Two relief appearances for the 1950 Brooklyn Dodgers were the extent of left-handed pitcher Mal Mallette’s major-league career. An Air Force captain during World War II before entering professional baseball, he became an esteemed journalist after leaving the game.
Malcolm Francis “Mal” Mallette was born on January 30, 1922, in Syracuse, New York, and grew up in the northern suburb of Clay in Onondaga County. His parents — Ralph and Hermia (Barry) Mallette — had another son, Roy, five years later. The family was of American French descent.1 According to the 1930 US Census, Ralph was a machine operator for an auto gear factory. A decade later, he described his occupation as assembling typewriters — the tool Mal would eventually use to make his living.
Mal enjoyed all sports and played basketball through his freshman year of college, but baseball was where he showed the most promise. After three years of American Legion ball from 1935 to 1937, and four years at North Syracuse High School from 1937 to 1940, the left-handed thrower and swinger enrolled at Syracuse University. Asked who was most responsible for his baseball career upon turning pro, Mallette named Syracuse coach Lew Carr.2 In 1901 Carr had played nine games for the Pittsburgh Pirates, starting eight times at shortstop with third baseman Honus Wagner stationed to his right.
As a sophomore, Mallette was awarded Syracuse’s Devil’s Own Trophy for his all-around athletic and academic skill. He joined Sigma Delta Chi, a professional fraternity for journalism students.3 According to the draft registration card he filled out in 1942, Mallette’s summer employer was the Peckham Road Corporation, which was building the Syracuse Municipal Airport.
In early 1943, Mallette signed with the Norfolk (Virginia) Tars, a New York Yankees affiliate in the Class B Piedmont League.4 But instead of pitching to 18-year-old catcher Yogi Berra on the Tars, Mallette reported to New Jersey to begin a 42-month military hitch. As World War II intensified, he was the ace pitcher-center fielder for Camp Edison’s entry in the Signal Corps Baseball League.5 “[Mallette] was an Air Force captain with many missions overseas during the war,” reported The Sporting News.6
After he was discharged, Mallette finally reported to the Piedmont League late in the 1946 season. On a questionnaire he filled out that summer, he noted that he had previously tossed four no-hitters: two in high school and two in Germany with the Air Force.7 In seven starts for the Tars, he won five of six decisions and allowed only 5.5 hits per nine innings. His 1.21 ERA was the best in the circuit for any pitcher with at least 45 innings.
On September 21 Mallette married 22-year-old Eleanor Ingram in her hometown of Arden, North Carolina. Their union would produce three sons: Gary, Bruce, and David.
Mallette struggled in 1947 with the Triple-A Newark Bears. He was on a seven-game losing streak against International League competition when he beat the visiting Yankees in an exhibition.8 Twice he missed time with what The Sporting News described as an “ailing left flipper.”9 In Baltimore on August 30, the Orioles swiped five bases in a single inning against the southpaw.10 Mallette finished with a 6-10 record and a 4.81 ERA in 24 games (20 starts).
The Yankees released Mallette outright to Newark, but the Bears soon traded him to the Yankees’ other Triple-A affiliate, the Kansas City Blues.11 Mallette graduated from Syracuse with a bachelor’s degree in journalism that offseason.12
For a Kansas City team that finished in sixth place with a losing record in the American Association in 1948, Mallette went 7-5 in 22 appearances after receiving early-season treatment for his ailing arm.13 His 4.97 ERA was not good, however, and for the first time as a pro, he walked more batters than he struck out and surrendered more hits than innings pitched.
