Born 101 years ago today, Mel Ott was one of the greatest and most beloved New York Giants of all time.
As an undersized, 16 year old hitting sensation, Ott caught the eye of then Giant manager John McGraw. McGraw saw something special in the 5'9", 170 pound catcher with an unorthodox batting style and blazing speed. McGraw signed the teenager from Gretna, Louisiana, sat him at his side and taught him the ins and outs of the big leagues. He could see that Ott was too small to be an everyday catcher so McGraw wisely moved him to right field. At the age of 17, in 1926, Mel appeared in 35 games, hitting .383 in 60 plate appearances.
In 1927 his playing time increased to 82 games and the rest, as they say, is history. In his first full season as a starter, Mel hit .322 which was the first of ten seasons where he would average at least .300. His lifetime batting average ended up at .304 and he twice led the league in on base percentage (1930 & 1932). In 1945 Mel became the first man in National League history to hit 500 home runs. He finished his career with 511 career home runs.
In the field Ott had a rifle arm, superior speed and an amazing knack for playing balls off of the caroms of the Polo Grounds walls. Throughout his playing career he was widely recognized as the premier right fielder in the National League. In both 1929 and 1935 he led NL outfielders in double plays.
Master Mel became the Giants player/manager in 1942 and held those positions through the 1947 season. The Mel Ott led Giants had their best finish in 1942, ending the season in third place. In what is perhaps a reflection of Mel’s mild mannered managerial style, Dodgers coach Leo Durocher said of Ott, “nice guys finish last.”
Mel’s playing days were over after the 1947 season and his managerial duties ended in 1948. His post playing days were centered around baseball as a broadcaster for the Mutual Broadcasting System and the Detroit Tigers. The Giants retired his #4 in 1949 and in 1951 Mel Ott was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Melvin Thomas Ott was killed in an automobile accident in November of 1958 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Happy 101st birthday to one of the greatest hitters and all time good guys in baseball.
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In the late 1940's and into the 50's, the New York Football Giants were struggling financially. They desperately needed to put more bodies in the seats. The team they were putting on the field was okay, but that didn't seem to be the problem. So maybe it was the stadium. The Polo Grounds, where they were playing their home games, was not bringing in the clientele that the Giants felt they needed to survive. They were looking for the corporate folks, the big spenders, the in crowd.
The phone call that would ultimately turn the franchise around came in 1955. NFL Commissioner Bert Bell called Giants owner Tim Mara with news that he had a million dollar offer from an oil mogul to buy the Giants. The only condition on this deal was that the team had to move from the Polo Grounds to Yankee Stadium. The Mara family didn't want to sell, but $1 million was difficult to reject. After much debate Wellington Mara had a revelation - if the Giants are worth $1 million in Yankee Stadium, let's move to Yankee Stadium without selling. So Mara rejected the offer and on January 27, 1956 a deal was finalized to move the Giants to a new home.
Yankee Stadium in the foreground, Polo Grounds in the background
The first game at Yankee Stadium was a win against the Pittsburgh Steelers on October 21, 1956. The crowds came as expected. Their new home was a hit. In fact, it was such a hit that the Giants went on to win the 1956 NFL Championship.
Football in Yankee Stadium
Since that time the Giants have moved to the Meadwolands Complex in New Jersey and another move is coming this year. Anyone think a new stadium bring luck to the 2010 New York Football Giants?
It's got to be one of the most unique patches to ever grace a team uniform. It's certainly the one that we are asked about most frequently. It's the NY Giants "Spider" patch of course.
Carl Ford Lockhart played college football at North Texas University. The long and lean defensive back was drafted by the New York Giants in the thirteenth round of the 1965 draft. Upon his arrival at Giants training camp, Emlen Tunnell, the Giants defensive backs coach, gave Carl the nickname Spider. The popular and talented Spider spent his entire ten year career with the Giants. He was a Pro Bowler in 1966 and 1968 and led the league in defensive tds in '68.
Spider retired from football in 1975 at 32. On July 9, 1986, at the age of 43, which was also his uniform number, Spider succombed to cancer. In his honor, the "Spider patch" was worn by the Giants throughout the Super Bowl winning 1986 season.
So now you know.
With all the talk about today being the 40th anniversary of the Eagle landing on the moon, we wondered how the world of baseball reacted on July 20, 1969. The coolest story we found might turn out to be a legend, but we'd like to think there's some truth to it.
Legend has it that former SF Giants manager Alvin Dark once claimed that a man would land on the moon before Gaylord Perry would hit a home run. Well on July 20, 1969, hours after Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, Perry hit a home run. There are a lot of questions surrounding when that statement was actually made and who said it, but we can at least verify that Perry did hit his first home run on that date.
Check out this link for more details: http://www.snopes.com/sports/baseball/perry.asp