Sam Mele was born in Astoria, NY on January 21, 1922. He played 10 major league seasons from 1947 to 1956 (mostly as an outfielder) with the Red Sox, Senators, White Sox, Orioles, Reds, and Cleveland.
In 1961, the Twins’ first season, Calvin Griffith made Mele the second manager in team history, succeeding Cookie Lavagetto. Mele led the Twins to the 1965 World Series, which they lost in a thrilling seven-game series vs. Sandy Koufax and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Overall the team went 524-436 under Mele before he was succeeded by Cal Ermer during the 1967 season.
Mele’s year of birth was listed as 1923 during his playing days, a trick that was suggested by his major league uncles Tony and Al Cuccinello. These days we associate fibbing about one’s age with Dominican players like Roberto Hernández (Fausto Carmona). Miguel Sanó’s true age was a huge source of controversy prior to the Twins signing him, as documented in Ballplayer: Pelotero (2011). But it’s hardly a new trick. Other than Sam Mele, Hall of Famers Rube Marquard, Phil Rizzuto, and Pee Wee Reese also lied about their age, as did 3x All-Star Hal McRae, who finally came clean in 1987 at age 41 (not 40).
Sam Mele passed away May 1, 2017. He was 95 years old.
• Sam Mele’s SABR bio, written by Bill Nowlin