Tagged: Red Sox

Doug Wilson’s Latest Baseball Bio Focuses on Fisk

Fisk75WorldSeries

By Glen Sparks

Tomorrow, I’ll be posting the first of my two-part interview with author Doug Wilson. Doug’s latest book is Pudge, a biography of Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk. He also has written books on third baseman Brooks Robinson, pitching phenom Mark Fidrych and the late manager Fred Hutchinson. Doug’s last two books have been named finalists for the Seymour Medal and the Casey Award as the best baseball books of the year. He has spoken at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., as part of their authors series and is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR). Doug and his wife, Kathy, have raised three children and live in Columbus, Ind. Visit his web site at http://dougwilsonbaseball.blogspot.com/.

“Fred Snodgrass, 86, dead. Ball Player Muffed 1912 Fly.”

Fred Snodgrass

Fred Snodgrass

By Glen Sparks

Fred Snodgrass died a successful businessman on April 5, 1974, in Ventura, Calif. The New York Times really let him have it in the obit: “Fred Snodgrass, 86, dead. Ball Player Muffed 1912 Fly.”

Snodgrass, born on Oct. 19, 1887, played nine years in the big leagues, mostly with the New York Giants. He hit .275 over his career, with a .367 on-base percentage. Fleet afoot, Snodgrass stole 212 bases. He played in three World Series.

The center-fielder is most remembered for one play, the aforementioned “muffed” one. It all went down in the final game of the 1912 Series against the Boston Red Sox. Snodgrass, not yet 25 years old, was in his third full season in the big leagues.

Giants manager John McGraw discovered Snodgrass in the spring of 1907. McGraw’s ballclub had set up spring training in Los Angeles. Snodgrass was playing for St. Vincent’s College, the school now known as Loyola Marymount University.

Impressed with the young ballplayer’s talent and spunk, McGraw signed Snodgrass to a contract. At first a catcher, Snodgrass later settled in as an outfielder, in large part because of his blazing speed. Snodgrass played in six games for the Giants in 1908 and 28 games in ’09.

The right-handed hitter earned a regular job in 1910 and batted what would be a career high, .321. He followed that up by hitting .294 in 1911. His average went down again, to .269, in 1912. He still stole 43 bases, giving him 127 in his first three full seasons.

The 1912 Giants won their second straight National League pennant. They finished 103-48, 10 games in front of the second-place Pittsburgh Pirates. They had compiled a 99-54 record in 1911 and lost the World Series in six games to the Philadelphia A’s.

These were the Giant teams of Christy Mathewson and Rube Marquard, of Chief Meyers and Larry Doyle. McGraw, the great taciturn man from nearby Truxton, N.Y., known by many as “Little Napoleon,” led this group.

New York and Boston were tied 3-3-1 after seven games in 1912 World Series. (The umpires called Game 2 on account of darkness with the score tied 6-6 after 11 innings.) Fenway Park was half full for the deciding match-up. New York scored a run in the third inning, and Boston plated one in the seventh. The game was tied 1-1 after nine.

Red Murray doubled for New York in the top of the 10th. Fred Merkle (yes, that Fred Merkle) singled him home. The Giants were now up 2-1.

Clyde Engle led off the bottom of the 10th for Boston with a fairly routine fly ball to center field. Snodgrass camped underneath the ball, stood ready to catch it and … watched as it dribbled off his glove and to the ground. The Red Sox now had a runner on first.

Snodgrass made an excellent running catch on the next play, a line shot from Harry Hooper. Engle, though, tagged and sprinted to second base. Mathewson then walked Steve Yerkes.

The great Tris Speaker, batting next, lifted a pop up. Several Giants players converged onto the scene, but no one caught the ball as it bounced in foul territory. Speaker, given another chance, hit a single to score Engle and advance Yerkes to third. Mathewson waked Duffy Lewis to load the bases.

Larry Gardner ended the game and the Series with a one-out sacrifice fly to bring home Yerkes.

Afterward, Snodgrass said, “It (the ball) just dropped out of the glove.” Some baseball people began calling Snodgrass’s error, “the $30,000 muff,” in reference to the approximate difference between the total winning and losing teams in the Series.

McGraw, though, didn’t blame Snodgrass for the Series loss. In fact, he supposedly gave his maligned player a $1,000 raise in 1913. Snodgrass hit .291 in ’13, and the Giants went to the World Series for the third straight season. Once again, they lost, to the A’s for the second time in three years.

