Sunday, January 2, 2011
This is not only one of my favorite cards in the 1974 Topps set, it's one of my favorite cards of all time. It's Mel's pose, simply classic for a pitcher, and that cartoonish smile on his face. Mel's body type and his long, slender nose just make this card perfect. Mel is so form-fit for this pose that a majority of his cards have this stance in the pic. I love them all. A few have slight variations of this pose or a wind-up pose. One action card of Mel exists as a specialty card in the 1965 set showing game 2 of the 1964 World Series. This '74 card was Mel's last card of his career, as 1974 was his last season. His '74 offensive stats show him "appearing" in 3 games, with no at bats and 1 run scored. I'm guessing he was a pinch runner at least once, and may have pitched in a game where the manager made a move that caused a loss of DH privileges, but where Mel never came to bat.
Mel had a pretty decent career in pinstripes when you figure in the Yanks performance over that 11 year span. Mel was unfortunate enough to play his 11 year career smack in the middle of the Yankees 15 year World Championship drought between 1962 and 1977. He did, however, play in the 1964 Series his rookie year in a losing effort to the Cardinals. Mel had two sons that played in the majors, Mel, Jr., who had a brief stint in 1990, and Todd, who pitched longer than his father, for 14 seasons spanning the late 80's to the early 00's. Todd ran up some post-season appearance totals, and although his dad played his entire career with the Yankees, Todd racked up two WS championships with the Blue Jays in '92 and '93. I also love how Mel crosses all three T's in his autograph with one stroke of the pen. This wasn't the first shot in the photographer's set, as Mel's grass stain on his left knee indicate a variety of poses in total.
Cartoon: Thanks to Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, Mel's home movies are now available on YouTube.
Ballpark background: Mel is wearing the classic Yankee road uniform. I much prefer the plain gray threads with no trim and the plain letters (no trim either) to their current duds with the piping and letter outlines. Much more classy. Well, that's beside the point. The only ML park I can think of that would match this photo is Shea Stadium with it's two-pole light tower and open view with trees in the background, but I don't think the Yanks played there in '73. So, I'm going to give an educated guess that this pic was snapped at somebody else's spring training yard.