Left field: Bob Meusel
By BRIAN HEYMAN
THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original publication: April 4, 2002)
Bob Meusel went about his business in a quiet way in those Roaring '20s, a low-key California kid working wonders in New York.
His manager, Miller Huggins, never much cared for what he felt was Meusel's indifferent manner, but Meusel made a rather large difference on the field for those Babe Ruth-led Yankees. He did so from 1920-29 with his bat, his legs and his power-packed arm on a team that won six pennants and three World Series during his tenure.
The Yankees summoned him from the minors for the 1920 season at the age of 24, and he showed he could hit right from the start. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound right-handed batter finished his rookie year at .328 with 11 homers and 83 RBI. After Meusel spent 45 games at third that year, Huggins shifted him to the outfield. And the following season, the American League really saw what he could do out there.
Meusel rang up an awesome 28 outfield assists from right in that 1921 season, leading the league and setting a club record. He tied the AL record with four in one game that September. The next year, he led the league again before shifting to left in the newly built Yankee Stadium for the 1923 season and the remainder of his Yankees years.
In 1955, Street and Smith Yearbook came out with its top 10 list of the best arms of all time.
Meusel edged out Ruth for No. 1.
By the time his decade with the Yankees was done, Meusel had hit a combined .311 with 146 homers and 1,005 RBI in 1,294 games. He's on the team's top 20 lists in eight categories average, RBI, doubles (338), triples (87), hits (1,565), steals (130), runs scored (764) and at-bats (5,032).
All in all, he proved to be a worthy fit along Murderers' Row with Ruth, Lou Gehrig and the rest. There were five seasons in which he drove in at least 100 runs. In 1925, Meusel led the league in RBI with 138 and homers with 33, beating out Ruth, who was limited to 98 games and 25 homers that season, one of only two from 1918-31 in which The Babe's name didn't appear at the top of the league's homer list.
In the 1927 championship season, Meusel made just $13,000, a bargain considering he hit .337, knocked in 103 runs and stroked 47 doubles, a figure surpassed just three times in franchise history, twice by Don Mattingly and once by Gehrig, in 1927, too.
Meusel led or shared the Yankees' stolen-base lead five times, including a high of 26 in 1924, and he set a record by swiping home twice in World Series play, during Game 2 in 1921 and during Game 3 in 1928, working a double steal that time with Tony Lazzeri.
There were three straight series from 1921-23 against the Giants, and that meant Meusel was playing against his brother, Irish.
Bob Meusel had a solid series in 1922, batting .300, and had eight RBI the following year to help the Yankees take their first title. His two-run homer also served as the big hit in Game 1 of the victorious 1928 Series vs. the Cardinals.
His running mate during those years in New York was the gregarious Ruth. The pair liked to go barnstorming together, although their unauthorized tour following the 1921 Series brought the two of them suspensions from commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who banned both for the first six weeks of the 1922 season.
There was another suspension in June 1924, this one for 10 days by the AL, and it came with a $100 fine. Meusel had played a part in a wild scene in Detroit. Tigers pitcher Bert Cole ignited the problem when he hit Meusel with a pitch, and the situation degenerated into one in which players and fans were scuffling on the field.
Meusel, who passed away in 1977 at the age of 81, finally was sold to the Reds for the 1930 season, his last in the big leagues. According to "The Yankee Encyclopedia," the New York media had sometimes received testy treatment from him until near the end of his time here when he started to lighten up.
Sportswriter Frank Graham put it this way: "He's learning to say hello when it's time to say goodbye."
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