How MLB Legend Mel Ott Needed Mom’s Permission
The baseball Hall-of-Famer had plenty of talent but struggled to get consent to start his career
Outfielder Mel Ott was one of the most distinguished players in baseball history. He spent his entire 22-year big-league career (1926–1947) with the New York Giants, arriving at the age of 17 and growing up on the job. Making 11 consecutive All Star teams, he was a major star on the game’s biggest stage, which helped earn him a place in the Baseball Hall of Fame soon after he retired. However, none of it would have been possible if he and his father hadn’t begged and pleaded with his mother to get her permission to take that path in life.
Although not a large man, Ott was a power-hitter who led the National League in home runs on six different occasions. The left-handed hitter was much more than just long balls, as he batted .304 and posted a .414 on-base percentage in his career. In total, he banged out 2,876 hits, 511 home runs, 1,860 RBIs, drew 1,708 walks and scored 1,859 runs. He also helped lead New York to three World Series, taking home the 1933 Fall Classic.
A January 4, 1931 article in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle by Cullen Cain interviewed the future baseball legend about his journey to a pro career. He was still just 21 at the time but coming off a 1930 season that had seen him hit an impressive .349 with 25 home runs and 119 RBIs.
Growing up in the New Orleans area, he was encouraged by his father, an oil worker, to play lots of sports, especially baseball. His dad was a talented athlete himself and played when he could, often bringing his son with him and allowing him to play with the men. This helped immeasurably with his growth as a player. Ott recalled:
“I was large for my age. When I was only 11 years old, I played ball nearly every day in the year. I also played basketball and football. I became very fast and strong. Then, when I was only 12 years old, I used to go around a good deal with my father and uncle. They took me with them to ball games in New Orleans and almost everywhere they went. Being with older men so much must have made me hold for my years.”
Ott’s role models hadn’t made it as professional athletes, but their guidance set him up for his future:
“I guess baseball must run in our family. My father was a semi-pro player in his younger days and once had an offer from a league ball club. My uncle was also a noted pitcher and once pitched a 1–0 game against Cleveland for a semi-pro ball club.”
However, no matter how much influence his father and uncle had over him, the one person he had to convince to let him embark on his professional baseball career was his mother. He was so talented that that the legendary John McGraw, manager of the Giants, wanted the youngster, even though he was still just a schoolboy. Being a minor, he needed the permission of his parents. Naturally, his father was beside himself with joy over the opportunity. Mom was another story.
“The hardest job I ever had in baseball, harder even than making good for McGraw, was in getting my mother’s permission to leave home and go away off to New York. It was all right with dad. He was an old ball player and was proud of my change to go with the Giants. But with mother, it was different. Dad and I had a tough time getting her consent to that New York trip. And then, besides, she did not want me to play baseball for a living.”
Finally wearing her down, Ott made good on his chance and more than justified his mother’s support. Happily, she came to change her stance on his career from begrudging to proud. The outfielder explained:
“She is not only reconciled to it now, but she is glad I am in the game. An I am glad, too. I had thought to go through college, but I believe that winning a berth on a big-league ball club is about as helpful to a boy in the development of his character, his wits and his resources as any course in college. I still like the game as much as I ever did when I was a kid back home, and I trust I always will.”
It goes to show that even the most talented and famous of those among us can do little without the backing of our mothers. Ott decided to take the hard road and convince his mom that he knew what he was doing instead of striking out against her wishes. It paid off in the end and allowed him to go on and become a baseball immortal with a clear conscience.