Mel Ott

Position: Outfielder
Teams: New York Giants, 1926-1947

Even in an era of great sluggers, Mel Ott stood out for his youth, his stance, and his consistent performance over nearly two decades.

Melvin Thomas Ott (1909-1958) was born in Gretna, Louisiana, and was a three-sport star at Gretna High. At age 16, Mel tried out for New Orleans in the Southern Association but was rejected as too small. He played semipro ball that summer for a team owned by Harry Williams, who was another in John McGraw’s vast scouting network.

Mel Ott set records for the most home runs and the highest slugging average for a third basemen.
Mel Ott set records for the most home
runs and the highest slugging
average for a third basemen.

Williams tipped McGraw, who gave Ott a tryout. Immediately impressed with his hitting ability, McGraw signed Ott despite the fact that Mel had an odd batting technique. McGraw refused to send him down to the minors to develop, fearing that a farm skipper would alter Ott’s stance, thereby “ruining” him. Under the wing of McGraw, who knew when to use the carrot as well as the stick, Ott emerged as a star.

Ott’s stance was one of the most unique in baseball. He lifted his front foot before swinging, his hands held low, almost below his belt. The result was a level swing with terrific power, amply announced in his first season as a regular, in 1929, when he hit 42 home runs with 152 RBI.

He also led the league with 113 walks, a sign of the discipline that would lead to a lifetime on-base average of .414. He was only 20 years old, and his youthful appearance and size (he was a compact 5' 7", 160 pounds) reinforced the impression of youth that was to stay with him throughout his career.

Ott was a fine outfielder with perhaps the best arm of his day. Though he was not slow he had a way of running on his heels that caused him some leg problems, but he managed to circle the bases 1,859 times, one of history’s highest totals. Ott did benefit greatly from his home park, hitting “only” 187 road homers -- out of 511 total.

Though he missed out on McGraw’s pennant-winning teams, he was a World Series hero when Bill Terry managed the club in 1933, hitting .389 with two homers, one winning the final game in the 10th inning. He returned to the Series twice more, coming up empty against the Yankees both times.

Mel became player-manager of the Giants in 1942 but failed to win a pennant. For a man known for his sweet disposition, he was a hard taskmaster as a manager, and helped the careers of such players as Johnny Mize. Ott was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1951.

Here are Mel Ott's major league totals:


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