Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Card of the Day-1965 Topps Sam Mele

Today’s card of the day is from the 1965 Topps set-and YES it is another Minnesota Twins card. I think I have more Twins cards than cards of any other team from that year. A big part of that is the Twins awesome season that year-going from a second division team in ’64 to a pennant winning, Yankees dethroning powerhouse in 1965. Part of my fascination with “Sam” Mele is his name. I don’t know if he is in the Great Sports Name Hall of Fame or not, but he belongs there. SAM is an acronym for this full name-Sabbath Anthony Mele. Yeah, his name is Sabbath Mele. Sabbath, which Webster’s defines as a time of rest and worship. Mele is a common misspelling for the word melee, which is a fight or struggle. The juxtaposition of the two words, meaning a day of relaxation and worship, fight just makes me laugh. Another thing that makes me laugh is the picture, obviously posed, but looking extremely managerial. Another juxtaposition that pleases me is the ’65 Mele placed beside Al Lopez’ ’65 Topps card-it looks like they are calling to each other. Sam Mele took the job of Twins skipper during their first season in Minnesota in 1961. He took over for Cookie Lavagetto in June of that year. Under his guidance the Twins finished the ’61 season in 7th place, but they jumped to 2nd and 3rd place finishes the next two years. In 1964, despite a few amazing individual performances from Camilo Pasqual (213 Ks), Harmon Killebrew (49 homers) and Rookie of the Year Tony Oliva (.323 BA) the Twins fell to 6th place in the AL in 1964. Things didn’t look good for Mele’s future-it looked as though Billy Martin (then 3rd base coach) would take his job. He didn’t and Mele skippered the Twins to a 102 win season and the AL pennant in 1965 behind an MVP performance from Zoilo Versalles and solid pitching from Mudcat Grant, Jim Kaat and Jim Perry. The Twins would lose to the Dodgers in 7, but it was one of the more amazing turnarounds for any team. The '65 season is chronicled somewhat in this CT post. Mele didn’t coach the Twins back to the Series in ’66; they had a good year (89-73) but were no match for the start of the Baltimore Orioles Dynasty. In 1967 the Twins were .500 after 50 games which was far below expectations as the Twins now had a fantastic rookie named Rod Carew-Mele was fired and replaced by Cal Ermer. After his firing Mele never managed again-he returned to the Boston Red Sox organization (where he spent 6 seasons as a player) and worked as a scout for 25 years. He is now 87 years of age, completely retired from baseball and residing in Quincy, Massachusetts. As a major league manager his record is 524-436 (.546) including several 2nd place finishes and the 1965 AL Pennant. His card is number 506 in the set and the back of the card discusses his playing days, he spent 10 seasons in the major leagues playing for 6 different teams. During his rookie year with the Boston Red Sox in 1947 Mele batted .302 with 12 homers and 73 RBI. In 1951, while playing for the Washington Senators, Mele paced the AL with 36 doubles and drove in a career high 94 runs. It also mentions that he is the nephew of former All Star infielder Tony Cuccinello. I was going to put words in Mr. Mele’s mouth, but I will leave that up to you guys, comment away blog-o-sphere! Oh, before I sign off, here is another reminder to enter my contest and win a sweet rookie card. Another oh by the way... I have dug out all of my Topps cards of the 60's and they will be dominating my card of the day posts. I found (and scanned) at least 10 cards from every year during the 60s. You have been warned. Troll out.

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