Mel Ott was just 18 but already had 35 big league games under his belt when he stepped in front of a camera for this photo in the early spring of 1927. Small but powerful, Ott was a tremendous prospect. Little did anyone know at the time, however, that he would become one of the most feared hitters in baseball history.
The photo captures the 5’9” slugger before he’d hit even one of his 511 career home runs. The photographer at Wide World Photos has noted the day he took the image as April 12, 1927. A secondary stamp (and date) from the Central Press is when the photo was later placed into a newspaper’s photo archive.
The 7 x9 3/4″ image is up for bid in the RMY Auctions March Premier catalog.
The photo has three small pinholes and a small corner chip but is otherwise among the best existing original images of Ott as a young player in the 1920s.
Minor league teams near his Louisiana home had turned Ott down because of his stature and in 1925, he joined the semi-pro team operated by a lumber company located about 90 miles from New Orleans. The wealthy owner of the company coaxed him into going to New York for a tryout and the Giants were immediately impressed.
Ott had participated in only 35 games in 1926 and wouldn’t play a full season in 1927 either as manager John McGraw and club officials opted to bring him along slowly. With his early start, it’s not surprising that Ott became the youngest player to hit 100 home runs as well as the first National League player to reach 500. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1951, and sadly died in an auto accident just seven years later.
Bidding is underway at RMYAuctions.com with the auction set to conclude on Saturday, March 10.