Snodgrass played for McGraw and New York until being traded mid-way through the 1915 campaign. He retired after the 1916 season.

Returning to California, the former player began a second career as a banker. He also served for a time as mayor of Oxnard, Calif. Later, he grew lemons and walnuts on his ranch in Ventura.

Snodgrass was one of the players profiled by Lawrence S. Ritter in his wonderful book, The Glory of Their Times. In it, Snodgrass mentions that even 50 years after “the play,” he’d be introduced as the guy who dropped an easy fly ball in the World Series. The cutting comments didn’t bother him. “If I had a chance, I’d gladly do it all over again,” he said, “every bit of it.”

Which Boston Red Sox …?

He is the answer to No. 3.

He is the answer to No. 3.

By Glen Sparks

They are the team of The Nation and The Monster. They play in historic Fenway Park, in the same place Cy Young and Babe Ruth played and Ted Williams played and David Ortiz, “Big Papi”, plays today. They were the Boston American first, from 1901-1907, and the Red Sox ever since. They have won 13 pennants and eight World Series titles, most recently in 2013. Good luck with the quiz.

  1. Which Boston Americans/Red Sox pitcher led the American League in wins from 1901-1903, going a combined 93-30?
  2. Which Boston Americans outfielder was the first player to hit two home runs in a modern World Series game?
  3. Which outfielder broke in with the Boston Americans and was nicknamed “The Grey Eagle”? He batted .345 over his long career, with 3,515 hits.
  4. Which Red Sox pitcher went an amazing 34-5 in 1912 with a 1.91 ERA and 258 strikeouts?
  5. Which Red Sox pitcher walked one batter on June 23, 1917?
  6. Which Red Sox pitcher retired 26 straight batters on June 23, 1917?
  7. Which Red Sox slugger belted 50 home runs in 1938, a team record that would stand for 68 years?
  8. Which Red Sox great hit just .254 in 1959, 63 points below his previous season-ending low?
  9. Which Red Sox outfielder played on four national championship teams at USC and led Boston to the 1975 World Series?
  10. Which Red Sox Hall of Famer is that team’s oldest living player, the oldest living Hall of Famer and the last man alive to play in the major leagues during the 1930s?
    • Cy Young broke in with the Cleveland Spiders in 1900. He spent nine seasons by Lake Erie, went to St. Louis for two years and pitched eight years in Boston before going back to Cleveland. He won 511 games in his 22-year career.
    • Patsy Dougherty only hit 17 regular-season home runs in a 10-year career. He did, however, belt two in Game 2 of the 1903 World Series. The Americans beat the Pittsburgh Alleganies 5 games to 3 in a best-of-nine affair.
    • Tristram “Tris” Speaker, from Hubbard, Texas, spent nine seasons in Boston (1907-15) before going to Cleveland. He remains fifth on the all-time hits list and six on the all-time batting average list.
    • Smoky” Joe Wood came up with Boston as a hard-throwing right-hander. He was never better than he was in 1912. Wood went 117-57 as a pitcher in his career, but switched to the outfield in 1918 after suffering an injury . “Smoky” Joe later served as head baseball coach at Yale University for several years.
    • Babe Ruth, the greatest slugger of all-time, came up to big leagues as a hard-throwing left-hander. On June 23, 1917, in a road game against the Washington Senators, Ruth walked lead-off batter Ray Morgan on four pitches. The Babe proceeded to throw a punch at the umpire and was ejected.
    • Ernie Shore entered the game in relief of Ruth. The runner on base was caught trying to steal, and Shore mowed down the rest of the Washington hitters in order. Shore compiled a 65-43 won-loss mark over seven seasons as a journeyman pitcher.
    • Jimmie Foxx—“Double X”—slammed 534 home runs in his career, 222 of them during his seven years in Boston. He hit 50 in 1938, although he did not lead the league. (He was second. Hank Greenberg hit 58 for the Detroit Tigers.) He did finish first in RBI (175), batting average (.349), slugging percentage (.704) and several other categories. David Ortiz passed Foxx on the team’s single-season home run list in 2006 with 54.
    • Ted Williams batted .344 lifetime. He won six batting titles in his career, including ones in 1957 and 1958 before slumping to .254 at the age of 40. Teddy Ballgame rebounded and hit .316 in 1960 before retiring.
    • Fred Lynn played on the 1972 USC football team that won the national championship and the 1971-73 Trojan baseball teams that won titles. The Red Sox drafted Lynn in the second round of the 1973 draft. He hit .419 in 43 at-bats during a late-season call-up in 1974 and won the MVP in ’75. Lynn made nine All-Star teams, six with the Red Sox. He hit a memorable grand slam as an Angel in the 1983 game.
    • Bobby Doerr, born April 7, 1918, in Los Angeles, is 97 years old and counting. A second baseman and life-long Red Sox player (1937-44, 46-51), batted .288 with 223 home runs. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986.

