Tuesday, December 21, 2010

#506 Sam Mele

#506 Sam Mele
So now we come to one of the best photos in the entire set, right alongside Bob Uecker's devilish grin and Casey Stengel's recumbent shrug. Sam Mele is not a household name, but this card assures his place in baseball history.

Fun facts about Sam Mele:

-Sabath Anthony Mele (he got the nickname "Sam" because of his initials) was born in Astoria, NY, and was a star basketball player at New York University. He served in World War II and then signed with the Red Sox in 1946.

-Sam spent only one season in the minors, leading the class A Eastern League with a .342 average and 18 triples for the Scranton Red Sox.

-As a rookie outfielder, he started alongside Ted Williams and Dom DiMaggio with the 1947 Red Sox, batting .302 with 12 home runs and 73 RBI.

-Following a trade to the Senators, Mele co-led the American League with 36 doubles in 1951. He also batted .274 and led the team with 94 RBI despite hitting only 5 homers.

-He also played for the White Sox, was the first starting left fielder for the Orioles, returned to the Red Sox, and finished his career with short stints in Cincinnati and Cleveland. In parts of 10 seasons (1947-1956) he hit .267 with 80 home runs and 544 RBI.

-A few years after retiring, Sam rejoined the Senators as a coach. When the club moved to Minnesota in 1961, he replaced manager Cookie Lavagetto on an interim basis in mid-June and was hired full-time shortly thereafter.

-With an influx of talented young players, Mele guided the Twins to a pair of 91-win seasons in 1962 and 1963. A tumble to sixth place (79-83) in 1964 led many to speculate that he would be replaced by new third base coach Billy Martin.

-The Twins retained their skipper for the 1965 season and it seemed to work out. They stormed to 102 wins, taking the American League pennant by a full seven games. Mele was named Manager of the Year as Minnesota took the pitching-rich Dodgers to the limit in the World Series before Sandy Koufax outdueled Jim Kaat in a 2-0 Game Seven.

-The cracks really began to show for Sam in 1966 as the Twins won 89 games and finished a distant second to the 97-win Orioles. The manager feuded with bullpen coach Hal Naragon and renowned pitching coach Johnny Sain, and both coaches were let go in October to the dismay of star pitcher Kaat. When the club got off to a 25-25 start in 1967, Mele was fired and replaced by minor league coach Cal Ermer.

-Mele stayed in baseball, working for the Red Sox as a scout for 25 years. He is now 88 years old and still kicking in Quincy, MA.
#506 Sam Mele (back)

3 comments:

  1. Still living WOW. Good for him! He has to be the last manager from this era still alive. The last few nights I've reading "We're going to Twins" and talks alot about the manager issues. Mele was well liked but Billy Martin presence as manager heir apparent was always there.

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  2. Anon - With guys like Walt Dropo and Bob Feller passing in the last week, Sam is getting close to being the oldest living player as well.

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  3. I should proofread...The book is We're going to WIN Twins (after the twins fight song) I love the posing in the picture. Calvin Griffin was so cheap I'm surprised he didn't order Sam to write "Call out for Hamm's Beer" on his hand in magic marker to make an extra buck.

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