Ott’s batting eye helps him tie his own record

Part of the INSIDE PITCH series
Written by: Craig Muder

Mel Ott’s patience at home plate put him on base more than any other National League player of his era.

And when it came to scoring runs in bunches, Ott was unsurpassed.

On April 30, 1944, Ott scored six times in the first game of a doubleheader against the Dodgers, tying his own big league record for runs in a game set in 1934. In front of a Sunday crowd of 58,068 at the Polo Grounds, Ott – hitting out of the No. 3 hole and playing right field – notched two singles and walked five times, scoring in the first, second, third, fourth, sixth and eighth innings.

The Giants won the game 26-8, falling two runs short of the then-MLB record for runs in the modern era (post 1900) set by the Cardinals in a 28-6 win over the Phillies on July 6, 1929.

“I don’t think I’ve learned anything new, but honestly I have never…hit the ball any harder that I have in the last few weeks,” Ott told the Associated Press after he was named to the 1944 All-Star Game roster. “I don’t know what it is, but I feel good up there at the plate, more confident. I seem to be getting the bat through faster.”

At 35, Ott would hit .288 that year with 26 homers, 82 RBI, 91 runs scored and 90 walks. His .423 on-base percentage marked the 13th time he had topped the .400 mark, and it would be the 12th time Ott walked at least 90 times in one season.

Ott’s second six-run game featured an 11-RBI day by Giants teammate Phil Weintraub, who totaled two doubles, a triple and a home run. Only Jim Bottomley (12 RBI on Sept. 16, 1924) and Tony Lazzeri (11 RBI on May 24, 1936) had previously reached 11 RBI in one game, and only Mark Whiten (12 RBI on Sept. 7, 1993) has done it since.

Weintraub drove in Ott three of the six times Ott scored.

The game also featured other outstanding performances by future Hall of Famers as Ernie Lombardi drove in seven runs for the Giants and teammate Joe Medwick scored five times. For the Dodgers, former Pirates teammates Paul and Lloyd Waner appeared in the game for Brooklyn.

In the coming years, six players would tie Ott’s record of six runs in a game. The Red Sox’s Johnny Pesky matched the mark in 1936, followed by Milwaukee’s Frank Torre in 1957, Boston’s Spike Owen in 1986, the Mets’ Edgardo Alfonzo in 1999, the Dodgers’ Shawn Green in 2002 (in a game where he set a new record with 19 total bases) and the Royals’ Joe Randa in 2004.

None of those players, however, drew more than one walk in their record-tying games.

Ott’s days as a regular player ended following the 1945 season, though he remained an occasional pinch hitter in 1946 and 1947. He managed the Giants into the 1948 season, and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1951 following a 22-year playing career that produced 511 home runs, 1,860 RBI, 1,859 runs scored and 1,708 walks.

Ott passed away on Nov. 21, 1958, due to injuries sustained in a car accident.

“As a ballplayer, he was one of the great ones,” teammate Carl Hubbell told the Associated Press when Ott passed away. “I have seen few compare to him.”

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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Part of the INSIDE PITCH series