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I went to Baseball-Reference.comRandom Page Mel Queen
Mel Queen’s, father, also named Mel Queen (no “Jr.” or “Sr.” because they had different middle names) was a pitcher for the Yankees and Pirates in the 40′s and 50′s. Mel the elder was a hard-thrower with a wild streak. He had a mediocre 8-season career (-1.7 brWAR), highlighted by a 1951 season in which he led the league in strikeout rate (with 6.6 K/9–how times have changed!).
Mel the younger must have inherited his big arm from his father. He was originally drafted as an outfielder, but even then he was known for his cannon arm, which was compared to that of Roberto Clemente. He made his major-league debut for the Reds in 1964, lining out as a pinch-hitter in his first at-bat. Unfortunately for Queen, his outfield position was blocked by three pretty good outfielders: Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson, and Tommy Harper.
Queen got just 99 plate appearances in 1964, and just 3 in 1965. During the 1966 season, Queen was asked to throw some batting practice for his teammate Deron Johnson, who wished to have more practice hitting hard-throwers. Queen threw 95 miles per hour with good control–Johnson couldn’t hit half the pitches. Before long, Queen’s manager put the surprised outfielder into a game as a reliever. He wasn’t even sent to the minors to practice his pitching. Queen had a 1-2-3 inning and struck out the last two hitters he faced. Queen pitched 7 innings in 1966 and even picked up a save, though he (like his father) was plagued by walks: 6 walks in those 7 IP, to go with 9 strikeouts.
From then on, Queen was mostly a pitcher. His best season by far came in 1967, when he posted a 2.76 ERA in nearly 200 innings, including 24 starts. 4.9 of Queen’s 5.4 career pitching brWAR came in 1967.
Somewhere in this period, Queen married the sister of fellow big-leaguer Jim Lonborg. They later divorced.
In later seasons, Queen was plagued by injuries; he was apparently notorious for complaining about arm and shoulder pain even when pitching well. He was diagnosed with a torn rotator cuff during the 1967 season, an injury that today would require surgery. In the 60′s, however, the only treatment was to get regular cortisone shots and play through the pain as much as possible. This limited Queen to relief work.
The Reds had little use for a reliever in 1968 and 1969, so Queen was eventually traded to the California Angels. He had two pretty good years out of the bullpen for the Angels in 1970 and 1971, but by 1972 his shoulder was too painful. Queen’s doctors had banned him from receiving any more cortisone due to its deleterious effects on the body, so he was forced to retire at the age of 30.
Queen’s post-playing career was also quite interesting and varied. He was a minor-league coach and manager for many years between 1979 and 2010, but he is likely best known to current fans for his time on the major-league staff of the Blue Jays in the 1990′s. He served as the Blue Jay’s pitching coach under two managers between 1996 and 1999. During that time, he coached 3 consecutive Cy Young winners (Pat Hentgen in ’96 and Roger Clemens in ’97 and ’98).
My favorite part of Queen’s Toronto tenure was his brief time as manager. At the end of the 1997 season, Cito Gaston was fired as manager. There were still 5 games left in the season, however, and Queen was tapped to fill in. The Jays went 4-1 in those 5 games, which gives Queen a quirky record: best winning percentage of any manager (minimum 5 games managed).
Queen’s .800 winning percentage ranks 10th overall
After 1999, Queen served as a roving pitching instructor for the Jays. Most notably, he worked with Roy Halladay in 2001; some credit Queen with Halladay’s subsequent evolution to a Cy Young winner. So that’s pretty cool.
Queen died of cancer in May of this year. He had a long and unique career in baseball. How many other people started as position players, then became pitchers, and then later coached multiple Cy Young winners? So rest in peace, Mel Queen, jack of all trades and managerial record-holder.
For more on Mel Queen, read this great biography
Tagged with: Cito Gaston Deron Johnson Frank Robinson Jim Lonborg Mel Queen Mel Queen (the elder) Pat Hentgen Random Players Roberto Clemente Roger Clemens Roy Halladay Tommy Harper Vada Pinson
This blog is devoted to the invention and use of unusual baseball statistics. These Junk Stats are designed to reveal the not-so-meaningful quirks that make baseball so fascinating.
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