Frank Meek was a six-game catcher for the 1889-1890 St. Louis Browns of the American Association. Although his major league stay was brief, it was not without distinction. Meek was the opening day catcher for the Browns in 1890, is one of only four players in big leagues history born in Bohemia, and the only Bohemian to play in more than one major league season. At some point, after his career ended, Meek became known by the nickname “Dad,” and for quite some time was listed as Dad Meek on baseball websites.1 But, as discussed below, the name appears to have been a misattribution from a minor league player of a decade later who was widely covered in the press as Dad Meek. Frank Meek’s life story follows.
Franz James Mik was born in Dolni Lakavice, Bohemia (then part of Austria-Hungary and now the Czech Republic) on March 14, 1867.2 Mik’s parents were Jan Mik and Katerina Maria Hess,3 both born in Bohemia, who immigrated to the United States sometime between 1870 and 1872.4 He was the fifth of six children born to the couple.
According to the 1880 census his father, Jan Mik, worked as a laborer and Frank (as he became known) worked in a store, either as a clerk or stock boy. Sometime in the early 1880s he was playing baseball for local St. Louis amateur and semi-pro teams. While the local press covering his baseball exploits called him Frank Meek, he referred to himself as Frank Mik, the name used on his census submissions and death certificate. As the press coverage of his baseball career uses Meek, as does the obituary covering his baseball career,5 Meek is used below.
During Meek’s career the St. Louis press provided extensive coverage of local semi-pro and amateur baseball teams. He starts appearing as a catcher in brief game summaries beginning in 1885 for the Deluge amateur team.6 In 1887 he was catching for a number of amateur teams, including the Waltons of St. Louis, and also briefly for the minor league Emporias of Kansas.7
By July 1887 he had gained notice as a quality catcher and heavy hitter with a team called the Peach Pies, and the press expected he would shortly get a tryout with the Browns.8 A month later the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that “Frank Meek, a well-known local catcher is well spoken of by all who have seen him play. Joe Murphy [a local St. Louis player pitching for the Browns that year] thinks him one of the best youngsters unearthed this season. Meek will probably be playing with the professional club next year.”9
Meek would not join the Browns in 1888. He expressed interest in joining a minor league team early that year.10 However, he started that season catching for Prickly Ash, an amateur team viewed as the best in St. Louis, in a game against the minor league St. Louis Whites at Sportsman’s Park (the home of the Browns). In promoting the game, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted that Joe Murphy, no longer with the Browns, would be starting for Prickly Ash with the “the excellent young catcher, Frank Meek, at the backstop.”11 Later that year he would be catching for the Missouri Amateur Athletic Club.12
In late December 1888 it was reported that Browns’ owner Chris Von der Ahe intended to sign the well-known “heavy weight” catcher.13 However, that did not come to pass, as Meek reportedly was “asking too high a price.”14 In January 1889, representatives of the Dallas Base-Ball Club arrived in St. Louis and reportedly signed Meek.15 Instead, at 6’0” 170 lbs., Meek was playing with a semi-pro team known as the Home Comforts until he signed a contract on May 4 with the Browns and its mercurial owner Von der Ahe.16 It’s not clear if Meek reduced his asking price, or if Meek’s performance with the Home Comforts spurred Von der Ahe into action. No definitive information is available on whether Meek threw and batted right or left-handed. Baseball Almanac reports he threw and batted right-handed. Baseball Reference and other baseball websites list these attributes as unknown.
Meek joined the Browns as the back-up behind two well regarded catchers, Jack Boyle and John Milligan, who between them started every game at catcher for the Browns in the 1889 season. Meek replaced Jack Bellman in the backup role. Bellman logged his lone major league appearance in the later innings of the Browns April 23 game against Louisville.17
Meek quickly got a chance behind the plate; he replaced Boyle late in the game on May 10 as the Browns were winning a laugher against the Columbus Solons. He singled in his one at-bat, and was credited with an assist and an error. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted that Meek appeared very nervous and was unable to consistently get the ball back to the pitcher.18
In fairness to Meek, “Von der Ahe made his players nervous, watching their every move with field glasses, running around the stands blowing whistles at them, or storming into the dressing room swearing at players whose errors lost the game.”19 It’s been said that Von der Ahe (a saloon owner and avid proponent of beer at the ballpark) drove his players to drink;20 and drink they did. So much so, that the Sporting News, with which Von der Ahe feuded, referred to the team as the St. Louis Boozers.21 Von der Ahe went so far as to dispatch spies to report back on just how much drinking the players were doing, or otherwise dig up dirt on them.22
Meek did not appear in another major league game until August 15, when he was again a late-inning substitute in another trouncing of Columbus, this time replacing Milligan. The press reported he performed well. He went hitless in one at-bat, again recorded an assist, and he committed an error. He did make it to first in his lone at-bat on a fielder’s choice. Meek then stole second.23
The August 15 game was his final major league appearance for the 1889 season. Meek did, however, catch in exhibition games between the Browns and minor league or amateur teams played on off days during the season.24 He was often the only catcher assigned to these games.25 He also caught for the Browns as they toured the country playing exhibition games following the regular season.26
As the 1890 season approached the catching situation for Browns changed dramatically. The Players League emerged and many of the better players in the AA left for the league, including both Browns regular catchers. Boyle left for the Chicago Pirates along with several other key Browns. Milligan joined the Philadelphia Athletics.
Meek played extensively behind the plate during the club’s exhibition season as Opening Day for the 1890 season approached. He was typically catching either the notoriously difficult to handle Toad Ramsey, famous for his high velocity “drop ball,” or the wild flamethrowing Jack Stivetts. Stivetts and Ramsey would finish second and third in strikeouts in the AA that season, and tied for second and fourth in wild pitches. Stivetts would also finish second in walks. Press reports on these exhibition games frequently comment quite favorably on Meek’s catching, although he did exhibit nervousness at times.27
As Opening Day approached, the Browns carried three catchers, Meek (age 23), Jim Adams (age 22), and Jerry Kane (age 24).28 Of the three, only Meek had ever caught in a major league game prior to opening day. Adams would catch one game in his career; Kane would appear in only four behind the plate.
Meek got the call to catch the Browns opener in Louisville on April 18; Ramsey took the mound. The Browns won, 11-8. Meek was batting ninth behind Ramsey and delivered a hit in four at-bats. He made one error and allowed no passed balls, but the Colonels stole six bases off the Browns’ battery.29
The following day, Meek caught Stivetts and batted eighth as the Browns lost 5-3 in extra innings to the Colonels. He again delivered a single in four at-bats. Only two runners successfully stole a base for Louisville in the game. Stivetts struck out 13. However, the St. Louis press reported Meek was the weak point for the Browns and blamed his two errors for the loss.30 An errant throw to third by Meek on an attempted pick-off play allowed two runs to score in the sixth, and then a dropped third strike by Meek allowed another run to score in the eighth, turning a 2-0 Browns lead into a 3-2 deficit.31
If Von der Ahe attended the game in Louisville, Meek’s post-game experience could not have been pleasant. As former (and future) Browns catcher Jack Boyle commented, “Chris Von der Ahe was the best winner and hardest loser I ever saw. … When we win a game Chris is all smiles, and nothing is too good for the players. When we lose a game all the gang ducks into the clubhouse, change their clothes and get off the lot as soon as possible. … [A]fter a defeat he gets boiling hot, and anybody that crosses him then will get a roasting.”32
Jim Adams, in his sole appearance in the major leagues, caught the April 21 game against Louisville, a 17-4 loss for the Browns. Meek then caught Ice Box Chamberlain in the Browns 9-6 win over Toledo on April 22, and again batted ninth. In the second inning he reached second on a mishandled bunt but was then “caught napping at third.”33 He delivered one hit during his four at-bats in the game.
On April 24, Meek caught Ramsey again against Toledo, batting ninth. The Browns won 6-5 in a hard-fought game. Ramsey had a fine outing, and the St. Louis Globe-Democrat noted he was strongly supported behind the plate by Meek. Meek delivered two singles in four at-bats.34 The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, however, noted some poor baserunning by Meek in the second inning. Meek hit a ball that resulted in an out at third base. Meek endeavored to reach second on the play, forcing Ramsey who was ahead of him off the bag at second, resulting in Ramsey also being out at third.35 This gaffe may have been the last straw for Von der Ahe.