“King” Kelly Ruled the Baseball World

KingkellyphotoBy Glen Sparks

Michael “King” Kelly drank whiskey and hit line drives.

He befriended bartenders and strangers. The son of Irish immigrants closed saloons and invented the hookslide. He swore off drinking a thousand times and led the National League in batting average twice.

Kelly, born Dec. 31, 1857, grew up in Troy, N.Y., the son of Michael Sr. and Catherine, who had fled Ireland and that country’s terrible potato famine in the 1840s.

The elder Kelly marched off in 1862 with a volunteer Union regiment out of Troy. Unscathed in war, he fell ill not long after the final battle had ended. Michael Sr. died in Patterson, N.J.; Catherine passed away a few years later.

Young Michael took a job in a coal factory and began playing baseball on some of the top teams in Patterson, an early baseball hotbed. At age 15, he joined a team led by “Blondie” Purcell. That squad, featuring pitchers Jim McCormick and Edward Nolan (the “Only” Nolan, he was so good), dominated local clubs.

KingKelly11FreeBig-league scouts started looking at Kelly. The Cincinnati Red Stockings signed him to a deal. He enjoyed his first big year in 1879. Besides finishing third in the National League with a .348 batting average, he also ended up third in hits (120) and triples (12) and fourth in runs scored (78).

Cincinnati didn’t enjoy quite the same success that Kelly did. The team lost thousands of dollars, and owner J. Wayne Neff let go of all his players. Kelly signed with the Chicago White Stockings, the forerunner of the Cubs.

The man with the big, thick mustache and the shock of red hair spent the next seven seasons in Chicago. He led the league in runs scored three times and in doubles twice. In 1884, Kelly topped the N.L. with a .354 batting average. He topped the league again in 1886, this time with a .388 average. Now a superstar, the versatile Kelly played mostly catcher and in the outfield. He also helped out in the infield if needed.

After losing to the St. Louis Browns (actually, the forerunner of the Cardinals, not the future A.L. club) of the American Association in the 1886 World Series, the White Stockings owners sold off some of their top players. The Boston Beaneaters (forerunner of the Red Sox) hired Kelly to be player/manager. He was still a good player, he was Irish, and this was Boston.

The affable Kelly stayed a Beaneater for three seasons, but he managed the team only during that initial campaign. He went from there to the Boston Reds (The Players League, 1890), then to the Cincinnati Kelly’s Killers (the American Association, 1891), back to the Boston Reds (1891), then back to the Beaneaters and (1891-92) and, finally, to the New York Giants (1893) before hanging it up.

Kelly retired with a .308 batting average (.368 on-base percentage), 69 home runs and 950 RBI. He also scored 1,357 runs and finished with 368 stolen bases (Steals did not become an official stat until 1886, several years into Kelly’s career. He swiped a career-high 84 bases in 1887.)

But, Kelly’s career was more interesting than those numbers. As mentioned, he supposedly came up with the feet-first hook slide to avoid being tagged out. He often “cut” bases, rounding them without actually touching them. Sometimes, he got away with the trickery, sometimes an attentive umpire called him out.

According to some, while in the outfield, he’d stick an extra ball into his pocket. If a batter whacked a pitch over the fence, Kelly would take the ball from his pocket and swear that it was indeed the batted ball. While catching, Kelly liked to throw down his mask in front of the runner and prevent him from touching home plate. At bat, Kelly learned how to foul off pitch after pitch, wearing out the hurler and, he hoped, drawing a walk.

Not only Kelly did excel on the field. He also performed on stage, touring with a vaudeville troupe in the offseason, often reciting the popular poem “Casey at the Bat.” The 1889 hit song “Slide, Kelly, Slide” proclaimed the ballplayer’s prowess on the bases and, much later, inspired a film short. Some experts call his book Play Ball, published in 1888, the first baseball autobiography.

Kelly made a lot of money, and he spent it all. He liked people, people liked him, and, as they liked to say, “hey, bartender, the next round’s on me.” He couldn’t, or wouldn’t, stop drinking, no matter how many people pleaded with him. Kelly also liked to hang out at the track, and, hey, why not put down a bet or two? By time he retired, he was broke. “Mike was a friend to everyone except himself,” someone once said.

