60 Years Ago: Mel Parnell’s forgettable season as Green Wave Baseball Coach
Mel Parnell played numerous baseball seasons he remembered with great pride. But there was one, as the head baseball coach for Tulane University in 1958, he probably would have liked to forget.
Parnell retired from the major leagues in 1956 and still holds the record for most games won by a left-handed Boston Red Sox pitcher. He played ten big-league seasons in a career whose last three years were affected by an arm injury. However, during his peak years from 1948 to 1953, he was one of the best pitchers in the American League, as he posted a combined 109-56 record and 3.22 ERA. He threw a no-hitter in 1956 against the Chicago White Sox. He was inducted into the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame.
Parnell replaced Ben Abadie as the Tulane varsity baseball coach in 1958, after being out of baseball for a year. It was his first foray into managing or coaching at any level. Tulane was then a member of the Southeastern Conference.
The Green Wave’s season got off to a rough start and never recovered. Their roster was plagued with injuries throughout the campaign, including a period near the end of their season when they traveled with only 12 players. Their record against SEC opponents was 2-14, while they were 2-4 in non-conference games. One of the losses was the result of a Tulane forfeiture necessitated by Parnell’s ejection from a game at Mississippi State. The highlight of their season was an upset over Ole Miss.
He resigned from Tulane after its disastrous season, and Bob Whitman, who had previously played at Tulane, took over the program.
Parnell parlayed his season with the Green Wave into a managerial job in 1959 with the New Orleans Pelicans Double-A team. In the last season of the franchise, the Pels finished in sixth place in the Southern Association. Parnell later spent three seasons as a manager in the Red Sox organization, including one with Triple-A Seattle. He finished out his baseball career as a broadcaster in Boston and Chicago from 1965 to 1970.
Parnell, who prepped at S. J. Peters High School, still ranks as one of the best major-league pitchers from New Orleans. He died in 2012 at age 89.
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New Orleans baseball historian
Richard Cuicchi, Founder of the Metro New Orleans Area Baseball Player Database and a New Orleans area baseball historian, maintains TheTenthInning.com website. He also authored the book, Family Ties: A Comprehensive Collection of Facts and Trivia About Baseball’s Relatives. He has contributed to numerous SABR-sponsored Bio Project and Games Project books.