The game on April 24 was Meek’s last appearance in the majors. On the same day, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted that the Browns were after catchers, as that was one of their weakest spots, and had their eyes on Billy Earle, the “crack Cincinnati catcher.”36 The following day, the Browns cavalcade of catchers began with the purchase of the Earle from the Reds. Earle started the Browns next game on April 27.37 Earle had a fine rookie season with the Reds the prior year, but his erratic behavior and “evil eye” more than disconcerted his teammates.38 He did not get along with Von der Ahe and would catch only 22 games for the Browns that year.39 He was out of the majors for all of the 1891 season before returning in 1892.
On May 9 the Browns signed John Munyan following his release by the Columbus team. Munyan became the team’s regular catcher in 1890. Eventually, the Browns had nine catchers under contract during the season, eight of whom would get opportunities behind the plate.40 The number of playing catchers only slightly exceeded the number of managers (five) Von der Ahe employed during that year (all but one of whom had a winning record).
Meek was released on May 11, shortly after Munyan reported to the team. Meek had five singles in 16 at-bats for a .313 average during his brief four-game stint, and caught nine of 21 would-be base stealers. (His 43% caught-stealing rate bested the league average of 38%). While noting his general good play behind the bat, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat attributed Meek’s release to a weakness in throwing to the bases and a lack of “good headwork.”41 The paper further noted that it is the “general opinion that the Browns are just too fast company for him.”42 After leaving the Browns, Meek played in the minor leagues briefly for the Quincy, Illinois team in the Central League.43
After the 1890 season Meek was mentioned in the Sporting News as a player that would be a good addition for a major league team short at catcher, but he never rejoined the majors.44 His career batting average of .333 and above average success rate at tossing out base stealers suggest he deserved an opportunity. But he did not have any extra base hits in his career, and the singles that look like line drives in the box score may not have been that impressive. In any case, Meek seems to have preferred to stay close to home.
He continued to play ball, but in semi-pro and amateur circles in the St. Louis area. In game coverage he is generally spotted batting fourth and playing catcher or first base. His appearances include catching for local teams playing against the Browns’ reserves as late as 1896.45 Meek is mentioned as the captain of the Consumer amateur team in 1900 and playing first base for the traveling Frisco Athletics amateur team that year.46
Meek married Bohemian-born Frances Geders in 1900. They would have no children. He disappears from the local baseball coverage in St. Louis following an appearance catching for the Alton Blues semipro team on May 5, 1901.47 Meek worked in several different occupations after his major league career ended. Beginning in 1892, he worked for a steel company, an express company, and as a porter and cooper. He is listed as a driver for an oil company in the 1920 census and as a packer for a pharmaceutical company on his death certificate.
With respect to Meek’s one-time reported nickname, “Dad” was a quite popular name/nickname for players during the time of Meek’s career. Four major league ballplayers still carry Dad as their listed first name and several others carry the nickname, all whose careers ended before 1903. Meek’s relatively long baseball career in amateur and semi-pro leagues may have given rise to his nickname, but Frank Meek is never referred to as Dad Meek in any published press report during his playing career, nor in his obituary.
However, in 1915-1916, well after Meek left baseball, three short articles appear in the St. Louis Star about a player named Dad Meek, a long-time catcher and first baseman.48 Although these articles do not include the given first name of the subject player, they are not about Frank Meek. The baseball career described in the articles is that of Harry Meek, a player who logged 19 years in the minors without making an appearance in a major league game.49 Ten years younger than Frank Meek, Harry Meek was born in 1877 in Northwest Missouri but played most of his career outside of the state.50 As Harry Meek received only one brief mention in the St. Louis Star after these articles appeared,51 it appears likely that at some point Harry’s nickname was misattributed to Frank.52 In any case, given Meek’s short career in the majors and brief appearances in the minor leagues, it is highly unlikely he was known as “Dad” during his professional career.
