Mel Parnell

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Melvin Lloyd Parnell

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Biographical Information[edit]

Mel Parnell was a successful left-handed pitcher for the Boston Red Sox who led the league in wins once and also threw a no-hitter. After his career, he became a broadcaster.

Parnell was born in New Orleans, LA in 1922 and signed with the Boston Red Sox in 1941, the year that Ted Williams hit .406. The war intervened, and he didn't come up with the Red Sox until 1947.

His first minor league team was the Centreville Red Sox of the Eastern Shore League in 1941. He then played with the Canton Terriers in the Middle Atlantic League, posting a 1.59 ERA. The war took away 1943-1945, although he played on wartime teams - at one point being on the team that won the Eastern Flying Training Command championship. 

He then pitched on one of the greatest minor league teams, the 1946 Scranton Red Sox. Scranton beat the second-place team by 18 1/2 games that year. Parnell had an ERA of 1.30, much lower than anyone else on the team, and setting a league record that still stands. 

He started the 1947 season with Louisville in the American Association, but was quickly up with the major league Red Sox. The first year was not very promising, as he had a 6.39 ERA in 50 2/3 innings. The next year, 1948, he turned it all around. In all the rest of his career, he was only worse than the league ERA one time. In 1948, he was 15-8 with a 3.14 ERA. His ERA was fifth in the league, and since Parnell was in Boston, he was pitching in a hitters' ballpark, which made it harder for him. 

Parnell was good for the Red Sox. In 1947, they had won 83 games, while in 1948, Parnell helped them win 96 games. It was the time of Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Johnny Pesky, Vern Stephens, Dom DiMaggio, and Birdie Tebbetts on the team. However, it was the other Boston team, the Boston Braves, that won a pennant and went to the World Series that year.

In 1949, Parnell had his biggest year, going 25-7. The Red Sox again finished 2nd with 96 victories behind the New York Yankees. Parnell was first in the league in wins and 2nd in the league in ERA, with 2.77.

He followed up in 1950 and 1951 with 18 wins in each season. His ERA was lower the second year, but that's partly because the league ERA was lower. In both years his ERA was good for 7th in the league. 

The Red Sox were slipping, though, winning fewer games each year from 1950 to 1952. Parnell slipped, too, in 1952, going 12-12 with a 3.62 ERA (still better than the league average and the team average). In 1953, Parnell had another good year, with a record of 21-9 and a 3.06 ERA. His wins were 2nd in the league, and his ERA was again 7th in the league.

It was really the end, though, as he had injury problems after that. In 1954, he pitched only 19 games, with a record of 3-7 and an ERA of 3.70 (still better than the league). In 1955, he pitched in only 13 games, with a terrible ERA over 7.00. Finally, in 1956, he came back for 21 games, went 7-6 and had a 3.77 ERA, again better than the league ERA of 4.16 even though Boston was a severe hitters' park. He threw a no-hitter in July, 1956, against the Chicago White Sox, which were a good team that year, winning 85 games. 

Lifetime, Mel Parnell had the good fortune to win 62.1% of his games in the major leagues. He had a record of 123-75. His ERA of 3.50, while not among the all-time greats, would have been better in almost any other ballpark. He wasn't a big strikeout artist, although twice in his career he was in the top 10 pitchers in the league for strikeouts. He struck out, and walked, about 4 men per 9 innings. He was famous for his inside slider, used on right-handed batters.

After being a player, he was head coach for the team at Tulane University in 1958, and then managed the New Orleans Pelicans in 1959. He was a broadcaster for both the Red Sox and the White Sox in the 1960's. 

The most similar contemporary players, based on the similarity scores method, were Larry Jansen and Carl Erskine.

Parnell was named to the Red Sox Hall of Fame.

He coined the term "Pesky's Pole" for the right-field foul pole at Fenway Park, one day when Johnny Pesky, not much of a home run hitter, hit a home run to win a game for Parnell. He and Mel Ott would give coaching clinics in New Orleans in the 1950s at places like the Milne Boys Home. Ott was also from New Orleans, LA.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 2-time AL All-Star (1949 & 1951)
  • AL Wins Leader (1949)
  • AL Innings Pitched Leader (1949)
  • AL Complete Games Leader (1949)
  • 15 Wins Seasons: 5 (1948-1951 & 1953)
  • 20 Wins Seasons: 2 (1949 & 1953)
  • 25 Wins Seasons: 1 (1949)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 6 (1948-1953)

Further Reading[edit]

  • Joe Castiglione: "The '67 Broadcast Team, remembered", in Bill Nowlin and Dan Desrochers, eds.: The 1967 Impossible Dream Red Sox: 'Pandemonium on the Field', SABR, Rounder Books, Burlington, MA, 2007, pp. 290-292. ISBN 978-1-5794-0141-2
  • Bill Nowlin: "Mel Parnell", in Mark Armour and Bill Nowlin, eds.: Red Sox Baseball in the Days of Ike and Elvis: The Red Sox of the 1950s, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2012, pp. 94-101. ISBN 978-1933599243

Related Sites[edit]