1965: Mele Takes on the Umpire

Sunday July 18, 1965

They won’t call Sam Mele a “nice-guy” manager anymore. And American League clubs no longer refer to his Twins as a powerful but uninteresting club.

Within four months, Mele has fined one of his star players (Zoilo Versalles) $300, shouted bitter words at a rival manager (Birdie Tebbetts), and taken a five-day suspension plus a $500 for attacking an umpire.

-Max Nichols, TSN

Things just seemed ready to boil over in the first game of a Sunday twinbill against the Angels. The Twins, Mele specifically, had disputed a few umpire calls already when Rich Rollins went to argue a call with umpire Bill Valentine.

It wasn’t so much the call that Mele objected, though he later called it questionable; it was the way Valentine had treated Rollins. The umpire turned his hat around and took several steps towards the Twins’ second basemen to chase him back to his position. Mele was out of the dugout immediately, and out of the game just as fast. Valentine later said that he ejected the manager for use of profanity, but the dispute didn’t get interesting until after Mele had been run from the game.

There wasn’t much controversy after the game. Mele denied that he threw an intentional punch, and Valentine didn’t think Mele was trying to hit him. Still, the appearance was there. It looked to bystanders as if Mele had thrown a left-hand hook to the face of Valentine, just missing. The explanation given after the game was that Mele was trying to break away from his assistant coaches who were trying to hold him back, causing him to accidentally throw his arm towards Valentine. The issue seemed to be settled, until the American League stepped in and issued a hefty fine and suspension to Mele.

Interestingly, the Mele’s actually broke even in the money department. The same day that Sam was informed of the fine, his wife won $500 on a quiz show. The breaks were going Mele’s way in 1965.


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