Bill Melton (Trading Card DB)

Bill Melton

This article was written by Joseph Wancho

Bill Melton (Trading Card DB)In 1970, Bill Melton became the first player in Chicago White Sox history to hit 30 or more home runs (33) in a season. One year later, he was the first Chisox player to lead the American League in homers (again with 33). In more than a half-century since then, only Dick Allen has accomplished the same feat of topping the league in round-trippers while wearing the Sox threads.

For Melton, these two seasons were the high points of his career. He suffered a back injury that derailed his 1972 performance. Although he recovered to reclaim his starting third base position, his production at the plate declined. His play in the field also deteriorated. A once-promising career ended after 10 seasons, the last two as a part-time player with California and Cleveland.

William Edmund Melton was born on July 7, 1945, in Gulfport, Mississippi. He was the middle child of three born to Edwin and Ellen (née Bingley). Bill had an older sister, Ellen, and a younger brother, Chris. Edwin was a Chief Petty Officer in the United States Navy. On August 31, 1945, he received an honorable discharge.1 In civilian life, he worked as a stationary engineer at Gypsum, a manufacturing company that produces ceilings, drywall, walls, and roofing products. Ellen kept order in the family as a homemaker.2

The Melton family settled in San Diego. “When I entered high school, I wanted to live in Duarte, so I lived with my sister and brother-in-law,”3 said Melton. Duarte, in Los Angeles County, is about 125 miles north of San Diego. He played football and basketball at Duarte High School. When the spring season came around, Melton chose to get a job to earn some money.

Melton enrolled at Citrus College in Glendora, California. His only prior experience playing baseball was in Little League as a youngster, yet Melton tried out for baseball. “In college, I played nine games and hit six home runs, but I was kicked off the team for smoking,”4 he said.

One of Melton’s friends recruited him to play in a weekend baseball league in Pasadena. There were many players who signed with Class A clubs participating in the league. Melton caught the eye of White Sox scout Hollis Thurston. “The reason I signed was because I primarily needed the money to go to school,” said Melton. “At that particular time, there was not a draft and the most they could offer me was $8,000. I remember hitting a couple of home runs over 400 feet at Brookside Park the day Hollis Thurston was there. He offered me something like $2,000, $5,000, and then $8,000 after the last home run, which was about 450 feet.”5  

Melton began his trail to the big leagues in the Sarasota Rookie League in 1964. He had little experience playing a specific position, so he was assigned to the outfield. He wound up playing about the same amount of time at second base.

Before Melton continued his professional baseball career, he married the former Judith Rybak on February 13, 1965, in Los Angeles. They eventually had two children: son Billy and daughter Jennifer.

Melton continued his journey through Chicago’s minor-league system. He made stops at Sarasota of the Florida State League in 1965, Chicago’s Florida Instructional League team, and the Fox Cities Foxes (Appleton, Wisconsin) of the Midwest League in 1966. Both Sarasota and Fox Cities were Class A circuits. He displayed some power in Appleton, where he finished second on the club in home runs (12) and RBIs (67) while batting .284.

In 1967, Melton was promoted to Class AA with Evansville of the Southern League. He also switched positions, from the outfield to third base. “Melton has been primarily an outfielder, but Chicago wants to see how he looks at first and third, mostly third,” said Evansville manager George Noga. “He looks as if he can do the job. He’s been hitting the ball pretty well and has shown power.”6  

Melton committed 29 errors at third base in 1967, with a .931 fielding percentage. As often happens to a young player learning a new position, his offense suffered a bit – his batting average dropped to 251.

Melton began the 1968 season with Hawaii of the Class AAA Pacific Coast League. He was called up to the White Sox and made his major-league debut on May 4, 1968, against the New York Yankees at Comiskey Park. Playing third base and batting seventh, Melton knocked in a run with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the second inning. Chicago won the game, 4-1. “I wasn’t even shaky,” said Melton. “I guess I was too tired to be scared. I’ve only had about five hours sleep in the last 50 after they called me up.”7  

As for playing third base, Melton was getting a crash course from Chicago manager Eddie Stanky’s coaching staff. “Most of my instructions on how to play third base were done on a plane,” said Melton. “I will never forget Eddie Stanky’s coaches, they were drawing on an airplane napkin, on a bunt situation you want to play here.”8  

The White Sox (89-73) finished in fourth place in the American League in 1967, only three games behind first-place Boston. Naturally, there was great anticipation on the South Side for the 1968 season. But the Sox got off to a 34-45 start. The reversal of fortunes cost Stanky his job on July 11; Al Lopez returned as manager. Health issues had forced Lopez to step down after the 1965 season. Now, fully recovered, he replaced Stanky.

