Continuing the series of posts featuring my favorite top 100 ballplayers of all-time.
In their first 70+ years in existence, the Chicago White Sox had produced exactly zero American League home run champions. For a team best known as the "Go Go Sox" -- I guess this lack of power shouldn't be a surprise. The fact is, Comiskey was a big ball park and the organization tended to focus on speed, defense, and pitching. I did a little research on Sox lack of power, and prior to Bill Melton, the franchise never really featured a premier power threat.
In 1970, a young power hitting third baseman came into his own and changed the power output equation of the franchise. That season he delivered the first 30+ home run season in club history. He was a distant 6th in the AL race behind the 44 blasts by HR champ Frank Howard. The next season (1971) "Beltin Bill" once again delivered 33 home runs, only this time he was on top of the American League leaders edging out out Norm Cash (32) and Reggie Jackson (32) on the last day of the season.
In 1971 Bill Melton also made his one and only All Star appearance. If you remember, that game ended up being one of the most famous All Star games in history. The game featured six home runs from six different future hall of famers, including the memorable blast into the light transformer by Reggie Jackson. Unfortunately for Melton, AL Manager Earl Weaver decided to play Brooks Robinson entire nine innings of the game and he got watch the game from the bench at Tiger Stadium.
A poorly timed back injury in 1972 limited his output during Dick Allen's MVP season and prevented the Sox from really challenging the Oakland Athletics. Who knows what a healthy Bill Melton could have done to shrink the 5.5 game difference in the final standings.
My most vivid memory of Bill Melton was his inclusion on the cover of Baseball Digest in August of 1973. Along with Carlos May and Dick Allen, the trio was dubbed "A New Murder's Row". I find this cover very ironic, because Dick Allen fractured his fibula in June of 1973. Although he tried to return 5 weeks later, he played in one "full" game after that. He had two pinch hitting chances on August 1st and 2nd. The first one Allen watched Pat Kelly get picked off and the second one he grounded out to end the game. That was the end of his season.
Melton stayed on with the Sox through the 1975 season, spending '76 in California as an Angel and '77 in Cleveland before calling it quits. When he retired, he did so as the White Sox franchise leader in home runs with 154. That record stood until Harold Baines passed him in 1987. Baines was past by Carlton Fisk in 1990, and Fisk was overtaken by Frank Thomas. Melton currently sits in 8th place in White Sox history.
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