Mel Held was signed by the St. Louis Browns in 1947. He played 9 seasons in the minors before finally making it to the Bigs in April 1956 with the Baltimore Orioles. Held’s major league career would be short-lived, appearing in only 4 games. He made his major league debut on April 27, 1956 and made his final appearance on May 13, 1956. All of his appearances came in relief. Held was sent back down to the minors where he would stay for the next 4 seasons. Mel never made is back to the majors, but he did end his minor league career with an impressive 131-117 record.
We recently wrote to Mr. Held to ask a little about his career. During his time with the 1952 Scranton Miners, Held was teammates with future Hall of Famer and Negro League great Leon Day. We asked him what he remembered most about his time with day:
Yes, I remember Leon Day. He was a really good guy, but didn’t remember him being that great to achieve that honor [Hall of Fame]”.
Leon Day went 13-9 in 1952. Leon was 35 years old and was past his prime. In his heyday in the Negro Leagues (1934-1950), Day appeared in 7 East-West All Star games. Former teammate, and fellow HOFer Monte Irvin, once said of Day…”People don’t know what a great pitcher Leon Day was. He was as good or better than Bob Gibson. He was a better fielder, a better hitter, could run like a deer. When he pitched against Satchel, Satchel didn’t have an edge. You thought Don Newcombe could pitch. You should have seen Day! One of the best complete athletes I’ve ever seen.”
We also asked Mel what his greatest memory was of his big league experience:
“Walking into Yankee Stadium and pitching 2 innings with Mantle-Berra-Bauer-McDougald-Richardson-Kubek in the line-up was very special”
Mel pitched a perfect 7th inning. He got Billy Martin, Andy Carey, and Bob Grim to all fly out to the outfield. Mel entered again in the bottom of the 8th to face Hank Bauer who singled to short. Gil McDougald came up next and singled as well. Mantle followed and Held got him to fly out to center field. Berra came to the plate next and doubled to left field; Bauer scored. Joe Collins then hit a sac fly to right and McDougald scored. Elston Howard came to bat 2 out and grounded to shortstop. Held was out of the inning giving up 2 runs on 3 hits. The Yankees would go on to win the game 11-2 with opposing pitcher, Don Larsen, picking up the win. Full box score
Held and Larsen were actually friends. They were teammates in the minors for the 1949 Springfield Browns and 1950 Wichita Indians. Mr. Held remembers facing Larsen in the majors:
“…my old teammate Don Larsen from the old St. Louis farm club days sitting in the dug-out yelling at me when I took the mound”
Mel signed off my thanking us:
Thanks for the memories
Full text of our correspondence. Click to enlarge.
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