Jack V. Morris
There was no digging in at home plate when Rube Melton was on the mound. Standing six feet five and weighing 205 pounds, Melton was blessed with a right arm capable of throwing a baseball with speed that few possessed. Brooklyn Daily Eagle columnist Tommy Holmes wrote that Melton was “very fast and uncommonly wild.”1 In 1942, the only season in which he pitched more than two hundred innings in the Major Leagues, he led the National League in both walks and wild pitches. He had incredible potential, though, which was why general managers put up with his wildness over six Major League seasons.
He was born Reuben Frank Melton, and for most of his first twenty years he was simply Frank Melton. But his antics off the field, and sometimes on, caused sportswriters and teammates to nickname him “Rube,” a name he hated.
While in the Minors, he once disappeared between innings of a game he was pitching. When he finally ran out to the mound, after delaying the game, he explained that he had been talking to a friend in the parking lot.2 Another time during his tenure in the Minors, he lit a pile of rags on fire in his hotel room to keep the mosquitoes away. His roommate put out the fire, much to Melton’s chagrin.3
While newspapers laughed at Melton’s eccentricities, he was more than just a country bumpkin. He was always angling for a better salary, becoming famous for his lengthy spring training holdouts; he possessed such great raw talent that scouts and general managers fought (and paid highly) for his services.
Rube Melton’s outing on June 3 was his last Major League
Born on February 17, 1917, in Cramerton, North Carolina, Melton was the sixth of ten children born to Reuben Judson Melton and Minnie Dulcenia (Haynes) Melton. When Melton’s father found work at a cotton mill near Gastonia, North Carolina, he moved his family to Victory-Winget, a company town named for two cotton mills whose employees lived there.
Baseball was a big part of a mill company town’s existence. Young Frank showed great promise on the diamond. By the time he turned sixteen, the lanky Melton was turning heads with his fastball.