Historical Hitter

Historical Hitter October 15th 1923: Bob Meusel

Yesterday was the last time the Cubs won a championship, today is the first time the Yankees did. On October 15, 1923, in the Polo Grounds the Yankees beat the Giants, 4 games to 2, and won their first World Series.

Bob MeuselThe batter of the day was Yankees outfielder, Bob Meusel, who hit a two-out double with the bases loaded that give the Yankees the lead 6-4.

It was a fateful eighth inning at the Polo Grounds, the Giants entered the inning leading the game 4-1, just six outs left in game six and thus tying the series at three games each.

The Giants starter Art Nehf could not keep the Yankees in check. Two singles and a walk, and then another walk forcing in a run. In came Rosy Ryan, who also could not find the strike zone, and he walked in another run. The next batter was the Sultan of Swat, who had hit a first inning home run. Like Casey of lore, the Babe struck out. Thus its two outs, bases loaded with Bob Meusel at bat, and the Yanks down by one run. He hit a ground ball up the middle that found its way to a single and plated the three runners: Haines, Johnson, and Dugan. Wally Pipp ended the inning with a ground out, but the damage was done; 5 Yankee runs in the eighth gave them a 6-4 lead.

It was Giants pitching unfortunately that was their undoing. Twelve straight balls were thrown before Meusel’s bases clearing single. The Yankees had scored 6 runs on just 5 hits.

The Yankees brought in Sad Sam Jones in relief. He faced four hitters three of whom are Hall of Famers; Fisch, Youngs, Stengle and Bob Meusel’s older brother Irish Meusel. The best these Giants could do was a two out base hit.

Bob Meusel is an enigma of a player. Immensely talented and always taking the sun field, known for having one of the outfield arms in his day, he was described as indifferent by his manager for not living up to his potential. The media called him Silent Bob as he gave short impersonal responses. At 6’3” he was the tallest Yankee at the time which earned him anther nickname of “Long Bob.”

He played for 11 seasons, 10 with the Yankees, he batted fourth after Ruth until Lou Gehrig joined the club, and then batted 5th. His numbers are similar to Hall of Famers Chick Hafey and George Kelly, yet his high water mark in Hall of Fame voting was as mere 5%. He was a superior batter and is the third person to hit for the cycle three times. His best year was 1925 with the Babe absent from the Yankees most of the year with his famous bellyache, Meusel stepped up and won the home run and RBI titles, yet he finished in 18th place in the MVP vote. Overall he hit .309 and in the cavernous left field of Yankee stadium he managed to hit 156 home runs, 95 triples, 368 doubles and have a very respectable OPS+ of 118. He still holds the record for stealing home in the World Series, which he did twice.

He was noted for fighting with the Babe in the dugout, and in Detroit after being hit with a pitch, started a melee. The incident turned uglier when after Ruth and Meusel were tossed out of the game, fans stormed the field ending the game. He and Ruth seemed to be friends, and after the 1921 World Series he and the Babe barnstormed which defied Commissioner Landis’ order and thus he and Ruth served a 50 day suspension. After his playing days he returned to California and was a movie extra and made cameo appearances, playing himself in the baseball movies: Slide, Kelly, Slide (1927), Alibi Ike (1935), Pride of the Yankees (1942) and The Babe Ruth Story (1948).

It was the fateful 8th inning in the Polo Grounds that changed baseball history, before this day the Yankees won just two pennants, after the 1923 season the Yankees would go on to win 37 more pennants and 26 more World Series titles. And the Yankee dynasty started with three walks in a row, and then a bases clearing single by one of the forgotten Yankees, Silent Bob Meusel.

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