Melton appeared in 17 games, and he was batting .204 when Chicago sent him down to Triple-A on May 27, 1968. On July 21, he was traded to Syracuse of the AAA International League for outfielder Steve Whitaker.9 Melton returned to Chicago in September. His hitting was much improved as he batted .317 and clouted two home runs. Lopez was complimentary of the young player and encouraged about his prospects. “He looks to me like he is going to be a good, solid ballplayer,” Lopez said of Melton. “He has a good swing, though he’s inclined to loop the bat a little. We are trying to correct that by having him keep his elbow in.

“In the field, Bill still is a little green. He has some things to learn, and coach Don Gutteridge has worked with him. I believe he’ll catch on easily because he moves well enough and has a strong, accurate arm, which can help overcome occasional mistakes.”10

Melton returned to the White Sox organization in 1969 and claimed the starting job at third base from Pete Ward. He showed his mettle that June 24, at Sick’s Stadium. In the second game of a doubleheader against the Seattle Pilots, he set a career high with three home runs in Chicago’s 7-6 win. He became the sixth player in White Sox history to hit three or more round-trippers in one game.11

The Sox had a young star in the making with Melton. He led the team in home runs (23), RBIs (87), and doubles (26). He committed 22 errors at third base in 1969 and posted a respectable fielding percentage of .952.

It was fortunate for Chicago that they were in the same division as the expansion Pilots in 1969. Seattle (64-98) was the only team keeping the White Sox (68-94) from finishing in the basement of the AL West division. Lopez – once again ill – left the team on May 1. Gutteridge took over the managerial duties.

Gutteridge returned to skipper the team in 1970 but was fired on September 1 with the Sox owning a record of 49-87. He was replaced on an interim basis with Bill Adair from his coaching staff; Chuck Tanner was then named to finish the season. Gutteridge was not as enamored with Melton’s ability to handle third base and moved him to right field. When Tanner took charge, Melton was reinstated at the hot corner.

The Sox (56-106) finished in last place, a whopping 42 games behind first-place Minnesota (98-64). Melton smacked his 30th home run, a team record, against Kansas City on September 21. In the opener of a doubleheader, Melton connected with a 3-0 fastball off Royals relief pitcher Aurelio Monteagudo in the bottom of the seventh inning. His blast, in front of a mere 672 fans at Comiskey Park, eclipsed the old club mark of 29 home runs by Gus Zernial in 1950 and Eddie Robinson in 1951. He finished the season with 33 home runs and led the Sox in RBIs that year with 96.

Chicago opened the 1971 season with a doubleheader at Oakland on April 7. Melton continued to display his power stroke right away. He clouted a two-run home run in the opener and unloaded a grand slam in the nightcap, giving him six RBIs for the day. The Sox swept the A’s, 6-5 and 12-4.

Melton swatted 12 home runs in June, giving him 20 in the first half of the season to go with a .286 batting average. Baltimore manager Earl Weaver, who was piloting the AL All-Star squad, selected the third baseman to represent the White Sox.12 Melton did not appear in the game. It was the only All-Star Game to which he was chosen.

As the season wound down, Melton was in a race with Oakland’s Reggie Jackson and Detroit’s Norm Cash for the home run title. On September 23, 1971, all three players had 30 homers. Jackson swatted one threee days later against Kansas City, then on September 28, Cash hit two at Cleveland.