Mallette was sharp when he returned to Newark for the conclusion of the season on August 24. In his first start, Sam Jethroe’s leadoff triple was the only hit he allowed in a complete-game victory over Montreal.14 Three nights later, he carried a no-hitter into the final frame of a scheduled seven-inning contest against Buffalo. After Mallette issued a one-out walk, an apparent game-ending double-play grounder scooted between Johnny Lucadello’s legs for a two-base error. Mallette struck out the next batter but lost his no-hitter when Larry Barton doubled just beyond the reach of left fielder Lou Novikoff.15
Mallette’s 2-2 record and 2.45 ERA in five starts with Newark reestablished him as a prospect. In 1949 the 6-foot-2, 200-pound southpaw with black hair, brown eyes, and a ruddy complexion was one of a half-dozen nonroster hurlers summoned to the Yankees’ spring training in St. Petersburg. There, New York skipper Casey Stengel and his coaches examined Mallette more closely, but it proved to be the lefty’s last year in the Yankees organization.16
Mallette started the season back in Kansas City, but went onto the disabled list for two weeks in May with a sore arm.17 “A muscle irritation developed in my left shoulder,” he explained. “Dr. Frank Dickson of Kansas City gave me two injections in my left shoulder and that cleared up the irritation.” His velocity was down, however, so the Blues optioned him to the Memphis Chickasaws of the Double-A Southern Association, a White Sox affiliate, in June. In six weeks there, Mallette’s record was only 1-4, but he said, “Between the Kansas City injections and the warm weather in Dixie, my arm began feeling better.”18
After Mallette was optioned to the unaffiliated Sacramento Solons of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League in July, the Northern California Turf Writers Association voted him an honorary member.19 He insisted that his “arm felt really good,” and he proved it by posting a 7-5 record and a 3.14 ERA in 15 games (11 starts) while striking out more batters and permitting fewer hits.20 The Solons bought Mallette’s contract from the Yankees for $6,000, despite their general manager’s fears of possibly losing the 27-year-old southpaw in November’s Rule 5 draft.21
Prior to draft day, Brooklyn Dodgers GM Branch Rickey told reporters he wasn’t interested in any players “except for one sleeper we have spied.”22 The Dodgers hadn’t selected a Rule 5 player since 1944 and after 1949 wouldn’t choose another until 1961. With the 20th and final pick, however, the National League pennant winners grabbed for Mallette for $10,000.23
The Sporting News described Mallette as possessing a good curve and fair fastball and reported that the Washington Senators might have snatched him with a second-round pick had he still been available.24 “My arm never felt better than it does today,” he insisted. “Just to make sure I’m as sound as I feel, I am going to have a complete physical checkup soon. I have had arm trouble for two springs, and I don’t want it to become chronic.”25
Mallette’s condition was chronic, however. After a sore shoulder prevented him from hurling a single spring-training inning, the Dodgers sent him to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. After a specialist recommended surgery, the ballclub reluctantly agreed.26 Mallette underwent a procedure to clean up calcium deposits in his left shoulder and snip a piece of tendon. He rehabilitated with the Dodgers’ Class B affiliate in Asheville, North Carolina.
On July 24 Mallette reported to Ebbets Field to throw for Brooklyn skipper Burt Shotton and his coaches. They sent him to the Elmira (New York) Pioneers in the Class A Eastern League, where he won six straight games and finished 6-1 with a 2.25 ERA in eight outings.27 Finally, in September, Mallette was in the majors.
He debuted on September 25, 1950, at Ebbets Field, tossing the ninth inning of a one-run loss to the New York Giants. Mallette walked Wes Westrum leading off and allowed a stolen base to a pinch-runner, Rudy Rufer, but caught Dave Koslo looking at a third strike and whiffed Bill Rigney swinging. He completed a scoreless inning on Whitey Lockman’s groundout to second baseman Jackie Robinson.
Four days later, Mallette had a chance to save a victory against the visiting Boston Braves. After he allowed a pair of one-out singles to put the tying runners aboard, however, Shotton called on Don Newcombe to induce a game-ending double play. Mallette’s major-league career was over with a 0.00 ERA in 1⅓ innings.
The Dodgers dropped Mallette from their 40-man roster after the season and no team took advantage of a second chance to draft him. That winter, Mallette pitched for the Almendares club in Cuba. When he asked for his release in January, fellow Dodgers farmhand Tom Lasorda replaced him on the active roster. The same issue of The Sporting News that reported the transaction explained that Mallette was supposed to join the San Juan team in the Puerto Rican League, but instead informed their management of his intention to return to the United States and rest until spring training.28
