Baseball in Wartime

Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice

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Rube Melton


Date and Place of Birth: February 27, 1917 Cramerton, North Carolina

Died: September 11, 1971 Greer, South Carolina

Baseball Experience: Major League
Position: Pitcher
Military Unit: US

Area Served: United States


Rube Melton

Reuben F “Rube” Melton was born on February 27, 1917 in Cramerton, North Carolina.  The 6-foot-5, 200-pound right-hander attended Campbell Junior College in North Carolina and signed with Greensburg of the Penn State League in 1936. Melton was 13-4 his rookie year with a 2.16 ERA.

In 1937, he pitched for Albany of the Georgia-Florida League and was 6-11. However, he was out of baseball for the next two years, making a comeback with Columbus of the American Association in 1940 and going 10-10 with a 3.48 ERA. Melton was drafted by the Phillies at the end of the season and made his major league debut on April 17, 1941. He finished the year with 25 appearances for a 1-5 record. In 1942, he made 42 appearances and was 9-20 for the last-placed team, leading the league with 114 base on balls allowed.

Melton was traded to the Dodgers in December 1942 and made 30 appearances for them in 1943 for a 5-8 record. In 1944, he was 9-13 and allowed only one home run (to Tommy Holmes) in 187-and-a –third innings. His ERA that year was a very respectable 3.46.

Melton entered military service with the Army on December 7, 1944. He was inducted at Camp Croft, South Carolina and played outstanding basketball at Camp McClellan, Georgia during the winter months. During the summer, Private Melton – along with teammate Mel Queen, pitched for the Third Regiment in the Camp McClellan Baseball League.

Melton was discharged from service on May 22, 1946 and returned to the Dodgers in fine form enjoying his best season in the major leagues with a 6-3 record in 24 appearances and a 1.99 ERA.

However, Melton’s taste of glory was short-lived. Arm trouble meant he made just four brief appearances in 1947 and was back in the minors in 1948. He spent the next four years with Mobile, Greenville and Gastonia, retiring from baseball after the 1951 season.

Rube Melton was tragically killed in a car crash – along with his wife, Hazel, and the driver of the other car – on September 11, 1971, near Greer, South Carolina. He was 54.

Created May 13, 2008.

Copyright © 2008 Gary Bedingfield (Baseball in Wartime). All Rights Reserved.