SABR

Buddy Myer

This article was written by Ralph Berger.

Can nice guys succeed in baseball? Yes, they can! Take Buddy Myer for instance. Charles Solomon (Buddy) Myer was born on March 16, 1904, in Ellisville, Mississippi. His father, Charles, was of German Jewish extraction and his mother, Maud, was a Christian of English lineage. His father was a merchant and cotton buyer.

Myer decided to go to college at Mississippi A&M (now Mississippi State University). In 1923, he attracted many baseball scouts to watch him play. That same year, the Cleveland Indians offered him a contract. Buddy accepted the contract with the one condition that he would finish his college education. Myer graduated from Mississippi A&M in 1925.

Buddy was assigned to Dallas in the Texas League, but was not happy about it. He soon parted ways with the Cleveland organization and made his own deal with New Orleans of the Southern Association. In 99 games with New Orleans, Myer had a batting average of .336 with 125 hits, 21 doubles, 8 triples and 3 home runs. Before the season was over, the Washington Senators purchased him for $25,000. The Senators won the pennant that year. Buddy made his debut on September 25, 1925, playing third base. When Ossie Bluege was injured during the World Series against the Pirates, Myer played third base and batted .250

The signing of Buddy by the Senators had a humorous angle to it. Joe Engel, a scout for the Senators, had been tipped off that Myer was worth a "look-see." Engel went down to New Orleans to see Myer play. He liked what he saw and decided he was going to sign Buddy to a Washington contract. At the same time, the Chicago Cubs were interested in Myer and sent Jack Doyle down to watch him perform.

Doyle and Engel met each other at the ballpark and Doyle asked Engel what he was doing around these parts of the country. "Not a thing Jack," Engel said, realizing that Doyle might try to sign Myer. Engel then said, "Hey, Jack, you want a coke?" Doyle looked at Engel suspiciously and said, "No." Engel said, "Well, I do," and ran off to the New Orleans owner's office where he bought Myer.

Engel returned to his seat next to Doyle and enjoyed the game. Myer singled in the first inning and promptly stole second. The next time up he doubled down the right field line. Engel and Doyle eyed each other. Myer also made some spectacular plays in the field. Doyle said to Engel, "I think I'll go out and get that coke after all." Engel laughed to himself, for he knew that Doyle never drank coke. And here is the punchline as told later by Engel. Five minutes later Doyle returned fuming at Engel. "Nothing here worth looking at, eh? You double crosser!" "It was music to my ears because I knew that if Jack was that mad about me signing Myer, I'd got myself a real star," Engel recalled. Playing shortstop for the Senators in 1926, Buddy hit .304 with 132 hits, 18 doubles and one homerun.

On February 10, 1927, Buddy Myer married Minnie Williams. They had two sons.
In 1927, Myer was off to a slow start, batting only .216, when Senators owner Clark Griffith traded him to the Boston Red Sox for third baseman Topper Rigney. Myer finished the year batting .288. The following year in Boston he batted .313. Griffith regretted the trade and at the first chance made a deal to get Buddy back. Griffith had to give up five players in order to get Myer back. For the first time in Washington, Buddy found himself playing second base, a position he was comfortable with. His fielding improved greatly as his career continued. He also continued to hit. A highlight came during the 1929 season when Buddy went eight for eight.

While Myer was known to be quiet, mannerly and good- natured, he was not a man to mess with. During the 1935 season, Buddy and Ben Chapman collided at second base and fisticuffs ensued. In his rendition of what happened that day, Shirley Povich reported that Myer, after being taken out by a hard slide by Chapman, got up and kicked Chapman in the back. Soon the two were at it. The battle spilled over not only to the players on each side, but some 300 fans ran onto the field to do battle for the Senators. The rumble lasted a full twenty minutes. Viewing the battle was John Nance Garner, the Vice-President of the United States. Myer and Chapman were ejected. Myer and Chapman were each suspended for five games and fined $100. In another incident, Myer started a rhubarb when he slid hard into Billy Werber, the A's third baseman. Werber took umbrage at the hardness of the slide, and they both went at it. Both dugouts immediately emptied, and the fight was on.

