August 4, 1899|
|Died: November 14, 1963
|April 18, 1926, for the St. Louis Browns|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 18, 1937, for the Boston Red Sox|
|Runs batted in||547|
Oscar Donald "Ski" Melillo (August 4, 1899 – November 14, 1963) was an American second baseman and coach in Major League Baseball. He briefly served as manager of the St. Louis Browns in 1938 and was also a member of the coaching staff for the Cleveland Indians' 1948 World Series championship team.
A native of Chicago Illinois, Melillo reached the majors in 1926 with the Browns, spending nine and a half years with them before moving to the Boston Red Sox (1935–37). Basically a line-drive hitter, he enjoyed a good year in 1929 ending with a .296 batting average in 141 games, hitting for the cycle on May 23. His most productive season came in 1931, when he hit .306 with five home runs, 88 runs, 189 hits, 34 doubles and 11 triples, all career numbers, while adding 75 runs batted in, a significant offensive contribution for a middle infielder of his era.
Listed at 5 feet 8 inches (173 cm) tall and 150 pounds (68 kg; 11 st), he batted and threw right-handed. A fine defensive second baseman, in 1930 Melillo handled 971 chances without committing an error (17 fewer that Nap Lajoie's 1908 MLB record). In 1933, he hit .292 with a career-high 79 RBI and posted a .991 fielding average that stood for more than 10 years.
In a 12-season career, Melillo was a .260 hitter (1,316-for-5,063) with 22 home runs and 548 RBI in 1,377 games, including 590 runs, 210 doubles, 64 triples, and 69 stolen bases.
Following his playing retirement, Melillo became a coach for the Browns in 1938. That season, he received his only chance to manage at the Major League level when he became a late-season replacement for Gabby Street. Melillo finished with a 2–7 mark (.222) as the Browns lost 97 games and placed seventh in the eight-team American League. He later served as a coach for the Indians under Oscar Vitt and Lou Boudreau (1939–40; 1942; 1945–48; 1950). After the 1947 season, he was dropped from Boudreau's coaching staff at the insistence of owner Bill Veeck. Melillo spent part of 1948 managing in the Indians' farm system, but returned to Cleveland to serve part of the year as an aide to Boudreau for Cleveland's 1948 world champions. After spending the 1949 season as a minor league manager, he coached under Boudreau in 1950, his final year with the Indians, then again with the Red Sox (1952–53) and Kansas City Athletics (1955–56).
Melillo died of a heart attack in his home city of Chicago at the age of 64.
- Nicknamed Ski and Spinach.
- Because his career and his life were threatened by Bright's disease, an often fatal kidney inflammation, Melillo immediately followed a doctor's advice and began a prescribed diet of spinach, and nothing but spinach, until cured.
- He also suffered from zoophobia, a generic term form the class of specific phobias to particular animals, including rabbits, birds and snakes. His animal phobia led to many pranks from both opposing players and teammates. It is chronicled in Elden Auker's book Sleeper Cars and Flannel Uniforms (ISBN 1-892049-25-2, 2001).
- Boudreau, Lou, and Schneider, Russell, Lou Boudreau: Covering All the Bases. Champaign, Illinois: Sagamore Publishing, 1993. Page 106.
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference
- The Deadball Era
- Roseland, Chicago Sports Hall of Fame