One of the most famous hitting stances in baseball was developed by Mel Ott: right leg raised as the left-handed hitter started his forward motion to swing. It was a batting style copied by many, including the Japanese home-run king Sadaharu Oh. The swing helped the diminutive Ott compensate for his fivefoot nine frame as he accumulated 511 home runs in his 22-year career with the New York Giants (1926–1947). When he retired, he held the National League record for most homers, as well as league records for runs batted in (1,860), runs scored (1,859), and walks (1,708). Ott’s walk total was about twice the number of his strikeouts (896).
Ott’s records have since been broken, and he did achieve his home-run totals playing in the Polo Grounds, with its short distance to the right-field wall. Nonetheless, he remains one of the great hitters during the early decades of the home-run era. He also was a strong defensive right fielder with an excellent arm. In 1951, he was selected for membership in the Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, Ott’s managerial career with the Giants (1942–1948) never yielded a finish higher than third, which was reached in his first year as manager. An unfailingly pleasant individual, Ott was the subject of Leo Durocher’s famous declaration that “nice guys finish last.”
See also: Durocher, Leo Ernest; Home Run;
McGraw, John Joseph; Polo Grounds.
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