A left-hander’s name you should know

Mel Parnell passed away this week at the age of 89.

Parnell didn’t pitch for the Senators - he was a Red Sox left-hander from 1947-56 - but he absolutely dominated Washington in head-to-head matchups. In 33 career starts against the original Nats, he went 23-5, with a 2.92 ERA, his best numbers against any other American League club.

Parnell pitched for Boston when Fenway Park was absolute death on most lefties, yet he did his best work at home. His career record at Fenway was 71-30 in 117 starts, with 60 complete games. He was really the first Boston lefty to have that kind of success at Fenway, and with a winning percentage just over .700 in 101 decisions, has few peers; it’s even slightly better than Whitey Ford’s record at Yankee Stadium.

Parnell wasn’t a big guy - 6-foot, 180 pounds - and didn’t throw exceptionally hard. He wasn’t a strikeout pitcher- he averaged fewer than 100 Ks every season, and a like number of walks - but he made you put the ball in play. Lots of ground ball outs in a place where you hoped the right-handed swingers wouldn’t hit the ball in the air to left field. In those 117 starts at home he allowed only 67 home runs, in a park known, as a longball haven.

Parnell retired after the 1956 campaign with a 123-75 record, a 3.49 ERA, and then managed for a few seasons in the Red Sox farm system. He then became a broadcaster for the Sox in the late 1960s. He was a part of their radio crew when they won the 1967 pennant, their “Impossible Dream” season. It surely was a big deal for him; he’d been a part of the last really good Red Sox team, the 1949 club that finished a game behind the Yankees. Parnell was a 25-game winner that year, several seasons before there was a Cy Young Award.

Parnell would have turned 90 in June. He’d battled cancer for several years and passed away in the city where he’d been born, New Orleans.

I’m supposing many of you have never heard of Parnell, and I thought he was someone you should know about.