This is game 24 of the 2012 baseball season.
In the first inning let’s take a look at This Week in Baseball History for the 2 week of June.
1924 After Bob Meusel get hit with a pitch in his back in the top of the ninth, the Yankee outfielder hurls his bat at Tiger pitcher Bert Cole, and charges the mound. The resulting melee, including players, fans and police, lasts for nearly 30 minutes and when ump Billy Evans is unable to clear the field, he forfeits the game to New York, 10-6.
Robert William Meusel was born on July 19, 1896 in San Jose, California.
Meusel was a solid, all-around player, capable of hitting with power and for high average, and of stealing a base. He had one of the best outfield arms ever. He could whip the ball with lightning-fast speed and laser-beam accuracy, to any base or home plate. Meusel’s throws were usually caught on the fly, rather than on a bounce or two.
He is the only American Leaguer to three times hit for the cycle. The first came against Walter “Big Train” Johnson. The second one was against two largely unknowns on the A’s, Jim Sullivan and Charlie Eckert, neither of them ever won a big league game. The third was achieved by benefit of a twelve-inning game. He also holds the all-time record by twice stealing home in the World Series.
Meusel hit .328 for the Yankees as a big league rookie in 1920. Another newcomer to the club that year was George Herman “Babe” Ruth. Despite their personality differences, they both enjoyed the nightlife and became friends.
Meusel was known for having an extremely quiet demeanor and nonchalant style of play. Manager Miller Huggins described him as only appearing to be indifferent. He showed the same emotion regardless of whether the team won or lost. Several players and writers described him as anti-social. Meusel’s conversations sometimes only included the words “Hello” and “Goodbye.” Still, he wasn’t the type to be easily irritated and disrupt team chemistry. Fans often mistook his skillful, effortless work for loafing. His long, loping strides in fielding the ball helped to give them that impression.
He helped the Yankees win consecutive pennants from 1921 through 1923. They faced the Giants in the post-season all three years.
Meusel, Ruth and second-string pitcher Bill Piercy were suspended for going on a barnstorming tour after the 1921 World Series. This practice was prohibited back then for players who had just participated in a World Series. These three teammates were warned beforehand but still went ahead with their trip. Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis had been in office for less than a year and felt that his authority was being challenged. Therefore, Landis came down fairly hard on the defiant players by ruling them ineligible until May 20, 1922. Executives, fan groups and others unsuccessfully attempted to have the penalties lessened.
In 1923, Meusel hit .313 with 9 home runs and 91 runs batted in as the Yankees moved into their new Yankee Stadium. The Yankees won their first World Series in 1923 with Meusel delivering an eventual game-winning two-run single in the decisive Game Six.
Before the 1924 season started, Meusel’s close friend Tony Boeckel, shortstop for the Boston Braves, was killed when the car in which he was riding flipped over in San Diego. Meusel was a passenger in the vehicle but escaped unhurt.
On June 13, 1924 Meusel helped ignite a riot against the Tigers at Detroit’s Navin Field. The Yankees were leading, 10-6, when Bert Cole’s pitch nearly flattened Babe Ruth. Cole then proceeded to nail Meusel in the ribs. Meusel sprinted toward the suspected beanball thrower and took a swing at him (but missed). It set off a free-for-all between the players, along with a heated confrontation between Ruth and player/manager Ty Cobb. Umpire Billy Evans tried to restore order by tossing out Meusel and Ruth. But then scores of unruly fans stormed the playing field, and fights started breaking out all over. Therefore, Evans forfeited the game to New York.
One of the all-time greatest outfields was Combs, Meusel and Ruth, which reigned from 1924 through 1929. Meusel and Ruth would alternate positions, depending upon the individual ballpark because Ruth wanted to avoid facing the glaring sun. For instance, Ruth played right field in Yankee Stadium, since the sun shone on left field. The situation was reversed at Fenway Park.
Meusel won the American League home run and Runs Batted In titles in 1925. However, the Yankees plummeted from second to seventh place in 1925. After that season, Meusel never again reached such lofty heights in home runs.
Manager Miller Huggins reshuffled the Yankees and brought them back to greatness in 1926. A noticeable change was their middle infield combo with the addition of Mark Koenig and Tony Lazzeri. This revamped team won the pennant, but lost the World Series to Rogers Hornsby’s Cardinals. In a famous pitcher/batter confrontation, Alexander whiffed Lazzeri with the bases loaded in Game Seven. Combs, Gehrig and Meusel were all straddling the base paths at the time. Meusel was at bat when the game ended two innings later on Ruth’s failed steal attempt of second base.
Meusel batted .339 and stole 24 bases with the fence-busting 1927 Yankees. His speed was exemplified by stealing second, third, and home in the third inning of a game on May 16. This team’s best hitters were known as Murderers’ Row. Gehrig, Lazzeri, Meusel and Ruth each had over 100 Runs Batted In in 1927. Ruth, Gehrig, and Lazzeri were the league’s top three home run hitters. Combs led the league in hits and triples. Often overlooked was the Yankees pitching staff, which led both leagues in Earned Run Average. This well-rounded team is traditionally regarded as the finest ever. They capped off their fantastic season by sweeping Pittsburgh in the World Series.
Meusel accumulated over 100 Runs Batted In with the Yankees for a fifth time in 1928. They won the pennant that year, and then swept St. Louis in the World Series.
Meusel’s numbers tailed off in 1929 which led to him being waived to the Reds in October 1929. He played in 110 games, hitting .289 with 10 home runs and 69 runs batted in. The Reds released Meusel after the season, and he went on to spend two seasons playing in the minor leagues before retiring from baseball.
Meusel had cameo appearances in the movies Slide, Kelly, Slide, Alibi Ike, Pride of the Yankees and The Babe Ruth Story.
Meusel’s older brother was the Giants’ Emil “Irish” Meusel, who four times drove in over 100 runs. One of their greatest thrills was opposing each other in three straight World Series from 1921-23. The brothers had somewhat similar career statistics. For example, they both played eleven years, with one batting .310 and the other .309. They were the first siblings to combine for fifty home runs in the same season. They were also the only brothers who both won Runs Batted In titles.
Bob Meusel died November 28, 1977 in Downey CA.
A large part of this biography comes from the SABR Baseball Biography Project written by Ken Willey. It can be found online at http://bioproj.sabr.org
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Well, that’s it for today’s Baseball History Podcast. I’ll see you later at the ballpark.