“King” Kelly died Nov. 8, 1894, just one year after quitting baseball. He contracted pneumonia in Boston, supposedly catching cold after giving another man his overcoat during a snowstorm. They played “Nothing Is Too Good for the Irish” and “Poor Mick” at the wake. Years later, his widow, Aggie, said “Mike was just an overgrown kid.”

Kelly was voted posthumously into the Hall of Fame in 1945.

The Tale of Two Reggies, Jackson and Smith

Reggie Jackson blasts another one.

Reggie Jackson blasts another one.

By Glen Sparks

Jackson or Smith, who was the better Reggie?

You probably know more about Reginald Martinez Jackson, born May 18, 1946, in Wyncote, Pa., near Philadelphia. He rarely lacked for attention, and he truly did spectacular, front-page, “the straw that stirs the drink” sort of stuff during his 21-year career. Before retiring following the 1987 season, Jackson hit 563 home runs and led the American League four times.

At the 1970 All-Star game in Detroit, the left-handed slugger rocketed a Dock Ellis pitch into a light-standard atop Tiger Stadium in right-field, 520 feet from home plate. He led the Oakland A’s to three World Series titles and the New York Yankees to two. In 1977, “Mr. October” blasted three home runs on three straight pitches in Game Six against the Los Angeles Dodgers (off Burt Hooton, Elias Sosa and Charlie Hough, in that order.)

Jackson made 14 All-Star teams and the writers, as they should have, elected him to the Hall of Fame in 1993, in his first year on the ballot. As much as anyone, he was the face of Major League Baseball in the 1970s.

Now, about that “the straw that stirs the drink” thing. He supposedly said that to sportswriter Dave Anderson in July of 1977, to the dismay of teammate Thurman Munson and others. Braggadocio and Reggie Jackson frequently knocked around together. Of course, Jackson did back it up more often than not. He once said that if he played in New York City, they’d name a candy bar after him. He did, and they did. (Catfish Hunter, a cut-up, said this about the Reggie Bar: “I unwrapped it, and it told me how good it was.”)

Jackson liked to take a mighty cut and frequently tied himself into a knot after missing a pitch badly. He struck out 2,596 times, more than anyone in the game’s history. He actually finished with 13 more K’s than hits. No. 44 accumulated 76.6 oWAR points but finished 17.2 points in the hole on dWAR.

One of the great scenes in the Bronx Zoo era of Yankee baseball happened June 18, 1977, during a Saturday afternoon nationally televised game versus the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Jim Rice hit a ball to shallow right field. Jackson jogged in to field it and Rice, hardly a speed burner, ended up on second base. A furious New York skipper, Billy Martin, yanked Reggie from the game. The NBC cameras caught the whole dugout rhubarb on videotape.

“The best thing about being a Yankee is getting to see Reggie Jackson play every day. … The worst thing about being a Yankee is getting to see Reggie Jackson play every day.” – Graig Nettles

The “Other” Reggie

Carl Reginald Smith, born April 2, 1945, in Shreveport, La., grew up in Compton, a working-class suburb of Los Angeles. He played on four Major League teams (the same number as Jackson) and one in Japan, the Yomiuri Giants, in the same era as the more famous Reggie.

Smith belted 314 home runs during a 17-year career, or 249 fewer than Jackson. He drove in 1,092 runs, or 610 fewer than Jackson. Yes, so far, this comparison seems awfully lopsided in favor of Reggie J.

But, let’s move on. Smith batted .287 to Jackson’s .262. His on-base percentage also beat out Jackson, .366 to .356. And, even though Jackson did out-homer Smith by a wide margin, he topped Smith in slugging percentage by just one point, .490 to .489, and in OPS+ by only two, 139 to 137.

Paul Haddad, author of High Fives, Pennant Drives, and Fernandomania, did an interesting comparison of Smith and Jackson. Over a 162-game average over their careers, the numbers look like this: Jackson: 32 home runs, 98 RBI, 89 runs scored, 27 doubles, 79 walks and 149 strikeouts. Smith: 26 home runs, 89 RBI, 92 runs scored, 30 doubles, 73 walks and 84 strikeouts. Wow, pretty close.

