Appel: Mel Ott and his enduring home run record

From SABR member Marty Appel at The National Pastime Museum on November 6, 2014:

The tragic death of St. Louis Cardinals rookie Oscar Taveras during the World Series, victim of an auto accident in the Dominican Republic, brings to mind another ballplayer who died a similar death, albeit long after his distinguished career had ended.

Mel Ott has been dead for 56 years now, retired for 67, and only those approaching or into their ninth decade really remember him by sight as one of the most popular and successful players baseball has ever produced.

He was to the New York Giants what Lou Gehrig was to the New York Yankees—a role model, a hero to young fans, an example of clean living, and a tremendously productive ballplayer. When the Giants retired his No. 4 in 1948, he was only the third player so honored in baseball—after Gehrig, and his teammate Carl Hubbell.

Ott’s 511 home runs was a National League record, ridiculously far ahead of Chuck Klein’s 300, and trailing only Babe Ruth and Jimmie Foxx on the all-time list. He held the record until Willie Mays broke it in 1966.

A lot of Ott’s NL career records, which included homers, RBIs, runs, and walks, have been bettered, not to mention his record for shortest autograph (six letters), which was broken by Pittsburgh’s Ed Ott (no relation) in 1974. (Tennis star Li Na is going to be tough to beat overall.) But Ott holds a rather obscure record that is worth revisiting, because it does feel like one of those that may never fall, and nobody really knows about it.

Mel Ott led his team in home runs 18 years in a row.

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Originally published: November 6, 2014. Last Updated: November 6, 2014.