On Jack Meyer and reflection at the new year

Sometimes our readers send in great pieces we like sharing with all of you. This is from Jason Love, a big Phillies fan who wanted to share a story about a mid-20th-century pitcher with some neat connections.

Thanks, Jason, and happy new year, Nation!


1880042939Jack Meyer was a Phillies pitcher from 1955–61. Over the course of his career he pitched in over 200 games and finished with a career ERA of 3.92. For most of his time with the Phillies the team was a mediocre ball club, at best. The 1961 team was exceptionally brutal, though, with a disheartening record of 47–107. Meyer cannot take too much of the blame for the 1961 season, however, since he only pitched in one game that year, before giving up baseball.

His best season was his first, ’55, in which he finished 6-11 with a 3.43 ERA, finishing a league-high 36 games (and saving a league-high 16, during the very early days of the save statistic). Because of his success, Meyer finished second in National League Rookie of the Year voting in 1955 (to Pittsburgh outfielder Bill Virdon), and received a couple MVP votes, as well. The Phillies that year finished a clean .500 at 77-77.

For well-seasoned Phillies fans, Meyer is probably better remembered as being a member of the Dalton Gang. This was a group of younger players composed of Meyer, Jim Owens and Turk Farrell (not to be confused with Turk Wendell). These Phillies were known to enjoy the nightlife and, after hours drinking, fighting and frequenting bars (a previous incarnation of Pat Burrell, Jason Michaels and Co.). Allegedly Meyer once injured himself after getting into a heated argument with broadcaster By Saam.

Why write about Jack Meyer more than 50 years after he last played for the Phillies? It’s a good question. While recently strolling about the mall doing some last-minute holiday shopping, I came across a vendor selling old baseball cards, posters and memorabilia. On a whim, I bought a few Phillies cards with a Meyer card from 1957 being one of them. I wasn’t born when he played but decided to look into his statistics and history once I returned home. Meyer was a local guy, born in Philadelphia in 1932. He attended William Penn Charter School (the same school Ruben Amaro, Jr. attended many years later) and signed with the Phillies in 1951.

His career with the Phillies was nothing spectacular, but he did pitch in front of crowds at Connie Mack Stadium for several seasons. After Meyer retired from baseball, he passed away from a heart attack on March 6, 1967. He was only 34 years old at the time of his death.

The Meyer legacy did live on after he died; his nephew Brian Meyer, born in Camden, N.J., pitched 50 innings over three seasons with the late-80s Houston Astros.

As one year comes to a close and another begins, 2017 marks the 50-year anniversary of Meyer’s passing. He is buried in Lakeview Memorial Park in Cinnaminson, N.J. The cemetery is located off Route 130, just a short drive from the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge.

Baseball, like all professional sports, provides us with a brief glimpse into someone’s life. Once the athlete leaves the game, the highlights fade over time. As a fan we may see the retired player at a baseball card show or at an old-timer’s night at the ballpark. We see our favorite player trot out onto the field, but it is never the same.

From every April to October, the Phillies are a big part of this fan’s daily routine. During the summer the Phillies’ players, along with the radio team of Scott Franzke and Larry Andersen, are like members of my extended family. I listen to games on the radio, read the box scores every day and attend a few games each season. Like most fans, I have a rooting interest in the team’s wins and losses.

I never saw Jack Meyer pitch for the Phillies; however, after picking up his baseball card and reading about his life, it gave me reason to pause for a moment. Even though I don’t know much about the personal lives of the players, I have a strong connection to the team. My father was a fan of Granny Hamner and the Whiz Kids; I grew up watching Juan Samuel and Von Hayes; and my son’s favorite player was Ryan Howard. Baseball connects one generation to the next.

With the acquisition of Clay Buchholz, the return of Jeremy Hellickson and a good core of young players, here’s hoping for some new connections to be made, and for an 81-win season this upcoming season. A .500 ball club would be a fitting tribute to Jack Meyer.

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