After hitting 17 homers in his first full season in 1983 for the Cubs, Hall was traded in mid-1984 in the deal that brought Rick Sutcliffe and a division title to Chicago. He was hitting a career-high .318 in 1985 when he broke his collarbone running into an outfield wall, but rebounded to hit 18 homers in both 1986 and 1987. He dropped off to six homers in 1988.
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The Yankees traded Joel Skinner for Hall shortly after Dave Winfield's back problem became known in spring training of 1989, but Hall slumped and then fell victim to injury. He found himself in part-time duty as a DH and left fielder on his return to the lineup, the Yankees having acquired Jesse Barfield in the interim.
Meanwhile, Hall's showy habits in the Big Apple were earning him a reputation as one of the game's most flamboyant characters. He rented an upper-level apartment in Trump Tower and would often sally across town with two pet cougars in tow. He dated a 16-year-old, drove her to school in flashy cars and even attended her prom. All of this made quite an impression his teammates, especially the young two-sport star Deion Sanders, who later asked Hall to be the godfather of one of his children.
The cougars were confiscated by the City of New York in 1990, and Hall was slapped with a $10,000 fine. To add to his woes, Hall's RBI total fell to 46, a five-year low. But over the next two seasons, he proved himself one of the Yankees' most productive hitters, topping the club with 80 RBIs in 1991 and besting that total in 1992.
Hall was dissatisfied with the club's lackadaisical attitude towards a new contract extension, however, and demanded a trade in August 1992. "I'm one of their most popular players," he grumbled, "and I'm the one getting the least respect." The trade request was not granted.
Major-league rules prevented Hall from testing the free-agent market, so he left the majors and spent three years in Japan. Hindered by increasingly sore knees, he returned to the States in 1996 as a left-handed pinch-hitter for the Giants, but was unhappy with his limited role. "Pinch-hitting is a vital role, but I will never accept it,'' he told the San Francisco Chronicle in late April. He was released less than a month later. (SFS/JGR)
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FROM THE BASEBALL CHRONOLOGY
»June 13, 1984: In a deal that will pay off in the short run with an NL East Championship, the Cubs trade outfielders Mel Hall and Joe Carter and minor leaguer Darryl Banks to the Indians for P George Frazier, C Ron Hassey, and P Rick Sutcliffe. Sutcliffe will go 16–1 for the Cubs the rest of the season and win the NL Cy Young Award. Because Cubs GM Dallas Green neglected to renew waivers on Hall and Carter, the status of the trade is in doubt for a while, and the two will not play for a week.
»March 19, 1989: With Dave Winfield sidelined, the Yankees trade C Joel Skinner and a minor leaguer to the Indians for OF Mel Hall. Winfield will miss all of the 1989 season after undergoing back surgery next week for central disc herniation.
»August 15, 1991: Yankees 1B Don Mattingly is benched and fined $250 for refusing to cut his shoulder-length hair, but the Yankees still beat Kansas City, 5–1. He will get one two days later, and the hair will eventually be auctioned off for $3,000 to benefit a children's charity. Mattingly is not alone; Steve Farr, Matt Nokes, and Pascual Perez have all been told their hair length violates club policy. Mel Hall, who wears his hair in a small ponytail before and after games, is warned his appearance is "borderline."