Year Inducted: 1951 (BBWAA, ballot #3, 197/226)
Like with many things in life, in baseball hope can spring eternally from tragedy. The Cubs waited 108 years to win a World Series title, but the seasons before that were filled with shattered dreams, bad luck, and strife. When Ray Chapman died, it opened up a spot for Joe Sewell, who would go on to a Hall of Fame career for the Indians. And, when Ross Youngs died, it opened up a spot for another player that would have a Hall of Fame career of his own, even though he was only 19 at the time. For Youngs’ tragic passing opened up a slot for Mel Ott to become the best New York Giant of all-time.
For 22 years, Ott was a Giant despite breaking into the league at 5’7″ as a 17-year old. Ott hit .304/.414/.533 with a wRC+ of 156. Ott could easily pull the ball, and playing in the Polo Grounds with a short right field helped him hit his fair share of homers. Babe Ruth and Jimmie Foxx both collected 500 homers in the American League, but Ott was the first to do so in the National League, and first to do so with only one team. Ott’s career ended with 488 doubles, 72 triples and 511 homers. Ott was the heart of the Giant order for a long time, and was great at producing runs with over 1800 RBI and over 1800 runs scored.
When he was first being scouted by John McGraw, Ott’s size was nearly a deterrent. However when McGraw saw how he hit, he tried immediately to sign him up as he believed Ott would become the finest left handed hitter the NL had ever seen (which, to that point, he was). When Ott first arrived at Spring Training, McGraw moved him from his initial position of catcher to the outfield, where Youngs helped tutor him. The move paid off as, in addition to being a great hitter, Ott became a solid defender with 45 fielding runs in the outfield. Ott also needed special baserunning coaching, as he was susceptible to pulled hamstrings and charlie horses due to his height. However, once again, the coaching paid off as Ott stole 89 bases and was worth 12 runs above average on the basepaths.
Ott was inducted on his third ballot, at a point in time where the BBWAA was having a hard time voting anyone in. There was a large backlog due to so many greats being put on the ballot, but for the first two years of Ott’s candidacy, the writers failed to elect any player. That’s why no one got in on first ballot until 1962, when Bob Feller and Jackie Robinson both received that honor, as much of the backlog had cleared by that point. With the recent changes to voting, that should hopefully never happen again. Ott achieved his destiny of the best left-handed hitter the NL had ever seen up until that point, and will always be the best player the New York Giants ever had.
Stay tuned for the next updates.
On deck 12/13/16:
#15- The career leader in sacrifice hits
#14- This right handed hitter was the second player to reach the 500 HR mark