4 Comments

John T. Meyers

John T. Meyers was a full-blooded Native American from the Cahuilla Tribe, raised on the Santa Rosa reservation in Southern California. Known as a “cultured and witty” individual, he attended Dartmouth, an ivy league school, but quit to pursue a career in something quite unorthodox for someone so intelligent: professional baseball.

“The biggest regret of my life was that I didn’t complete college. I had a scholarship and was doing well. But I guess baseball meant more to me at the time.”

Being athletically gifted allowed him to become a star in baseball, but it was his charismatic flair that made him something of a celebrity. He was an outstanding catcher for nine seasons, mostly with the N.Y. Giants and the Brooklyn Robins (Dodgers). He also played a short time with the Boston Braves at the end of his playing days. His career would undoubtedly have been much longer if not for the fact that he didn’t play his first Major League baseball game until the age of 29.

He had knocked around in semi-pro baseball, mostly in California, until the N.Y. Giants purchased his contract from a minor league team located in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1908. Knowing he needed any advantage he could find to succeed in the big leagues (especially as a Native American in a blatantly racist society) he never allowed anyone in baseball to know his actual age. That is, until he reached the age of 65 and applied for social security.

He was a career .291 hitter and was purported to swing a “Big Stick”, a term that stuck with him throughout his career, but it was his fielding that set him apart. His superlative skills behind the plate were described as “supernatural” and inspired the nickname “Ironman.” (Predictably, he was also known as “Chief” during his career). He appeared in three World Series with the Giants (1911, 1912 & 1913) and in one with Brooklyn (1916) and made a respectable showing in MVP voting for three seasons.

He enjoyed a friendship of mutual respect with teammate and legendary Hall of Fame pitcher, Christy Mathewson. He caught more games for Mathewson than anyone else. They formed a formidable pitcher/catcher combination for 214 games.

“Mathewson was the perfect pitcher. He had an encyclopedic mind. He knew the strength and weakness of every batter.”

He also admired his manager while with the Giants, John McGraw, who he said did a lot to help change how baseball players were perceived by the general public in those early years.

“Back in the old days, ballplayers were considered rowdies and no decent hotels wanted them. And to make matters worse, Indians were looked upon as foreigners. Anyway, McGraw saw to it that we lived at the best hotels on the road and things started looking up. McGraw was tough, all right, but he fought for his players.”

Below are photos of Meyers with 2 Native American legends in the world of U.S. sports, Jim Thorpe, of the Sac and Fox Nation (popularly known as the world’s greatest athlete) and Charlie “Chief” Bender, of the Chippewa tribe and star of the Philadelphia Athletics for many years.

In 1972, he was posthumously inducted into to the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame at Haskell Indian Nations University in Kansas.

Moving back to Southern California after his retirement from baseball, Meyers was a frequent guest of the California Angels and Los Angeles Dodgers at their home games. He preferred watching games on television, though. As a matter of fact, he watched nothing but baseball games and news programs on television.

Why?

He didn’t appreciate the way Native Americans were portrayed on television and despised the place they were given in U.S. history. In 1933, he was appointed chief of the Mission Indian Agency of Southern California. He wanted to help make a change in the way actual Americans were treated in their native land.

During his career, whenever the Giants or Dodgers were in Chicago, he would make his way over to Field Museum in Grant Park to enjoy his favorite painting, ‘Custer’s Last Stand.’

“It’s the only picture I ever saw where the Indian is given a square deal.”

Sources:

*The Sporting News, August 14, 1971
*californiaindianeducation.org
*Baseball Reference

Advertisements

4 comments on “John T. Meyers

  1. enjoyed hearing
    of this baseball legend 🙂

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it. Occasionally I like to write about something light instead of being serious and getting angry about the pathetic state of affairs in the world today. I hope you’ll find more interesting posts here. 😀

      Thank you for the comment.

    • Glad you liked it. Interestingly, I only found out about John Meyers a few weeks ago while reading an old issue of a sports magazine we have here in the U.S., The Sporting News. I collect old issues of TSN (as well as a few other magazines) and enjoy reading them. I read about this player in the obituary section and was intrigued.

      Thank you for commenting. Keep the old movies coming. 😆

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: