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Mel Ott
#4 | Right Fielder | San Francisco Giants/New York Giants


Melvin Thomas Ott: "Master Melvin," ""Mr. McGraw's Boy"

     Demurely charming, the Louisiana native with the odd batting stance was the object of Leo Durocher's famous jibe: "Nice guys finish last."  (Durocher, then the Dodger manager, actually said, "Do you know a nicer guy than Mel Ott? Or any other Giants? The nice guys over there are in last place!"  Durocher replaced Ott the next season, 1948.)

 

     By stepping high (the classic "foot in the bucket," much like Al Simmons), then shifting his weight forward and snapping his bat from low to high in an almost vertical swing, he constructed the kind of batting stance that gives hitting coaches nightmares.

 

     Yet, it worked for him - a New York Giants hero for 22 seasons, Ott set NL marks for home runs (511, which held up for 20 years until Willie Mays passed him) and walks (1,708 - Joe Morgan passed him in 1982).  He is eighth among all major league players with 1,860 career RBI, and ninth with 1,859 runs scored.

 

     A power hitter with a discerning batting eye, his lifetime on-base average of .414 is 24th all time.  He hit 30 or more in a season eight times and winning or sharing home run honors on six occasions; he led the league in runs created 3 times and in runs created per 27 outs 6 times.  He finished in the top five in both slugging percentage and on-base average 11 times each - a feat matched only by Rogers Hornsby, Babe Ruth, Stan Musial, Ty Cobb, Frank Robinson, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, and Jimmie Foxx.

 

     Swinging or walking, Ott confounded opposing pitchers (he called those whom he handled best his "cousins").  He became a favorite of Giants manager John McGraw, who didn't want his swing tampered with, and who protected him from excessive needling.  Ott joined the Giants at the tender age of 17, and for two years, Ott was planted on the bench next to his tutor, who didn't want the youngster sitting with any of the veteran ballplayers.

     Dubbed "Master Melvin" by New York writers when he became a regular at age nineteen, Ott had career highs of 42 HR and 151 RBI the following year, 1929, when he led the league in walks for the first of six times.

 

     When Giant owner Horace Stoneham and manager Bill Terry decided it was time for Terry to step up to the front office, Ott was their only choice as field leader. Ill prepared, he became player-manager in 1942.  The Giants' third-place finish that year was their highest under Ott.  If not for his winning personality, his losing management style would have cost him his job long before his departure in 1948. Normally mild-mannered, he suffered the Giants' poor play with outbursts stemming from frustration.  He levied numerous player fines and made public criticisms of the team's performance.  It is said he acted out of character those first few years, trying to explode his "shy and retiring" image.  In 1946 he became the first manager to be thrown out of both games of a doubleheader.

 

"I can't name a player who has exerted as strong an influence upon so many games as Mel ... and 

players I talk to express the same thought."

Willie Mays

 

"Just keep swinging that way, son."

Willie Mays

 

 


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