On defense, it isn’t even close. Smith won one Gold Glove, probably could have won another, had a great arm and finished with 2.6 dWAR points. (Jackson accumulated 76.6 oWAR points to 55.9 for Smith, which seems like a greater margin than it should be. Even so Smith’s figure is 5.6 points higher than Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda and 7.4 points than inductee Lou Brock.)

What might the difference be? For one, Smith didn’t last as long as Jackson. He retired, or, rather, left for Japan after the 1982 season. (It should be said that he clearly had something left in the tank. He hit .284 in ’82 for the San Francisco Giants and belted 18 homers in only 349 at-bats.) It didn’t help that Smith also suffered some serious injuries late in his career, missing chunks of the 1979-81 seasons.

Jackson won the MVP in 1973 with Oakland and finished in the top five two other times with the A’s and once with the Yankees. Smith finished fourth in the balloting with the Dodgers in 1977 and 1978.

Of course, Jackson lit up the postseason, as mentioned earlier. He hit 18 home runs in 77 playoff and World Series games. Smith hit six in 32.

Reggie Smith also didn’t lit up any reporter’s pens with his electrifying quotes. The man who made seven All-Star teams once said, according to Haddad, “I don’t concern myself with what people say about Reggie Smith.”

Smith stayed on the Hall of Fame ballot for one year, 1988. He grabbed 0.7 of the vote, and that was that. He subsequently did some coaching for the Dodgers and now runs youth baseball academies in the L.A. area.

Bill James rated Jackson as the seventh best right-fielder in baseball history in his 2003 Historical Baseball Abstract. He rated Smith the 20th best but gives him his due, even comparing him with Jackson. He calls him “almost as good, not quite.”

That seems fair. Smith didn’t always do the spectacular stuff that Jackson often did. He was a steady player, though, a complete player, and a very good player.

Williams Owned the ’41 All-Star Game

TedWilliamsFree

By Glen Sparks

Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams co-owned the 1941 baseball season.

DiMaggio, the regal center-fielder for the New York Yankees, hit in 56 straight games in ’41, from May 15 through July 16. Since then, only the Cincinnati Reds’ Pete Rose has gotten within two weeks of that run to immortality, a 44-game dash in 1978.

The Yankee Clipper batted .357 in 1941 with a .440 on-base percentage, 30 home runs and 125 RBI. He led the Yankees to 101 wins, the American League pennant and, in the end, a World Series title following a five-game series against the Brooklyn Dodgers.

A few hours up the Atlantic coast, Williams put together an incredible year for the Boston Red Sox. The high-strung left-fielder, dedicated since his San Diego childhood to making himself, in his own words, “the greatest hitter who ever lived,” crushed A.L. pitching, good and bad. He ended the season at .406, the last man to reach that lofty, almost heavenly, .400 mark.

The lanky Teddy Ballgame, just 23 years old and in only his third Major League season, belted 37 home runs to lead the league and drove in 120, fourth best. He topped everyone else, even the great DiMaggio, in on-base percentage (.553), slugging percentage (.735), runs scored (135) and walks (147).

The Red Sox, though, still an also-ran and not yet the hipster unit of more recent times, finished in second place, a respectable 84-70 but 17 games behind the mighty “Yankees of New York,” as the great fisherman Santiago called them in The Old Man and the Sea.

Not surprisingly, especially for that time, the baseball writers voted DiMaggio the American League MVP. Williams, who settled for second place in the standings, also settled for second place in the race for baseball’s top award.

I wrote a post on Jan. 22 that goes into more detail about DiMaggio and Williams in that season of ’41, including a comparison of each batter during Joe D’s legendary streak. You can go back and check it out. (By the way, not getting the MVP didn’t bother Williams, at least publically. He probably expected it and said something like, “Yeah, well, it took the big guy to beat me.” In that sorta John Wayne-type drawl of his.)

The Biggest Thrill

On this particular date in 1941, though, Teddy Ballgame got the best of everyone. He grabbed the headlines and the glory. And DiMaggio went 1-4. On this day, Joe and Ted weren’t even rivals; they were teammates.

Briggs Stadium in Detroit hosted the All-Star game that year on July 8. More than 54,000 fans packed the park on a sunny day in the Motor City. Whit Wyatt, enjoying a big year with the Dodgers, started for the National League. Future Hall of Famer Bob Feller, ace of the Cleveland Indians, started for the American League.

Back then, the All-Star game was a big deal. Oh, sure, now it—what?—”means” something, or something like that. The outcomes decides which league gets the home-field advantage in the World Series. Everyone hates this idea.

