Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sunday School: Phillies History Lesson 63

Russ Meyer was a pitcher with the Phillies from 1949-1952. Meyer, an Illinois native, came up with the Cubs and pitched parts of three seasons for Chicago, mainly as a reliever. Following the 1948 season, the Phillies, who were in need of pitching help, purchased Meyer's contract from the Cubs for $20,000.

Meyer would become a starter with the Phillies in 1949. His first season playing for Philadelphia was his best as a pro. In 37 games, 28 of which were starts, he posted a 17-8 record with 14 complete games, 2 shut outs, a 3.08 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP. His ERA was lowest in the National League among right-handers.

The following year, Meyer suffered an arm injury following spring training, which limited him to 25 starts. However, when the Phillies needed him most, Meyer surely came through. As the season wound down and the 1950 pennant chase heated up, the Phils held a slim lead in the standings over Brooklyn, after losing 3 straight games to Brooklyn in early September. In the 4th game of that series, Meyer stepped up to earn the 4-3 win and stop the bleeding. The Phillies held on to win the NL Pennant over the Dodgers in the final week of the season.

Over the two seasons that followed, Meyer went 21-23 with a 3.28 ERA and 21 complete games for Philadelphia.

After the 1952 season, Meyer was dealt in a blockbuster 4-team trade that sent him to his former arch rival, the Brooklyn Dodgers. The tables completely turned, as Meyer helped his new club advance to the World Series. Meyer posted a 15-5 record in 34 starts and completed 10 games while helping Brooklyn clinch the pennant. The Dodgers would lose to the Yankees in the '53 World Series, but Meyer and his teammates would get their revenge two years later when the Dodgers beat the Yankees in the 1955 Fall Classic.

Despite pitching in three different World Series, Meyer made the most headlines in May 1953 because of his actions during a start at Philadelphia. Objecting to calls by home plate umpire Augie Donatelli, Meyer stormed toward home plate cursing and needed to restrained by his own catcher, Roy Campanella. Meyer was ejected, but before he retired to the visitors' locker room, he heaved a rosin bag 30 feet into the air, threw his mit, and made an obscene gesture toward Donatelli. All of those antics were captured by television cameras. The incident earned Meyer a lot of attention as well as a fine and suspension.

Also, with the Dodgers, Meyer became one of two pitchers in Major League history to go at least 23 straight road starts without a loss, when he spanned 24 consecutive starts without a loss over the 1953 & 1954 seasons.

Meyer continued pitching in the Majors through the 1959 season, spending time back with the Cubs as well as making stops with Kansas City and Boston before his career was over.


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