Mallette spent 1951 with the Triple-A Montreal Royals. In 25 games (16 starts), he went 10-2 with a 2.30 ERA, including a three-hit shutout of Rochester on June 18 in which he retired the last 17 hitters in order.29 Despite missing time with a sore arm30 late in the year, he came back to shut out Buffalo in the International League semifinals.31 The Royals won the circuit’s championship under manager Walter Alston, but fell to the Milwaukee Brewers in the Junior World Series. “If you can’t play for Alston, you can’t play for anybody,” Mallette opined. “Anybody who gave his best effort had no trouble with Walt Alston.”32
In 1952 Montreal finished with the circuit’s best regular-season record again, prompting International League President Frank Shaughnessy to remark, “I have been watching those three-hour games in the major leagues and I really believe the Royals could beat nine-tenths of the teams up there pretty regularly.”33
“My hitting is of too dubious merit for pro ball,” Mallette once insisted.34 Nevertheless, in a victory over Baltimore on May 1, he enjoyed a career day by stroking four hits and collecting five RBIs.35 On May 22 Mallette hurled the first 15 innings of Montreal’s 19-inning loss to Rochester, but he wasn’t charged with his first defeat of the season until June 13.36 It snapped his personal-best streak of nine straight wins dating back to the previous year.37
One early-season article, headlined “Mallette Lacks Former Speed,” described how the lefty relied on tricks and control to compensate for his diminished fastball.38 On August 23 he finished off a 1-0, complete-game victory over the Springfield Cubs by fanning Glenn McQuillen, Jack Wallaesa, and Nelson Burbrink for the final three outs.39 Overall, Mallette’s 13-2 record led the International League in winning percentage for the second straight year and improved his two-year Montreal mark to 23-4.40 The Royals were upset in the International League playoffs, but Mallette joined teammates Jim Gilliam, Carmen Mauro, Jim Pendleton, and Tim Thompson on the circuit’s all-star squad.41
That fall Mallette announced his retirement from baseball. The 30-year-old explained that he was becoming a sportswriter for the Asheville (North Carolina) Times.42 When he reported to Dodgers spring training in 1953, it was not to pitch. Instead, he filed daily stories for both the Asheville Times and the Asheville Citizen covering Brooklyn’s Tri-State League (Class B) affiliate in that city.43 When he returned to Brooklyn’s hitter-friendly ballpark for one assignment, Mallette remarked, “It hurts a left-hander even to sit in the press box at Ebbets Field.”44
In the spring of 1954, Mallette was named the Citizen’s sports editor, and the first article in The Sporting News featuring his byline was published in April. It described how an armadillo left dangerous holes all over a diamond at Dodgertown until Asheville manager Ray Hathaway conducted a midnight stakeout and bludgeoned the nuisance creature with a fencepost.45 More than a dozen Mallette pieces appeared in The Sporting News over the next five years, covering a variety of sports. After Elmira Star-Gazette sports editor Al Mallette was elected president of the New York-Pennsylvania League’s Baseball Writers Association in 1958, some issues of The Sporting News contained articles by two different Mallettes.46 Al, a Michigan native, and Mal were not related.
Mal became the sports director of the Winston-Salem Journal and Sentinel in 1956, and the publication’s managing editor three years later. In 1966 he was named the associate director of the American Press Institute, which sought to improve the nation’s newspapers from its headquarters at New York City’s Columbia University.47
Mallette served API in various capacities over the next 21 years, including executive editor, and he moved with the organization to Reston, Virginia. “Mal had a long and exceptionally productive career with API,” observed API president William L. Winter. “He was a key player in building API as the primary developer of leadership-development and skills-training programs for the American news industry.”48
After Mallette retired from API in 1987, he became the director of projects for the World Press Freedom Committee. His accomplishments included writing a handbook for foreign journalists that has been translated into nine languages. He also led journalistic training teams in Eastern Europe. In 2002 Mallette was inducted into the North Carolina Journalism Hall of Fame.49
On November 25, 2005, Mallette was at home in Durham, North Carolina when he died of heart failure the day after Thanksgiving. He was 83. He was survived by his wife of 59 years and three sons. Mallette is buried at Ashelawn Gardens of Memory in Asheville.
This biography was reviewed by Darren Gibson and Len Levin and fact-checked by David Kritzler.
1 Mal Mallette, American Baseball Bureau Questionnaire, September 16, 1946.
2 Mallette, American Baseball Bureau Questionnaire.
3 “2013 Syracuse Baseball Wall of Fame Inductees Announced,” https://www.oursportscentral.com/services/releases/2013-syracuse-baseball-wall-of-fame-inductees-announced/n-4541474 (last accessed December 21, 2020).
4 “Mallette Barely Misses 2 No-Hitters for Bears,” The Sporting News, September 8, 1948: 23.
5 “Camp Wood Ties Edison in Army Loop Series,” Daily Record (Long Branch, New Jersey), September 9, 1943: 12.
6 Wilbur Adams, “Mallette, Rickey’s ‘Sleeper,’ Proved Nightmare to Stars,” The Sporting News, November 30, 1949: 8.
7 Mallette, American Baseball Bureau Questionnaire.
8 Willie Klein, “Bears Get Mound Duo and Fly Hawk in Deal with Blues,” The Sporting News, November 19, 1947: 14.
9 “Newark,” The Sporting News, May 21, 1947: 22.
