Red Sox mourn the passing of Mel Parnell

BOSTON, MA—Mel Parnell, who won more games than any other left-handed pitcher in Red Sox history, passed away yesterday in his native New Orleans, LA, after a battle with cancer.  He was 89.  The two-time All-Star won 25 games in 1949, threw a no-hitter in 1956, and was 71-30 at Fenway Park.  He spent his entire 10-year Major League career with Boston from 1947-56, and was inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 1997.

“Mel died a peaceful death,” said his son, Mel Parnell Jr.  “He loved the Red Sox.  They were a big part of his life as well as for our whole family.  Dad felt the Red Sox were always like a family and all of us have been so thankful about how they treated him.  When he was inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame that was one the great thrills for our family.

“Dad was excited about Spring Training and the coming season.  He was able to watch a couple of the games on TV and he always watched them during the season.  He had a lot of respect for Jon Lester, who was his favorite player.”

Parnell’s no-hitter was the last by a Red Sox left-hander until Lester threw his in 2008.

“I was saddened to hear about Mr. Parnell’s passing and my sympathies are with his family,” said Jon Lester.  “His pitching legacy is one that I have looked to build from in my own career and it’s humbling to know that one of the greatest left-handed pitchers in Red Sox history respected me as player.”

“Mel was not only the winningest southpaw in Red Sox history, he was a beloved member of our alumni,” said Red Sox President/CEO Larry Lucchino.  “We are saddened by his passing, and on behalf of John Henry, Tom Werner, our partners, and our entire organization, we extend our condolences to his loving wife, Velma, his son, Mel Jr., and daughters Barbara, Sheryl, and Patti.”

“Mel was a true gentleman,” said Red Sox Vice President and Historian Dick Bresciani.  “And let’s remember that in addition to his contributions on the field in the ‘40s and ‘50s, he was the color commentator during our Impossible Dream season of 1967.  It’s unfortunate an elbow injury shortened such a terrific career.”

 

Born on June 13, 1922 in New Orleans, Parnell signed with Boston in 1941, then delayed his career to serve in the military during World War II.  He finally debuted in the majors in 1947 and pitched 10 years, all with the Red Sox.  He was 123-75 with a 3.50 ERA and 113 complete games in 289 appearances, including 232 starts.  In 1949, he led the majors with 25 wins, the largest single-season total ever by a Red Sox left-hander.  He also led the majors with 27 complete games and led the American League with a 2.77 ERA (91 ER) and 295.1 innings pitched.  He was the starting pitcher for the American League in the 1949 All-Star Game and was an All-Star again in 1951.  His no-hitter, a 4-0 win over the White Sox at Fenway Park, came in the final season of his career.

Parnell remains the all-time leader among Red Sox southpaws in wins and is fourth overall in club history behind Roger Clemens (192), Cy Young (192) and Tim Wakefield (186).  He also leads club left-handers in starts (4th overall), innings (4th overall), complete games (tied for 6th overall) and ERA (8th overall).  He is the only left-handed pitcher to start a game for Boston in 10 different seasons, and his decade with the club matches Bill Lee for the most service time by a Red Sox lefty. 

Following his playing career, Parnell managed in Boston’s farm system from 1961-63, then served as a Red Sox broadcaster for four seasons from 1965-68 with TV-5 and WHDH-AM.

Funeral arrangements will be finalized later today.

ADDITIONAL QUOTES

“He was such a great leader of the pitching staff.  He was good for me as a young pitcher and taught me a lot.  Mel always encouraged you.  His  elbow was hurting him that last season but he still pitched a no-hitter in Fenway Park.” - Tom Brewer, Red Sox pitcher from 1954-61

“Mel was one of the nicest guys I ever met in baseball, and one of the best left-handers to pitch for the Red Sox and in Fenway Park.  He always pitched batters inside and believed that was a big reason he was successful.  He kept telling the rest of us pitchers we needed to do the same.  He was a true gentleman and one of my best friends on the team.” - Ike Delock, Red Sox pitcher from 1952-53, ’55-’63

“Mel made an effort to get to know everybody. He was a real gentleman, a wonderful family man.  He really knew how to pitch at Fenway Park. They would say that lefties couldn’t pitch at Fenway but Mel had great success there because he was such a smart pitcher.” - Frank Malzone, Red Sox third baseman from 1955-65

“He was a great teammate.  We played together in 1946 at Scranton (A) and won the Eastern League championship.  He led the league in ERA.  Mel was a fun-loving guy and quite a competitor.  He could really pitch.  It’s a shame he didn’t start that 1948 playoff game against Cleveland.  He was warming up when the manager (Joe McCarthy) sent someone to the bullpen and said he was switching to Denny Galehouse.  I always believed we would have been in the World Series if Mel started.  He was really disappointed but didn’t say a word.” - Sam Mele, Red Sox outfielder from 1947-49, ’54-’55