A lifelong Cleveland Indian, Mel Harder, a four-time All-Star, pitched in an era when offensive numbers were as high as they’ve ever been. But Harder didn’t allow that to keep him from posting 223 career wins. One of the few pitchers to succeed in the Lively Ball Era who didn’t pitch for the Yankees, Harder was regarded as a fine accuracy pitcher.
Mel joined the Indians in 1928 at the ripe old age of 18. After struggling as a teenager at the Major League level, Harder found Major League batters less hard to retire in 1932. That season Mel showed his workhorse capabilities by logging 255 innings with 15 wins. His 3.75 ERA was a well above average mark for the high-powered offense of the early 1930s. The following season he posted a 2.95 ERA which led the American League. Hall of Famers Lefty Gomez (3.18), Red Ruffing (3.91) and Lefty Grove (3.21) all had inferior marks but played for high-scoring clubs.
Mel trimmed his ERA down to 2.61 in 1934 (2nd in the AL) and posted his first 20-win season. His six shutouts paced the circuit and Mel had to be sharp every game to win for the Indians, a middle-of-the-pack team that relied on Earl Averill and Hal Trosky for its runs. A back-to-back 20 game winner with 22 victories in ’35 (2nd in the AL), Harder showed terrific accuracy. His average of 0.185 walks per inning greatly exceeded the marks of Hall of Famers Lefty Gomez (0.350) and Lefty Grove (0.238).
After a dismal ’36 season Mel returned in 1937 to notch 15 victories for Cleveland. He was able to forget that awful ’36 season when he had a fine 1938 campaign when he and young fireballer Bob Feller won 17 games apiece for the Indians. He trimmed his ERA down to 3.50 in 1939 but when arm woes shelved him in 1941, the Indians released him before the season was out.
Harder didn’t remain unemployed for long. When Indians ace Bob Feller enlisted in the Navy after the bombing on Pearl Harbor, December of ’41, the Indians resigned Mel to pitch for them in 1942. Their signing of Mel worked as he finished tied for second in shutouts. He trimmed his ERA down to 3.06 in 1943 as the aging right-hander pitched during the war effort. But injuries became common for Harder in his latter years and he was forced to retire after the 1947 season. With Cleveland from 1928 to 1947, Mel never saw World Series action, and missed out on the Fall Classic when Cleveland finally copped a pennant in 1948.
W 223/L 186/PCT .545/ERA 3.80/G 433/CG 181/SHO 25/IP 3,426/H 3,706/BB 1,118/SO 1,161