Frank Mik died on December 22, 1922 in St. Louis. The cause of death was mitral insufficiency as a result of valvular heart disease. He was buried in New Pickers Cemetery, now known as Gatewood Gardens Cemetery, in St. Louis.53 He was survived by his wife Frances and several siblings.
This biography was reviewed by Bill Lamb and Rick Zucker and fact-checked by Paul Proia.
In addition to the sources included in the Notes, the author relied on Baseball-Reference.com, Baseball-Almanac.com, TheDeadballera.com, Retrosheet.org, and information provided or confirmed by Jeff Martin, a member of the ballplayer’s family.
1 Baseball encyclopedias from the 1950s and 1960s variously list him as Frank Meek, Frank “Dad” Meek and Dad Meek. At the time this biography was originally completed, in February 2023, Baseball Almanac and Retrosheet still listed or referenced him as “Dad.” However, in February 2023, Baseball Reference changed his listed name to Frank Meek from Dad Meek.
2 His death certificate lists his place of birth as St. Louis, Missouri, rather than the Czech Republic. At the time of the posting of this biography most baseball-focused websites also reflect St. Louis as his place of birth. However, census information from 1880 to 1920 consistently lists Bohemia as his birthplace and family information identifies Dolni Lakavice as the specific location.
3 Complicating research on Mik’s life, there were not one but two Jan and Katerina Mik’s with a son named Frank living in St. Louis at that time. An entry on the Find-a-Grave website made by a family member clarifies matters. The two families are related. The younger Jan (born in Bohemia in 1832) and older Jan (born in Bohemia in 1829) are cousins. They both married a woman named Katerina Maria (though not the same one). Both families immigrated from Bohemia and settled in St. Louis. The younger Jan and his wife immigrated to the United States in 1868. Their son Frank was born about 1865. The older Jan and his wife Katerina, who immigrated to the United States several years later, are Mik’s parents, as confirmed by the siblings listed in the ballplayer’s obituary.
4 Census information and family records show different immigration years ranging from 1870-1872.
5 There are two death notices posted for Mik in the St. Louis press. The first is a general obituary published on page 13 in the St. Louis Star on December 23, 1922, and refers to him as Frank Mik (Meek). The second article, published in the St. Louis Star on December 24, 1922, on page 23, “Frank Meek, Former Member of the Browns, To Be Buried Today,” briefly covers Meek’s baseball career.
6 “Amateur Base-Ball Notes,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 11, 1885: 5.
7 “Diamond Dust,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, July 18, 1887: 8; “Boxscore-Emporias v. Topekas,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, September 6, 1887: 5.
8 “Diamond Dust,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, July 26, 1887: 8.
9 “Long and Short Hits,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 11, 1887: 5.
10 “St. Louis Siftings,” The Sporting Life, January 18, 1888: 4.
11 “To-Day’s Game,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 1, 1888: 6.
12 “In the World of Sports,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 24, 1888: 8.
13 “In the World of Sports.”
14 “The Browns New Catcher,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 5, 1889: 10.
15 “The Dallas Club,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, January 30, 1889: 8.
16 “The Browns New Catcher,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 5, 1889: 10.
17 According to Bellman’s player info from B-R Bullpen, he later announced he was giving up baseball to take a good job with the Louisville Gas Company in his hometown.
18“Yesterday’s Games,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 11, 1889: 9.
19 Harold Seymour and Dorothy Seymour Mills, Baseball the Early Years, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1960) 192.
20 Thomas J. Hetrick., Chris Von der Ahe and the St. Louis Browns (Clifton, Virginia: Pocol Press, 2016), 219-20.
21 Hetrick, Chris Von der Ahe, 167-68.
22 Hetrick, Chris Von der Ahe, 219-20.
23 “The Champions Revenge-The Columbus Team Soundly Trounced to Make Up for Wednesday’s Defeat,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 16, 1889: 6.
24 “The Browns Won – The East St. Louis Team No Match for the Champions,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 30, 1889: 6.
25 “A Beautiful Contest,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 21, 1889: 8.
26 “The Browns Won,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 20, 1889: 13.
