Mel Hoderlein was born on June 26, 1923, in Mount Carmel, Ohio. He graduated from nearby Batavia High School and played American Legion baseball and high-school ball, and, unsurprisingly, it was the nearby Reds who spotted him in 1942. He was 19 and he was sent to the Class D Georgia-Florida League, assigned to the Cordele (Georgia) Reds.
The Reds tried him out in Class B at the end of the year, in the South Atlantic League. He played for the Columbia (South Carolina) Reds, batting .389.
He was on a Birmingham contract at the close of the year, but spent the next three years serving in the Army Air Force. He was designated to ship out overseas, but his brother was killed in the service, and the practice in such situations was to keep any siblings Stateside. In 1945, his final year, he played some service baseball, his team winning a tournament in South Carolina and then traveling to play out west, where they finished in third place in bigger competition.
After mustering out, Mel was one of the hundreds of returning servicemen who flowed back into baseball in 1946. He was assigned to the Macon Peaches of the Class A South Atlantic League and after about a month, he was assigned to the Anniston (Alabama) Rams, a Class B affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Southeastern League. After the season he was assigned to Birmingham, an Athletics farm team in the Double-A Southern Association. The franchise was bought by the Boston Red Sox and so he found himself in the Red Sox system in 1948.
Mel earned himself a promotion to Triple-A, where he played for the Louisville Colonels for the next three seasons. He made the American Association All-Star team in 1950 and 1951, but the Red Sox had utility-man Billy Goodman ahead of him. He went to the big-league spring training camp each year from 1949 through 1951, but each year was sent back to the Colonels.
In August 1951 Red Sox second baseman Bobby Doerr was left at home when the Red Sox went out on a road trip, laid low with a sacroiliac condition. Shortstop Lou Boudreau had a broken hand, and third baseman Vern Stephens pulled a muscle. The team needed another infielder, so they sent for Mel, bringing him up and for at least a couple of days, he was the only backup infielder they had.
In November he was traded to the White Sox. He had missed a good part of the White Sox’ spring training in 1952 because he’d been hit in the leg by a batted ball and a blood clot developed. He was sent from San Antonio to Chicago for better medical treatment, and missed about a month. In May, never having played in a game for the White Sox, he was sent to the Washington Senators.
Each of the next two years, he played progressively less, and saw his batting average decline. His final big-league game was in June when he was traded to the Detroit Tigers and they placed him with the Buffalo Bisons.
In 1955 he didn’t fare well and decided to pack it in. Taking up work at a manufacturing company, Mel spent 32 years as an electrician at Cincinnati Milling Machine and built a good career for himself.
Mel Hoderlein passed away at age 77, on May 21, 2001, in Mount Carmel, Ohio.