Mel Parnell died yesterday.
I first learned of Mel Parnell at the knee of my father. Following the Red Sox beginning in 1959, I never had the pleasure of seeing him pitch, however, every kid who grew into his Red Sox in that era learned of the futilities of 1947, 1948 and 1949 and Mel played a key role in ’48’s futility. The strangest part of it all is, the role he played is that he didn’t play. Huh? I know, sounds confusing but here’s what went down.
You see Mel Parnell was a rookie in 1948 and he was not a bad rookie at all, going 15-8 with a 3.14 ERA and at a time when Fenway Park was a graveyard for many a left-handed pitcher he was 8-3 with a 2.29 ERA at Fenway.
The 1948 regular season ended in a deadlock between the Indians and the Red Sox, setting the stage for a one game playoff to decide the American League champs. Mel was well rested and ready to go and he had beaten Cleveland three times during the year. He arrived at Fenway Park expecting to pitch but Red Sox skipper Joe McCarthy went with “his gut”and pitched Denny Galehouse, a journeyman right hander instead of the rookie south paw. Galehouse got rocked and the Sox lost 8-3 and Boston lost out on a opportunity for a subway series.
Mel played a significant role in another Fenway chapter which was written in 1967. Having joined the Red Sox broadcast team in the mid 60s, it was he who was at the TV mike on October 1, 1967 when Minnesots Twins third baseman Rich Rollins popped out to Rico Petrocelli which secured the American League pennant.
Yesterday Mel Parnell’s voice fell silent, his golden left arm forevermore baseball empty and in leaving us he brought me once more to my father’s knee and once more I could hear his voice tell me the tale of Mel Parnell and how he WOULD have pitched the Sox to the American League pennant in 1948.
God speed “Dusty”…..And thank you.
And so it is on this day in Fenway Park history, March 22, 2012.