27 “Comiskey’s Men Win Again from Cleveland,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, April 11, 1890: 8. Ramsey struck out 10 in the game and the article notes that “the catching of Meek was a feature.” “Browns Begin to Hit,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, April 15, 1890: 8. Meek was again catching Ramsey, and the press noted that he caught well all things considered. He first displayed nervousness but settled down and became a reliable backstop.
28 “Baseball Gossip,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, April 8, 1890; 8. Kane would be signed and released three times by the Browns between December 1889 and June 1890.
29 “The Browns Make an Old Time Rally and Win in Louisville,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, April 19, 1890: 7.
30 “The Browns Vanquished by Colonels in the First Tilt for the Championship,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 20, 1890: 6.
31 “The Browns Vanquished by Colonels.”
32 “Jack Boyle’s Opinion of President Von der Ahe and Comiskey,” Cincinnati Enquirer, January 27, 1889: 2.
33 “Browns Open at Home and Make a Show of Toledo,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 22, 1890: 1.
34 “St. Louis Wins a Hard-Fought Game from Toledo,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, April 25, 1890: 8.
35 “EXTRA – The Ball Field-A struggle Close and Exciting and a Small Crowd,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 24, 1890: 1.
36 “After Catchers,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 24, 1890: 3.
37 “Billy Earle, the Cincinnati Catcher Signed by Browns Today,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 25, 1890: 2.
38 See the SABR Bio for Earle for details on his odd behavior.
39 Hetrick, Chris Von der Ahe, 175.
40 “Nine Catchers,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 22, 1890: 3. The nine were F. Meek, J. Adams, B. Earle, J. Kane, W. Kane, J. Kerins, J. Munyan, M. Tost, and J. Wells. All but W. Kane appeared in a game behind the plate for the Browns.
41 “Meek Released,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, May 12, 1890: 6.
42 “Meek Released.”
43 “Base Ball Notes,” Chicago Tribune, June 16, 1890: 5. Also, “Base Ball Briefs,” Pittsburgh Press, June 8, 1890: 6.
44 “St. Louis Siftings,” The Sporting Life, March 7, 1891: 6.
45 “Southern Illinois League-The Oberts Downed the Browns’ Reserves by a Batting Rally,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, May 25, 1896: 9.
46 “Amateur Base-ball Notes,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, May 4, 1900: 11; “The Frisco Athletics — They Leave Thursday Night on their Fifteen Days’ Tour,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jun 29, 1900: 5.
47 “Semi-Professional Games-Alton Blues Won from Bohm Bros. at Alton,” St. Louis Globe Democrat, May 9, 1901: 4.
48 The three articles are: “Stopped with Majors Only for Breakfast,” St. Lous Star, July 31, 1915: 9; “Dad Meek Has Been in the Minors for 19 Years,” St. Louis Star, February 11, 1916: 9, and “Dad Meek Is the Grand Old Man of the Minor Leagues,” St. Louis Star, June 3, 1916: 7. Similar articles were running in papers across the US beginning in early July 1915, as Meek’s minor league career wound down. The subject player is only rarely identified as Harry Meek.
49 Harry’s failure to get an opportunity in the majors was attributed to his “slowness of foot.” See “Dad Meek Has Been in the Minors for 19 years,” above.
50 “Harry Meek Makes Record,” the Brunswicker, February 11, 1916: 5. See also B-R.com, https://www.baseball-reference.com/register/player.fcgi?id=meek–001her.
51 “Never Die Out There,” St. Louis Star, September 14, 1916: 12.
52 The confusion of Harry and Frank still occurs. For example, an entry on Ancestry misattributes Harry’s minor league career statistics to Frank.
53 At the time of posting most baseball websites list Meek’s place of burial as Hillcrest Cemetery. Both cemeteries list a grave for Frank Meek. It is almost certainly the case that Frank’s cousin, also named Frank Meek and only two years older than Frank, is buried at Hillcrest, whereas major league player Frank Meek is buried in Gatewood Gardens Cemetery. See footnote 3 above regarding the ease with which the two cousins may be confused.
Frank J. Meek
March 14, 1867 at Dolni Lakavice, (CZE)
December 22, 1922 at St. Louis, MO (USA)
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