Tuesday, November 2, 2010
The World Series, The Giants and A Family Connection
My grandfather, the first Mel Wolfgang, and the man for whom I am named, would no doubt have mixed feelings about that. On one hand, he'd probably observe that it's about time, since the last time the Giants were baseball's world champions was way back in 1954.
On the other hand, he'd likely remember that it was John McGraw's New York Giants that shared the field with his own team - the Chicago White Sox - in the World Series contest of 1917.
The White Sox were victorious that year, and several sports writers noted that "Little Mel", as he was called, pitched more during the Series than any of the other White Sox pitchers, even though he didn't pitch a single inning in a single Series game.
How could this be?
Mel worked behind the scenes, pitching batting practice every morning of the Series to his Sox team members. Other pitchers got the credit for actually winning the games, but as the astute sports writers of the time noted, the White Sox players would not likely have played or batted nearly as well had it not been for Wolfgang's behind-the-scenes hard work in the bullpen.
Mel wasn't one of the World Series stars, but like folks in many other walks of life, he played an important role in making it all work for his team. That's what teamwork is all about. In baseball, as in many other endeavours, it's not about the individual. It's about the team.
When the 1917 Series was over, Mel went home to Albany, New York where his local family, friends and fans met him at the train and held a huge torchlight parade in his honor, along with a formal dinner with speeches, telegram messages from political notables and floral tributes. Local papers noted that Mel, who was somewhat shy, hid behind one of the floral displays at on the head table for most of the dinner.
Mel's baseball career, from 1905 when as a fifteen year old he started playing sandlot baseball in Albany and shortly had his own team, until 1921 when he finally retired from professional baseball, was regularly chronicled in newspapers all over America.
For those who work as family historians, newspapers are great sources of information.
The news story above, published in March of 1913 during spring training with the White Sox, detailed Mel's earlier baseball career with Albany of the New York State league and with Lowell of the New England league.