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#273 Mel Nelson

12/17/2009

From their inception in 1961 through the 1965 season, Southern California’s AL franchise was known as the Los Angeles Angels. Of course, it was accurate back then, as the Angels actually played in the city. In fact, they shared a stadium with the Dodgers, but instead of accepting its name like the New York Jets do, the Angels referred to the ballpark as “Chavez Ravine,” a name that lingers as a nickname to this day.

On this card, Mel Nelson is wearing the original Angels uniform — Los Angeles written across the front, with an interlocking “LA” on the hat (nearly identical to the Dodgers logo). And he’s acting out one of the worst “action” shots in the whole set.

This card has some corner wear and is off-center from top to bottom. Probably an EX. This is a common card.

The trivia question (untouched on my card) asks who holds the Colts’ record for hits in a season. The Colts, of course, are what the Houston Astros were known as from 1962 through 1964. But since they had only played two seasons to this point, it’s a pretty easy question to answer. Roman Mejias was the first “star” for the Colts, and he collected 162 hits in their inaugural season. That record would stand until Joe Morgan had 163 hits in 1965. Mejias’ franchise mark of 24 home runs would last until 1967, when Jimmy Wynn hit 37.

Mel Nelson had neither a long, nor illustrious, MLB career. In fact, he didn’t appear in a big-league game in 1964. This after posting a 5.30 ERA in 52 2/3 innings for the Angels in 1963. He didn’t make the team out of spring training in ’64, and was purchased by the Twins in May.

He spent the rest of the year in AAA, but pitched a career-high 54 2/3 innings with pennant-winning Minnesota in 1965. He didn’t get into a World Series game, though.

After not appearing in 1966, he threw 1/3 of an inning in 1967 and was purchased by the Cardinals — the team with which he made his brief debut in 1960. He pitched fairly well in 1968, and even mopped up the final inning of a 13-1 loss to Detroit in Game 6 of the World Series.

After a few brief appearances in 1969 with St. Louis, Nelson was done with the major leagues. He pitched in AAA for Atlanta in 1970, but never earned another call-up.

Nelson had started his career as an outfielder and hit 27 homers in C ball as a 19-year-old. Perhaps the pitching thing wasn’t the best career move.

He went on to become a scout after his playing days, working well into this decade. As of 2005 he was living in Highland, California. He’s currently 73 years old.

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