July 19 – Happy Birthday Bob Meusel
From 1921 to 1924, Elmer Frederick “Irish” Meusel was John McGraw’s left-fielder on four consecutive pennant winning and two world championship teams. His four season RBI total for the Giants beginning in 1922, was 470.
Irish was not, however, the best left fielder playing for the home team in the Polo Grounds, back then. He was not even considered the best left-fielder in his family. That honor went to his younger and much more ornery brother Bob, who played for the Yankees. The Big Apple has not had a set of better-playing brothers since the Meusels were in town.
Consider this. In 1922, Irish drove in 111 runs for the Giants and “Long Bob” led the AL in RBIs with 138. That’s a total of 249 RBI’s from one set of brothers. In 1941, The DiMaggio boys had 283 RBIs in one season but there were three of them. Even more impressively, in the five seasons from 1921 until 1925, the Meusel brothers combined to drive in 1,125 runs.
If the Meusel’s were around today, I could see Reebok or Nike releasing a new pair of baseball shoes. The left one would be called the “Irish” and the right one, “Long Bob.” Or perhaps modern sneaker companies would have been turned off by the attitude and behavior of today’s Pinstripe Birthday celebrant.
As I dug deeper into the younger Meusel’s background, I found he had developed a reputation for being lazy on the field. Such criticism came not just from sportswriters of that era but from Meusel’s own Manager, the great Miller Huggins. It was also referenced in his New York Time’s obituary which stated that Meusel’s alleged laziness may have been in appearance only, caused by the fact that the tall, graceful athlete had such a long and loping stride, that he always looked like he was running slow even when he was not. I also found articles indicating that Meusel was not known as a very friendly guy. In 1924, he charged the pitcher in a game in Detroit with his bat-in-hand setting off one of the worst riots in MLB history. Other published accounts described the California native as “dark” and “moody” and a perennial complainer especially when it was time to sign a
contract or comply with a league rule.
But no one disputes Meusel’s five-tool talent on the field. This guy could run, hit, hit for power, field and had a shotgun for an arm. He played left field for one of the greatest Yankee teams in history and during his decade in New York the Yankees appeared in their first six World Series and earned the franchise’s first three championship banners. Meusel’s Yankee career ended when he was sold to the Reds after the 1929 season. During his ten seasons in pinstripes he hit 146 home runs, drove in 1,005 runs, hit .311 and maintained a .500 slugging percentage.
Long Bob shares his July 19th birthday with one of his old Murderer’s Row teammates and this former Yankee southpaw who threw masterful complete game victories for New York in both the 1941 and 1943 World series.