Undoubtedly, 1935 was the best year of Myer's career. He won the American League batting title while driving in 100 runs and scoring 115 runs. Buddy out-dueled Joe Vosmik by going four-for-five on the last day of the season. Myer finished with a .3495 batting average with Vosmik finishing with a .3489 average. Vosmik had sat out the first game of a doubleheader, which probably cost him the batting title. Myer finished fourth in the balloting for the MVP award. Another Jewish ballplayer, Hank Greenberg won the MVP award with a season that included leading the league with 170 runs batted in, 46 doubles, and 16 triples. He also tied Jimmie Foxx for the league lead in home runs with 36.
After the 1935 season, the Yankees showed great interest in acquiring Myer but were turned down. In 1936, Ben Chapman became a member of the Senators, but there was no apparent ill will between him and Myer. Buddy developed a stomach ailment during the 1936 season and as a result played in only 51 games. Buddy came back in 1937 and batted .293 with 126 hits. Hitting his stride again in 1938, Myer batted a lusty .336 while driving in 71 runs. In 1939, Myer again began to suffer from stomach problems that continued to plague him until his retirement in 1941.

Buddy Myer played 17 years in the major leagues, longer than any other Jewish ballplayer. He retired with a lifetime batting average of .303 with 2,131 hits and an on base percentage of .389. During his career, he drove in 850 runs while scoring 1174 runs. Myer's .303 career batting average was better than the career average of Hall of Fame second baseman Bobby Doerr at .288. As a second baseman, Buddy helped execute 963 double plays as opposed to Johnny Evers' 688. For all positions played, Evers had a total of 692 double plays while Myer had 1,134.

Some people still feel that Buddy Myer belongs in the Hall of Fame. Bill James, in Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame?, compared Myer to Billy Herman, also a second baseman, who is in the Hall of Fame. James' view is that Billy Herman had greater visibility than Myer. James went on to say, "Myer's performance was more valuable to his team while Herman's was more eye-catching." He concluded with the feeling that Herman, after retiring as an active player, returned to manage and coach in the big leagues. Therefore, Herman's greater visibility earned him a place in the Hall of Fame. Myer never came back to baseball in any capacity.

Buddy never tooted his own horn. He was a quiet man who let his playing do the talking. He was not a power hitter at a time when power, led by Babe Ruth, was a key ingredient in baseball. In 1975, the Veterans Committee who voted Billy Herman into the Hall of Fame never even considered Myer. It is doubtful that Buddy Myer will ever be considered for the Hall of Fame.

After retiring from baseball, Buddy became a successful mortgage banker. Buddy Myer died at the age of 70 on October 31, 1974, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. His wife and two sons survived him.

Buddy Myer did his job with little or no fanfare. He was a star in journeyman's clothing. Despite his small frame, he had the heart of a lion. He backed off from no one and won the respect of his peers. Maybe that is more important than being in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Charles Solomon "Buddy" Myer has a spot in Jewish sports history as one of the best Jewish baseball players behind such men as Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax.


Sources

Horvitz Peter S. and Horvitz, Joachim. The Big Book of Jewish Baseball. New York: S.P.I. Books, 2001.

James, Bill. Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame? Baseball, Cooperstown, and the Politics of Glory. New York: Fireside, 1994, 1995.

New York Times. Obituary. November 1, 1974.

Ribalow, Harold W., and Meir Z. Ribalow. Jewish Baseball Stars. New York: Hippocrene Books, 1984.

Simons, William M. "Myer, Charles Solomon 'Buddy.'" Porter, David L., ed. Biographical Dictionary of American Sports: Baseball. Rev. ed. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2000.







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