on the pellet,
The pellet stayed put.

Ogden Nash, Sport magazine (January 1949)[6]

Baseball records and accomplishments[edit]

Home runs[edit]

  • 6-time NL home run leader (1932, 1934, 1936–38, 1942)
  • Was the youngest player to hit 100 home runs and the first NL player to reach 500 home runs
  • Passed Rogers Hornsby to become the all-time NL home run leader in 1937 and held that title until Willie Mays passed him in 1966.
  • Holds major league record by leading his team 18 consecutive years in home runs (1928–1945)

Walks[edit]

  • Drew five walks in a game three times, and six walks in a doubleheader twice
  • Shares MLB record by drawing a walk in seven consecutive plate appearances (June 16 through 18, 1943)
  • Led NL in walks six times (1929, 1931–33, 1937, 1942)

Other offense[edit]

Defense[edit]

Overall[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Baseball-Reference.com
  2. ^ Pellowski, Michael J (2007). The Little Giant Book of Baseball Facts. United States: Sterling Publishing Co. p. 352. ISBN 9781402742736. 
  3. ^ "Baseball Quick Quiz". Baseball Digest 31 (12): 77. December 1972. Retrieved December 16, 2011. 
  4. ^ MacMullan, Jackie (October 17, 2002). "A bronze homage to Babe". The Boston Globe. p. E3. Retrieved November 8, 2011. "The National League honors its sluggers with (here's a trivia question for your next cocktail party) the Mel Ott Award, with about the same amount of fanfare as the AL." (subscription required)
  5. ^ "Baseball Sluggers". The 2006 Commemorative Stamp Program. USPS. 2005-11-30. Retrieved 2008-01-23. 
  6. ^ "Baseball Almanac". Retrieved 2008-01-23. 

External links[edit]