Gehrig, Meusel, Lazzeri, Ruth
FROM: The New York Times (November 30th 1977) ~
By John S. Radosta
Fans will argue long and inconclusively about the "best" outfield in
baseball history. The candidates include the 1912 Boston Red Sox, the
1915 Detroit Tigers, the 1920 Chicago "Black Sox," the 1925 Tigers,
the 1927 Pittsburgh Pirates, the 1929 Chicago Cubs, the 1929
Philadelphia Athletics and the 1942 St. Louis Cardinals.
But right up there with them is the 1927 Yankee outfield of Bob Meusel
in left field, Earl Combs in center field and Babe Ruth in right
field, with batting averages, respectively, of .337, .356 and .356.
Players of that time rated Mr. Meusel among the great Yankees, just a
notch below the level of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.
Ten of Mr. Meusel's 11 years in the major leagues were spent with the
Yankees, from 1920 through 1929. He played the 11th year with the
Cincinnati Reds of the National League.
In 1925 he led the American League with 33 home runs and 138 runs
batted in. In only three of his 10 Yankee seasons did he bat below
.300. His career batting average was .309.
He was less impressive in the six World Series he played for New York,
when his batting average was .255.
Noted For His Strong Arm
The Yankee outfield of the late 1920's was awesome enough, but it was
only part of the power that constituted "Murder's Row." Others
included Mr. Gehrig at first base and Tony Lazzeri at second.
Mr. Meusel was as valuable in the field as he was at bat. He was 6
feet 3 inches tall and moved with deceptive nonchalance. He covered
left field (he also played occasionally in center and right) with a
lazy lope. He usually got to where he had to be to make the catch,
but the impression he gave was of a man only half-trying.
And very few players had a stronger arm. He was deadly accurate and
swift in throwing to the bases or home plate from any corner of the
ball park. He could whip the ball like an infielder pegging to first
Casey Stengel, one of his contemporaries, recalled, "I never saw a
better thrower." For some reason Mr. Meusel could not "skip" the ball
to home plate - that is, throw it to the catcher on a single hop.
What he did was to throw clean line drives.
"He had lightnin' on the ball," Mr. Stengel said. "I don't know what
it was, but when he skipped the ball it skidded so crazy no catcher
could handle it. He had to throw on the fly all the way."
Bob Meusel was the younger brother of Emil (Irish) Meusel, and they
played against each other in the 1921 World Series, when Irish Meusel
was with the New York Giants. Early in his career Irish Meusel hurt
his throwing arm and his weak throw prevented him from being a great
The late Arthur Daley, The New York Times sports columnist, once wrote
that he considered that Bob Meusel had never reached his full
potential as a player.
Goat Of '26 Series
One reason was that people considered him to be lazy. He hustled only
when he wanted to. Impervious to pleas, threats or criticism, he
moved through his own world in solitude.
He sometimes refused to run out grounders. But there was the time, in
the 1921 World Series, that he stole home after warning the Giants
catcher, Earl Smith, that he would do it.
Mr. Meusel also happened to be the "goat" of the 1926 World Series,
when he dropped a fly ball that allowed the Cardinals to tie the score
and go on to win the game and the series. What happened was that Mr.
Meusel tried to throw a runner out before he actually caught the ball.
Mr. Meusel was born July 19, 1896, in San Jose, Calif., and he played
minor league baseball on the West Coast before joining the Yankees in
1920. In 1930 he was sold to Cincinnati and after a season there he
went back to the Pacific Coast League.
Mr. Meusel was directly independent. After the 1921 World Series he
was warned that a barnstorming tour he planned with Babe Ruth was a
violation of baseball rules, but he and Ruth went anyway. The then
baseball Commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, suspended them for
five weeks at the start of the 1922 season.
He also was dilatory about signing contracts. There was no
high-powered players' agents then, nor super contracts. A striking
contrast with today's bargaining conditions comes from a 1927 press
clipping: "Mesuel probably was insisting on more that a one-year
contract, which magnates in general are prone to frown upon."