Top 100 Teams
By Bill Weiss & Marshall Wright, Baseball Historians
Utilizing the services of several future major leaguers, the 1946 Scranton Red Sox steamrolled their way through the Eastern League schedule. However, the brightest star of the bunch only shone in a handful of games - putting up astonishing numbers to set an all-time league record.
The city of Scranton, Pennsylvania, has enjoyed a rich and lengthy history of minor league baseball. Midway through the 1887 season, a team billed as the Scranton Indians joined the high-level International League as a replacement for Oswego. After winning 19 and losing 55, the team jumped to the Central League the following season, finishing 55-51 in their sole year in the circuit. During the following decade, the city fielded teams in the Pennsylvania State (1892-1894), Eastern (1894-1897) and Atlantic (1899-1900) Leagues.
In 1904, Scranton became the home of a New York State League franchise, when Schnectady was forced to relocate in July. The Scranton Miners remained in the Class B league for another 13 years, winning pennants in 1906 and 1908. When the league disbanded following the 1917 season, Scranton dropped out of Organized Baseball.
In 1923, a new league formed in New York and Pennsylvania featuring many of the same entries from the defunct New York State League. This Class B loop, logically called the New York - Pennsylvania League, featured a team from Scranton. Like their predecessors, this team was also named the Miners. Over the next several years, through the league’s upgrade in status to Class A in 1933, the Scranton Miners won one regular season crown in 1935, followed by a playoff win in 1936. After the 1937 season, the team dropped out of the league.
After a one year hiatus, Scranton rejoined the Class A Eastern League (a renamed version of the New York - Pennsylvania League) in 1939 as a farm team of the Boston Red Sox. In their first year back, the Scranton Red Sox dominated the league, winning the pennant with an 80-60 record before polishing off Springfield and Albany in the playoffs. In the next few years, the Red Sox won regular season championships in 1940 and 1943, as well as a playoff triumph in 1942, setting the stage for their greatest team yet.
In 1946, the Red Sox won the Eastern League pennant with ease, finishing 18.5 games ahead of Albany. The club finished the regular season with a league-best team batting mark of .276 and a league high 789 runs scored. After the season, Scranton beat third-place Wilkes Barre four straight in the first round of the playoffs as fourth-place Hartford eliminated Albany. The Red Sox then defeated Hartford, four games to one for the championship. First baseman Len Kensecke, a Scranton native, led the playoffs in batting with a torrid .474. Kensecke, who had played for Scranton in 1941, returned after 4 ½ years in the service to hit .305, eighth in the league.
Scranton was managed in 1946 by Elmer Yoter, former third baseman who played briefly for Cleveland and the Cubs in the 1920s. He enjoyed a 40-year career in baseball, the last 20 as a manager and scout in the Boston Red Sox organization. For his work in 1946, Yoter was named Manager of the Year.
From the batter’s box, Scranton was led by outfielder Sam Mele who led the league in batting (.342) and triples (18). He had a ten-year playing career in the majors, but is best remembered as the manager of the Minnesota Twins from June 1961 to June 1967. His 1965 team won the American League pennant with a 102-60 record, seven games in front of second place Chicago, the best mark for any team in Minnesota franchise history. The ’65 Twins lost a hard-fought World Series to Los Angeles, 4 games to 3. The series finale was a Sandy Koufax 2-0 three-hitter. Mele was named Major League Manager of the Year by The Sporting News.
Other hitters of note for Scranton in 1946 included Al Kozar, who batted .316 and Kensecke who hit .305. Part-time outfielder Al Signaigo contributed with a .313 average.
Scranton’s top pitcher was 32-year old right-hander Tom Fine who finished with a sparkling 23-3, 2.08 mark. Fine led the Eastern League in wins, shutouts (6) and complete games (21) and was second in ERA. He was voted the league’s MVP. Fine pitched for the Boston Red Sox in 1947 and the St. Louis Browns in 1950.
Fine was aided by a young left-hander, Mickey McDermott, who had a 16-6, 3.29 record. On July 14, a month shy of his 18th birthday, McDermott pitched an 8-0 no-hitter against Albany, making him possibly the youngest pitcher throw a no-hit game in the high minors. McDermott pitched another no-hitter for Scranton against Utica in the 1948 Eastern League playoffs. On May 24, 1949, pitching for Louisville, he struck out 20 St. Paul batters to set an American Association record. In 12 years in the majors with seven teams, McDermott never quite fulfilled his early promise, although he did have an 18-10, 3.01 season with four shutouts for Boston in 1953.
Despite the heroics of Fine and McDermott, perhaps Scranton’s best pitching performance in 1946 was turned in by a hurler who participated in less than two-dozen games. Lefthander Mel Parnell finished the season with a 13-4 record in 21 games. In that span, Parnell started 18 games, completing 14 with five shutouts. More notably, he allowed only 20 earned runs in his 138 innings of work, resulting in a microscopic 1.30 ERA. This mark broke the league record of 1.51 set by Chet Covington in 1943, and remains the Eastern League mark of excellence to this day. Building on his fine work in the minors, Mel Parnell had a solid major league career. In 10 years, Parnell won 123 games, including a 25-win season for the Boston Red Sox in 1949.
Following the season, five Red Sox players made the Eastern League All-Star team. Kensecke, Kozar, Mele and Fine were joined by catcher Tex Aulds on the post-season squad.
Other ’46 Scranton players making it to the majors included Al Kozar who hit .254 in three years of service for the Senators and White Sox from 1948 to 1950 and Sam Dente who batted .252 for four American League clubs from 1947 to 1955. In addition, shortstop Merrill Combs played for the Red Sox, Senators and Indians in five major league seasons and was a major league scout for many years. Also, Walt Dixon, who pitched briefly for Scranton, had a 37-year on-the-field career in baseball as a pitcher, first baseman and, for 27 seasons, a minor league manager.
After 1946, Scranton fielded a team in the Eastern League for another seven years, winning a regular season trophy in 1948 and a playoff crown in 1951. Following the 1953 season, Scranton dropped out of baseball until 1989 when they began a partnership with nearby Wilkes-Barre in the Class AAA International League.
The 1946 Scranton Red Sox had on their roster several future major leaguers. Although players like Sam Mele, Tom Fine and Mickey McDermott enjoyed solid seasons in Scranton, it was the young lefthander Mel Parnell who shone the brightest - eclipsing one of the league’s most glamorous records.
|1946 Eastern League Standings|
|1946 Scranton Red Sox batting statistics|
|Leslie (Tex) Aulds||C||105||323||55||85||46||13||5||3||48||54||2||.263|
|Chet Ziemba (Albany)||C||50||130||22||34||18||5||1||2||23||25||0||.262|
|1946 Scranton Red Sox pitching statistics|