Caveat Emptor- Part Three
The Off-Season: Caveat Emptor- Part Three
By Tim Kabel
January 27, 2022
So far, I have written two articles in this series (linked at the conclusion of this article) that I am calling Caveat Emptor, which is about free agent signings the Yankees made that for one reason or another, went awry. The subjects of the first two articles, Steve Kemp and Dave Collins, did not have successful careers as Yankees. They did not fulfill their contracts. They were both traded before their contracts expired. Neither of them lived up to expectations on the field. Kemp suffered injuries, which limited his productivity and eventually ended his career. Collins was just a bad fit from the outset.
This raises a question. Is it possible for the Yankees to sign a free agent who puts up fairly representative numbers but, is still a bad signing? Could a player be so divisive and reprehensible that despite adequate production, signing him was clearly a mistake? The answer is yes. The answer also can be summed up in two words: Mel Hall.
Technically, Mel Hall was acquired by the Yankees in a trade with the Indians for Joel Skinner and Turner Ward on March 19th, 1989. However, he became a free agent at the end of the season and was signed by the Yankees to a three-year contract. Hall was not a dreadful player as a Yankee. In his four years with the team, he hit .273 with 63 home runs and 265 runs batted in. The Yankees were not a good team then and Hall was not a very good player but, he showed flashes. However, he was not as good as he thought he was. He conducted himself as if he were a superstar. At one point in his career, he carried three pairs of batting gloves in his back pocket so that as he ran around the bases in his home run trot, the gloves would wave goodbye to the opposing team. That’s extremely creative but, considering he never hit 20 home runs in a single season, it also seems to be a lot of work for nothing. It would be like Don Knotts preparing an elaborate acceptance speech for the Academy Awards for his performance in The Incredible Mr. Limpet. Hall also had one of the slowest and most deliberate home run trots in baseball history. He used to boast that he could beat Mike Tyson in a fight and that God had done remarkable work in creating his body.
Hall was a terrible teammate while he was with the Yankees. On one occasion, he brought a loaded gun into the Yankees’ clubhouse. Another time, he engaged in a violent wrestling match with Rickey Henderson. Rickey Henderson is a Hall of Famer, and the Yankees could ill afford to have him injured in a wrestling match with a mediocre outfielder, who carried extra gloves in his back pocket for no reason. Hall also brought mountain lion cubs into the Yankees clubhouse at one point. The cubs were later confiscated by wildlife officials and removed from Hall’s custody, which was probably the best thing that ever happened to them. And it was Hall’s treatment of Yankees’ rookie Bernie Williams in 1991 that was his most outrageous behavior directed at a teammate.
Hall bullied Bernie Williams mercilessly. He posted a sign above Bernie’s locker, identifying him as “Mr. Zero.” Hall’s implication was that Bernie Williams had no value or significance to the Yankees. (Actually, Mr. Zero sounds like an arch nemesis of Batman on the 60’s television show, who could have been played by Rip Taylor.) Hall would repeatedly antagonize Williams. He would badger him and shout at him constantly, calling him “Mr. Zero” and telling him to shut up. Williams, who was always a laid back and rather sensitive person, was almost destroyed by this behavior. Ultimately, Hall was warned by general manager Gene Michael to stop the abuse, or he would be traded. Of course, Hall, being a bully and a coward, caved in and stopped harassing Bernie Williams. Another incident that shows just how out of touch with reality Mel Hall was occurred in 1992 on Old-Timers’ Day. He walked over to manager Buck Showalter and asked, “Who are these old effing guys?” as Showalter said, “That’s when I knew he had to go.”
In addition to the fact that Hall’s baseball skills never lived up to his ego and bravado and the fact that he was a cancer in the clubhouse, there were other issues. By some accounts, Hall owned 15 cars, yet he was brought to and from Yankee Stadium by a limo. In 1992, he rented an apartment at Trump Tower, and lived down the hall from the future President of the United States. Worst of all, during his Yankees’ tenure, Hall began dating a 15-year-old girl from Connecticut. He would have her sit in the family section with players’ wives who were 10 or 20 years older than she was. His teammates accused him of picking up his fiancée at Toys “R” Us. In 1991, the Yankees’ yearbook included a picture of Mel Hall and his fiancée at her high school prom. He was older than some of the chaperones. Hall essentially bought his way into the girl’s family and began living in the house, displacing her parents from the master bedroom. Hall eventually moved his girlfriend from her home to the Trump Tower, where she was essentially a prisoner. Hall disrupted her school year to the point that she never graduated, despite being just a few months short of earning her diploma.
It is interesting to note, that despite having one of his better years as a player in 1992, after Hall’s season was over, the Yankees did not bring him back and no other Major League team signed him. He went to Japan for three years before coming back to play part of one season at age 35 with the San Francisco Giants, where he was a pinch hitter. Hall’s baseball career was over. He eventually became an AAU girls’ basketball coach in Texas. His pattern of grooming and then trapping underage girls into sexual relationships continued. Hall was a sexual predator who had multiple victims. In 2009, Mel Hall went on trial in Texas for five counts of sexual abuse of girls as young as 12 and 14. The jury reached the guilty verdict on all five counts after only 90 minutes of deliberation. Mel Hall was sentenced to 45 years in prison, with no possibility of parole until he serves half his sentence. The earliest he can be released is November 2031. He will be 71 years old at that time.
Mel Hall was a mediocre baseball player. He was a less than adequate outfielder. He had a terrible on-base percentage. His occasional and limited power did not make up for his lack of other skills. In addition, he was a selfish, cruel, and bullying teammate, who targeted one of the best Yankees of that era. Worst of all, Mel Hall was a horrendous person. He is a convicted sex offender of minors. Even in prison, he would be at the bottom of the hierarchy. This behavior went on while he was a player. It occurred while he was in the Yankees’ organization. There is evidence of it in the team yearbook.
It is an embarrassment and a stain on the Yankees’ tradition that he was associated with the team at all. Mel Hall’s uniform number should have been expunged from memory. I suppose he does have the final laugh at Bernie Williams expense, in that Mel Hall still gets to wear a uniform with a number on it. Unfortunately that number has many more digits than his Yankees uniform did, and his current uniform is orange. Mel Hall is a clear example of the fact that when it comes to free agents and acquiring individuals, it’s not just playing ability, it’s character as well.
Caveat Emptor clearly applied to the signing of Mel Hall.
Previous Articles in this Series: