By Ronnie Tellalian
There is only one player in Major League history to both play and coach for 20 plus years. He is also the only eligible player not in the Hall of Fame that played for 20 or more years with the same ball club. At the time he retired in 1947, he was the Indians all time leader in wins, games started, and innings pitched. I had the honor of meeting him at a fundraiser for my baseball team back in 1996. A man I didn’t know was escorted into the room in a wheelchair. He appeared frail and old, but he had strength and joy in his eyes. He was introduced to me as Indians legend Mel Harder.
Starting Pitcher: Mel Harder
Harder began his professional career at the age of 17 with minor league teams in Dubuque Iowa and Omaha Nebraska. In his first pro season, he won 17 of his 33 starts and gained the attention of the Cleveland Indians. In 1928 the Tribe signed the 18 year old and he began his career in the Indians bullpen. By 1930, his diving curveball and good control earned him a spot in the Indians starting rotation. He didn’t blow anyone away in that first season, but he won 11 games with a 4.21 ERA.
By Vince Guerrieri
The second All-Star Game, in 1934, has gone down in baseball lore as the Midsummer Classic that saw the Giants’ Carl Hubbell set down Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin in the first and second innings.
As impressive as that performance was, Hubbell didn’t get the win before the home fans at the Polo Grounds. In fact, the National League lost 9-7. The winning pitcher for the American League ended up being the Indians’ Mel Harder.
Harder broke into the majors in 1928 as a relief pitcher for the Tribe. Two years later, he was part of the starting rotation, and Harder was the starter for the first Indians game at Municipal Stadium (he took the loss, as the Athletics, behind Lefty Grove, won 1-0).