But, back in the day, the All-Star game really did mean something. The players played for pride. Which was the superior league? A.L. or N.L.? As Leigh Montville writes in his biography of Ted Williams, the Mid-Summer Classic was the second-biggest deal in baseball, right behind the World Series.

Williams hit fourth in the starting line-up for the American League, right behind DiMaggio. They both played the whole game. Because this one meant something. Pete Reiser, Arky Vaughn and Terry Moore went the whole way for the National League.

The A.L. broke out on top 1-0 in the fourth inning on Williams’ double. The National League held a 5-3 advantage going into the bottom of the ninth. Williams came to bat with two out, two men on base and one run in. On the mound was Claude Passeau, a right-hander with the Chicago Cubs.

The count at two balls and one strike, Passeau came in with a slider. Williams swung, a home-run swing, as he recalled in his autobiography My Turn at Bat. The ball sailed into right field, but Williams thought at first that he had missed the pitch. He figured it would go for a lazy fly out. It kept going and going and going, though, and Williams began leaping and smiling.

He clapped, and he broke into a big smile as the ball sailed out of the park for a glorious walk-off home run. Afterward, Williams said over and over that it was his “biggest thrill.” In the caption section of My Turn at Bat, a picture shows Williams crossing the plate with that big grin on his face, greeting teammates. He writes that “I had my biggest single thrill in baseball: the home run that won the All-Star game.”

Williams and DiMaggio co-owned the 1941 season. Williams owned the 1941 All-Star game.

Mel Almada Never Made It as an Inside Man

Mel Almada hit .284 in his six-year big-league career with the Red Sox and three other teams.

Mel Almada hit .284 in his six-year big-league career with the Red Sox and three other teams.

By Glen Sparks

Mel Almada hated the inside pitch. He knew, just knew, that every fastball fired at his hands, hurled near his shoulders, and, yes, sometimes whipped close to his head, was a pitch thrown with hateful intent.

“They’re throwing at me because I’m Mexican!” Almada insisted, according to a SABR biographical article written by Bill Nowlin.

Baldomero Almada Jr., also known as “Melo,” or just “Mel,” was born in Sonora, Mexico, on Feb. 7, 1913. He was the first Mexican-born player to make it to the majors. Over seven seasons, from 1933-39, with the Boston Red Sox, Washington Senators, St. Louis Browns and Brooklyn Dodgers, Almada hit .284 with an on-base percentage of .342. He knocked 15 home runs in 646 games (2,736 at-bats) and drove in 197 runs. The centerfielder stole 56 bases, including 20 in 1935 for Boston.

Melo left his homeland while still a baby. In 1914, Baldomero Sr., a successful businessman, took his family away from the political problems and violence of post-Revolutionary Mexico. The Almadas settled in Los Angeles. Mel and his older brother, Jose Luis (later Americanized to “Louie”), began playing baseball as little boys.

Luis established himself as a star with the Seattle Indians of the Pacific Coast League. After graduating from Los Angeles High School in 1932, Melo went up the coast to join his brother. He batted .311 in his rookie season in the PCL. By 1933, The Sporting News, the famous Bible of baseball, had labeled Mel Almada as maybe “the best young outfield prospect” in the league. That summer, the Red Sox signed him to a contract.

Mel’s big-league career amounted to a mixed bag. He could certainly run and play defense. He hit for a decent average, but he never showed much power. In 1935, for instance, he batted .295 but with a slugging percentage of just .379 (OPS+ 84).

Almada hit .295 in 1937 with the Red Sox and Senators, but again, with a weak slugging percentage (.394). The following year, he started off at just .244 for Washington, but batted .342 in 436 at-bats following a trade to St. Louis. In 1939, Mel hit only .228 in 246 at-bats with the Browns and the Dodgers. His major league career was over.

Alamada left the big leagues but kept playing ball, both in Los Angeles and in Mexico. He died Aug. 13, 1988, at the age of 75.

Older brother Luis Almada never made it to the majors. The New York Giants placed him on their major league roster in 1927, but Luis got hurt while on a barnstorming trip with the team and never made it back. He died in  2005 at the age of 98.  Luis had a theory as to why his talented younger brother quit playing in the majors at the age of 26. It was that inside pitching, Luis said. Mel hated it, and opposing pitching knew it. But, the pitchers weren’t throwing at Mel because he was Mexican.

“No, Melo,” Luis once said to his sibling, according to the SABR article. “They’re throwing at you because you’re a batter.”