On September 29, the White Sox hosted Milwaukee. Tanner inserted Melton in the leadoff spot to get him more at bats. “Beltin’ Melton,” as he had come to be known, hit two solo shots off Brewers starter Jim Slaton. It was the first multi-home run game of the season for Melton. “I spread myself out more in the batter’s box, moved closer to the plate, choked two inches on the bat – a Mike Andrews model that I tried earlier in the season,” said Melton. “And I went up there guessing on the pitches. I guessed at a pitch and if I didn’t get it, I let it go by. But I wasn’t about to walk. Sure, I was going for the home run. I have been for three weeks.”13    

On the last day of the season, September 30, Melton clinched the AL home run title when he hit his 33rd against Milwaukee’s Bill Parsons in the bottom of the third inning.  “I was so happy today, I didn’t know what to do,” said Melton. “When I got to the dugout, I threw my batting helmet into the crowd. Then I went back into the clubhouse because Tanner told me he would take me out of the game if I got the 33rd. But Rich Morales came back and told me the fans were still standing and cheering for me to come back, so I did.”14

The 2-1 victory gave the Sox a much-improved record of 79-83 and a third-place finish. However, they still finished 22½ games behind Oakland, which was beginning its five-year run as AL West champions.

On December 2, 1971, Chicago traded starting pitcher Tommy John and infielder Steve Huntz to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Dick Allen, who’d had no fixed position for the previous two seasons. The White Sox installed Allen at first base and now had a potent combination in the middle of their lineup with Allen and their other corner infielder, Melton. With Carlos May as well, the Sox offense looked capable of putting up some runs.

During the offseason, Melton was putting shingles on the roof of his home in Mission Viejo, California. “My four-year old son, Billy, was on the roof and I went up to get him,” said Melton. “I reached out to grab him, and I sneezed. I lost my balance and couldn’t grab on to anything because I was holding Billy. I fell right on my tailbone.”15

Although Melton received treatment and felt fine during spring training, the pain increased as the season went on, and he needed surgery to repair a herniated disc. As expected, his power numbers dropped – he totaled just seven home runs in 57 games and 208 at-bats. He was sorely missed by his teammates, who battled Oakland the whole season. The South Siders faded and finished in second place, 5½ games back of the Athletics.

Melton recovered for the 1973 season, and he hit .277. That was the highest batting average of his career, and he homered 20 times and drove in 87 runs. It was the only season where he totaled more walks (75) than strikeouts (66). But it was Allen’s turn to be hurt. The reigning AL MVP suffered a hairline fracture in his right leg. The White Sox (77-85) missed his big bat and finished in fifth place in the division.

The next two seasons were painful ones for Melton. Although he was still the starting third baseman, his offense faltered. “I learned from the doctors that when you’re in pain you protect your muscles by changing your swing, and that’s what I did,” said Melton. “I was never the same hitter.”16

Melton was having trouble keeping his eye on the ball. As simple as it may sound, he was not able to do it. Teammate Deacon Jones instructed Melton to say to himself, “Watch the ball! Watch the ball!” Melton managed to raise his batting average and did hit home runs in three successive games (July 2-July 4), but the results were not sustainable for the whole season.17

Not only did his offensive numbers decline, his fielding did as well. Melton led AL third baseman in errors in 1974 (24) and 1975 (26). His poor play also may have been the result of an outside influence. White Sox broadcaster Harry Caray lambasted Melton to his listening audience. Specifically, Caray accused Melton of loafing on the field. It was also shameful, in Caray’s opinion, for a player making $100,000 a year to hit .240. Caray’s views had a strong impact over the fans, who often believed what he said.

“I’m tired of going every place and hearing that Caray is jumping all over me on every broadcast,” said Melton. “Then he comes over to me three nights ago real sarcastic and said, ‘What is wrong, is little sweetheart Billy upset over something?’ I could have popped him one.

“The people of Chicago are down on me now, but I just want them to know I’m trying. I’m busting my butt. I’m not trying to strike out, I’m not trying to pop out, I’m not trying to be traded. But if I was, the reason I’d be happiest to leave is because of that man upstairs.”18  

One highlight for Melton during this time occurred on August 4, 1974. In the second game of a doubleheader against Texas, he hit a two-run home run off the Rangers’ Steve Foucault. Melton passed Minnie Miñoso to become the top home run hitter in White Sox history, with 136.

On December 11, 1975, Melton was part of a four-player deal that sent him to the California Angels. After a poor season, almost a year later, on December 3, 1976, the Angels sent him to Cleveland. Dick Williams and Norm Sherry both managed at California in 1976, while Frank Robinson and Jeff Torborg were the skippers in Cleveland in 1977. All used Melton as a part-time player. His power had declined sharply with the Angels and dried up entirely with the Indians.

