If you’re a baseball fan and/or historian, you can only imagine what life was like in New York City during the first part of the twentieth century, with the New York Yankees, New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers capturing the imaginations of young boys and girls in every borough of the Big Apple – and beyond. Fortunately for us, we were able to go straight to the source to allow us a glimpse into the life and times of one of the greatest New York City-based professional players, as well as one of the greatest players in Major League Baseball history.
On this special edition of The A Lot of Sports Talk Podcast, we had the pleasure to have an extended conversation with Barbara Schneidau, the daughter of Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Mel Ott. Known as “Master Melvin,” Ott was not only remembered as a feared hitter, but also as one of the true gentlemen of the game. In our conversation, Schneidau explains to us what type of man his father was, as well as the respect that he garnered from Brooklyn Dodgers fans despite wearing the uniform of their eternal rival. Also, Schneidau, whose family traveled from New Orleans to New York to watch Mel play during each summer, lets us in on some of the nuances of the famous Polo Grounds in upper Manhattan and what made the park so special to attend a ballgame.
In the near hour-long interview, Schneidau also chronicles a number of fascinating moments that took place with Mel and the Ott family off the field, including the time in which famous restauranteur Toots Shor left a conversation he was having with a Nobel Peace Prize winning scientist to approach Mel, who was entering the restaurant. Although Mel was not drafted into the armed forces during World War II, Schneidau explains to us the reasoning as to why her father was made a captain when he went overseas to entertain with the USO. Oh, and if you’ve ever heard the saying, “Nice guys finish last!,” listen to the interview and hear why Mel Ott played a big role in coining of the now ubiquitous American phrase.
Please enjoy the podcast, and leave us any and all comments that you have. Click here to go to the A Lot of Sports Talk podcast page on iTunes, or click here to find the podcast on Google Play Music. From there, you can download this show as well as subscribe to our podcast page and receive new episodes on your device the second it is posted. You can also open iTunes, and in the Podcasts section, type in “A Lot of Sports Talk” in the search box to find our shows.
Interview Order: Intro (0:00 – 4:32); Barbara Schneidau (4:35 – 55:00); Wrap-up (55:10 – 59:41)
[Cover photo (Mel Ott) courtesy of baseballhall.org]