Jan 2, 2015

Former New York Giants All Star Pitcher: Cliff Melton (1937-1944)

Clifford George Melton was born January 3, 1912 in Brevard, North Carolina.

The tall six foot three left hander, was called "Mountain Music" because of his love of playing guitar. In the locker room he would strum to the Appalachian music of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Melton would also be taunted in the name of Mickey Mouse due to his large shaped ears. Early in his career, Melton blew a chance of getting to the majors when he couldn't ignore the taunts of the Chicago Cubs' Gabby Harrnett. Harrnett had been needling Melton during an exhibition game between the two teams. Melton jumped off the bench & went after him, even though he was still a minor league player. After Melton returned back to the Baltimore minor league club, his GM Jack Ogden, would give him a bonus every time he went after someone who harassed him.

Melton made his MLB debut with the Giants on April 15, 1937 at the Polo Grounds in a game against the Boston Bees. He pitched eight shutout innings while striking out a then a National League record 13 batters for a rookie pitcher. That record held until 1954. Even though he pitched well, Melton took a rough 3-1 loss on that day. After falling to a 4-4 record, he went on a roll winning six straight decisions. He would go on to win ten of twelve games through July pitching in the shadows of the Giants ace Carl Hubbell.

Melton helped the Giants win the pennant, going undefeated after September 3rd, also posting two saves in relief. That month he added two six hit shut outs & had a nine strike out game against the Philadelphia Phillies. Melton went on to have his best season that year, winning twenty games (20-9) second most wins in the league to teammate Carl Hubbell.

He posted a 2.61 ERA (second in the league), appearing in 46 games for the Giants (27 starts). Out of the bull pen his seven saves were best in the league, as he also finished 14 games. He pitched 248 innings tossing two shutouts striking out 141 batters while walking 55.

At the time there were no Rookie of the Year Awards given out, if there were it would have surely been given to Melton. His impressive season had him come in 11th place in the MVP voting.

Post Season: In the 1937 World Series he started Game #2 at New York, pitching only four innings and taking the 2-1 loss against Red Ruffing. He then pitched two hitless innings of relief in Game #3, finishing up the 5-1 loss to the A.L. New York club.

He got the start in Game #5 at the Polo Grounds and took the lost in what was the final game of the Series to Lefty Gomez. He gave up four runs on six hits, struck out five and walked three, allowing HRs to Joe DiMaggio & Meril Hoag. Overall he was 0-2 in the Series with a 4.91 ERA.

The next year 1938, he was mostly used as a starter, starting 31 of 36 games. He went 14-14 with a 3.89 ERA striking out 101 batters in 243 innings. On September 15, 1938 brothers Lloyd and Paul Waner hit back-to-back homers off Melton for the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was the only time in MLB history, brothers hit successive HRs in a game.

In 1939 he pitched over 200 innings for the last time, being used as both a starter & reliever going 12-15 with seven saves and a 3.56 ERA. After pitching under .500 the next two seasons he had a real good 1942. He was 11-5 with a save, and a 2.43 ERA, getting selected to his only All Star team, although he did not pitch in the game.

That year the Giants finished in third place. Arm trouble & conflicts with management ended his career by 1944 at the young age of 32. He went 2-2 appearing in only 13 games that season.

Melton ended his eight year career 86-80 with a 3.42 ERA. He posted 660 strikeouts with 431 walks in 1453 innings of work in 272 appearances. He threw 13 shutouts and 65 complete games & earned 16 saves.

Retirement: Cliff married Mary Angela Anello in 1934 & they had three children. After his playing days they lived in Baltimore, Maryland. There Cliff worked for a local lumber company until retiring in 1974. He passed away at the age of 74 in 1986.

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