Melton’s frustration was punctuated on July 23, 1976. The Angels had dropped two games to Cleveland to fall 20 games out of first place. Williams was sitting at the front of the bus as the team headed from the LA airport early the next morning. He sarcastically asked his team of “winners” to keep quiet. Melton responded from the back of the bus, and the two met in the aisle in the middle of the bus. After a brief debate, both player and manager retreated to their seats. More comments were hurled back and forth, they soon met again, and Williams suspended Melton. The players revolted, and the skipper lost what little control he had over the team. Radios were turned on full blast, breaking one of Williams’ rules. It was an open rebellion.19 One day later, Sherry was promoted to replace Williams.

Following the 1977 season, Melton filed for free agency but did not find any takers. He went home to Mission Viejo and went into business with his father, manufacturing wheels for skateboards.

In 1992, Melton relocated to Chicago. He took a job with the White Sox and made public relations appearances on behalf of the club. He also worked as a part-time scout.

In 1993, NBA superstar Michael Jordan retired from the Chicago Bulls. Jordan opted to join the White Sox and try his hand at a baseball career. White Sox general manager Ron Schueler asked Melton to work with Jordan as his hitting instructor. They worked together at Illinois Institute of Technology’s gymnasium. “He’s shortened his swing quite a bit,” Melton said of Jordan. “He has very powerful hands. He’s very quick, and I believe his bat will get quicker. You don’t know how far he can go. I can only say I’ve seen guys I’ve signed as Class A players doing half what he’s doing now. The man tries everything and doesn’t give up on it.”20        

In 1998, Melton moved to television. He hosted White Sox pregame and postgame shows, first for WGN, then for Comcast Chicago. He retired in 2020 and relocated to Arizona.

When Melton was traded to California, he held the White Sox all-time home run mark with 154 home runs. As of 2024, he is still ninth on the club’s all-time list.

Last revised: May 1, 2024



This biography was reviewed by Rory Costello and Mike Eisenbath and fact-checked by Don Zminda.

Photo credit: Bill Melton, Trading Card Database.



1 World War II Draft Card.

2 1950 United States Census.

3 Mark Fletcher, “Former Chisox slugger Bill Melton interviewed,” Sports Collectors Digest, July 30, 1993: 241.

4 Fletcher.

5 Fletcher.

6 Pete Swanson, ‘Noga Rates Esox Stronger Than ’66,” Evansville Courier and Press, April 9, 1967: C-6.

7 George Langford, “‘Cisco Kid’ Wins for the White, Sox, 4-1,” Chicago Tribune, May 5, 1968: 2-2.

8 Fletcher.

9 “Melton traded for ex-Yankee,” Honolulu Star-Bulletin, July 22, 1968: B-1.

10 Edgar Munzel, “Melton May End White Sox Hot-Sack Woe,” The Sporting News, October 12, 1968: 15.

11 Preceding Melton were Carl Reynolds (July 2, 1930), Merv Connors (September 17, 1938), Pat Seerey (July 18, 1948), Gus Zernial (October 1, 1950), and Tommy McCraw (May 24, 1967).

12 Wilbur Wood joined Melton after Sam McDowell was scratched due to injury.

13George Langford, “Wood, Melton Combine,” Chicago Tribune, September 30, 1971: 2-3.

14 George Langford, “Melton A.L. Home Run King,” Chicago Tribune, October 1, 1971: 6-3.

15 George Langford, “Sox’ Melton Shelved for Year – Faces Surgery,” Chicago Tribune, July 9, 1972: 3-1.

16 Don Zminda, The Legendary Harry Caray: Baseball’s Greatest Salesman, Maryland: Rowan & Littlefield Publishing (2019): 130.

17 Jerome Holtzman, “Deacon Departs After Reviving Chicago Belters,” The Sporting News, July 20, 1974: 22.

18 Zminda: 131.

19 Dick Miller, “Williams No Angel, Sherry Moves Up,” The Sporting News, August 7, 1976: 16.

20 “Can he make the transition?” Chicago Tribune, February 4, 1994: 4-4.

Full Name

William Edwin Melton


July 7, 1945 at Gulfport, MS (USA)

If you can help us improve this player’s biography, contact us.