10 “Orioles Take Wing, Swipe Five Hassocks in Inning,” The Sporting News, September 10, 1947: 25.
11 Klein, “Bears Get Mound Duo and Fly Hawk in Deal with Blues.”
12 “Mallette Barely Misses 2 No-Hitters for Bears.”
13 “Kansas City,” The Sporting News, May 5, 1948: 24.
14 “Three Int Chuckers Toss One-Hitters on Same Night,” The Sporting News, September 1, 1948: 22.
15 “Mallette Barely Misses 2 No-Hitters for Bears.”
16 “Witek Becomes a Yankee as Stirnweiss Insurance,” The Sporting News, February 23, 1949: 16.
17 “Kansas City,” The Sporting News, June 1, 1949: 26.
18 Jack Durkin, “‘Arm Never Felt Better,’” The Sporting News, November 30, 1949: 8.
19 “Sacramento,” The Sporting News, August 31, 1949: 32.
20 Durkin, “‘Arm Never Felt Better.’”
21 “Sacramento,” The Sporting News, September 21, 1949: 28.
22 “Midnight Deadline for Player Drafts,” Shamokin (Pennsylvania) News-Dispatch, November 18, 1949: 12.
23 Tom Swope, “10 Pitchers Among 20 Players Drafted,” The Sporting News, November 23, 1949: 3.
24 Harold C. Burr, “Rickey Pitches Trading Tent,” The Sporting News, November 30, 1949: 14.
25 Durkin, “‘Arm Never Felt Better.’”
26 “Mallette May Be Sent Back to Coast, Due to Sore Arm,” The Sporting News, May 3, 1950: 20.
27 “Eastern League,” The Sporting News, September 13, 1950: 30.
28 Santiago Llorens, “Cuban Capers,” The Sporting News, January 24, 1951: 23.
29 “Montreal,” The Sporting News, June 27, 1951: 30.
30 “Montreal,” The Sporting News, August 15, 1951: 15.
31 “International League,” The Sporting News, September 26, 1951: 28.
32 “Ex-Pitcher Sizes Up Alston,” The Sporting News, August 21, 1957: 37.
33 Lloyd McGowan, “‘Royals Fastest Club in O.B.,’” The Sporting News, September 10, 1952: 29.
34 Harold C. Burr, “Several Hill Rookies Rap on Dodger Door,” The Sporting News, December 7, 1949: 26.
35 “Montreal,” The Sporting News, May 14, 1952: 35.
36 Al C. Walker, “Hero Walker Almost Goat, Too, in 19-inning Marathon,” The Sporting News, June 4, 1952: 28.
37 “Montreal,” The Sporting News, June 25, 1952: 28.
38 “Mallette Lacks Former Speed,” The Sporting News, April 16, 1952: 10.
39 “Montreal,” The Sporting News, September 3, 1952: 28.
40 “Mallette Boosts Two-Year Montreal Record to 23-4,” The Sporting News, September 17, 1952: 36.
41 Cy Kritzer, “International League,” The Sporting News, September 17, 1952: 27.
42 “Mal Mallette to Quit Royals,” The Sporting News, November 19, 1952: 25.
43 “Royals’ Mallette Reports — as a Scribe, Not as Pitcher,” The Sporting News, April 22, 1953: 24.
44 Dick Young, “Clubhouse Confidential,” The Sporting News, July 3, 1957: 19.
45 Mal Mallette, “One Swing and Hole Digging Armadillo is Out — Forever,” The Sporting News, April 21, 1954: 32.
46 “Mallette Heads NYP Writers,” The Sporting News, July 16, 1958: 39.
47 H. Rosenthal “Ex-Hurler Mallette Earns Post with Press Institute,” The Sporting News, May 7, 1966: 37.
48 “Former Director Mal Mallette, Inducted into N. Carolina Journalism Hall of Fame,” https://web.archive.org/web/20070928050049/http://www.americanpressinstitute.org/pages/apinews/api_news_releases/former_director_mal_mallette_i/ (last accessed December 22,2020).
49 “Former Director Mal Mallette, Inducted into N. Carolina Journalism Hall of Fame.”
50 “Northstars Baseball Wall of Fame,” https://cnsathletics.com/sports/2019/9/20/northstars-baseball-wall-of-fame.aspx (last accessed December 22, 2020).
51 Lindsay Kramer, “Six Players Named as Inductees into Syracuse Chiefs 2013 Wall of Fame Class,” https://www.syracuse.com/sports/2013/02/six_players_named_as_inductees.html (last accessed December 22, 2020).