Tuesday, June 13, 2006

June 13th, 1922

Mel Parnell Born

I happen to like rhyming names--I'm easily entertained that way--but there's a good story here so everyone wins. Bill James ranks Parnell as the 100th best pitcher of all-time; it's pretty close once you get down there, but Parnell wins out the spot so he can claim he's one of the greatest moundsmen of all-time.

Parnell would probably rank higher on his other numbers, a 3.50 ERA (125 ERA+) and an average of nearly two hundred and thirty innings a year, but Parnell had a tremendously short career, just ten years. A couple of those years are real gems; in 1949 he was the best pitcher in the league going 25-7 with a 2.77 ERA while throwing nearly three hundred innings for the Red Sox. Parnell spent his whole career with the Red Sox, arriving in 1947 the year after the Sox had lost a heart-breaker in the World Series to the Cards. The Red Sox weren't terribly good in 1947, but Parnell led the team in ERA in both '48 and '49. In those years the Sox had Ted Williams in his prime, Dom DiMaggio, Vern Stephens and a handful of other good to great players. Unfortunately for them, Cleveland and New York were just slightly better, as they lost a one-game playoff to the Indians in '48 and blew the pennant in the season's final weekend to the Yankees the next year.

The Sox settled into a mediocre rut the rest of Parnell's career, finishing third or fourth every year save 1952 and winning exactly eighty-four games three times. Parnell had his last great season in 1953 going 21-8 with a 3.06 ERA but was plagued by injuries (Parnell had elbow problems) and ineffectiveness the rest of his career, although he did throw a no-hitter in 1956. He remains the Sox all-time leader in wins, innings and games started by a left-handed pitcher.

Parnell later served as a broadcaster for the Red and White Sox; he is now perhaps most famous for having coined the phrase "Pesky Pole" to refer to the right field foul pole at Fenway Park. Accounts vary as to when, or even if, Parnell actually coined the phase but for now the legend is presevered.

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