Not many players can say they had a higher batting average than both Joe Jackson and Nap Lajoie. Moxie Meixell could claim that distinction, even if it was for just one day. In his major-league debut with Cleveland, on July 7, 1912, he was a late-inning defensive replacement for Jackson in right field and rapped a single in his only at-bat. The next day the local papers1 printed a summary of team batting statistics that looked like this:
How Naps Are Hitting
That single would be Meixell’s only hit in the big leagues. He sat on the Naps bench the next two weeks, with only an unsuccessful pinch-hitting appearance and one appearance as a pinch-runner, before he was released to the Flint Vehicles of the Class D South Michigan League in part payment for the purchase of outfielders Clarence Kraft and Bill Hunter.2 Meixell’s major-league career consisted of just this one single in two at-bats, and the one inning in the field.
Merton Merrill Meixell was born on October 18, 1887, in Lake Crystal, Minnesota, a town about 10 miles south of Mankato in south central Minnesota. His parents were William and Matilda (Johnson) Meixell. He had a brother, Ward, born two years earlier. William was a native of Wisconsin and died in 1889 when Merton was 2 years old. Matilda was a Swedish immigrant. A few years after William died, she married Henry Weymouth, a Civil War veteran, and Merton and his brother were raised by his mother and stepfather. Merton graduated from Lake Crystal High School in 1907.
Merton was a fleet footed outfielder, listed at 5-feet-10 and 168 pounds during his playing days. Several game stories highlighted his speed and range in the outfield. One minor-league season he legged out 19 triples. He batted and threw left-handed. Available outfield assist statistics seem to indicate Meixell had a strong, if not accurate, throwing arm. Of his eight minor-league seasons, only two were spent above Class C, and his batting averages between 1913 and 1916 (.257, .252, .262) help provide a picture of what kind of ballplayer Meixell was; a good defensive outfielder whose hitting was consistent, but without much extra-base power, and little more than league average.
After Meixell graduated from high school there was a report that he had signed with an independent team in Bottineau, North Dakota, that summer,3 but no confirmation could be found that he ever played there. Meixell was signed by the Lincoln (Nebraska) Railsplitters of the Western League in 1909 and at the time was called “one of the most promising youngsters ever seen in uniform in Nebraska.”4 But before playing for Lincoln he was farmed to the Monmouth (Illinois) Browns of the Class D Illinois-Missouri League, where he hit .214 in 117 games. At the time it was thought after one year of seasoning, Meixell would be brought back to Lincoln, but instead he spent the first part of the 1910 season back in the Illinois-Missouri League with Beardstown/Jacksonville. He finished the 1910 campaign playing in 16 games with the Columbus Discoverers in the Nebraska State League.
Meixell began the 1911 season with Columbus again, and after hitting .315 in 112 games, he earned a promotion up to Class A with the Sioux City (Iowa) Packers of the Western League. There he hit .314 in 10 games. Meixell started the 1912 season with the New Orleans Little Pets/Yazoo City (Mississippi) Zoos in the Cotton States League. A .340 batting average in 69 games earned him a call-up to Cleveland in July. After his brief stay with the Naps, he was released back to Flint and hit .297 in 45 games the rest of that season.
In 1913 Meixell was picked up by the Evansville (Indiana) River Rats in the Class B Central League. He hit .257 in 143 games. The next season he was back in Class C with the Newport News Shipbuilders in the Virginia League and he had a nearly identical season, batting .252. In 1915 Meixell played semipro ball near his home in Albert Lea, Minnesota. He started the 1916 season with the same team before joining the Fargo-Moorhead Graingrowers in the Class C Northern League, where he hit .262 in 106 games.
Meixell was back with Fargo the following season but the league folded on July 4 due to World War I, and no final statistics were ever published. Box scores were located for each of the team’s 54 games and, based on those summaries, Meixell was still a productive player, hitting .297 with 10 doubles and 4 triples.5 This was his last season of professional baseball and he returned to his home in southern Minnesota.
Meixell enlisted in the US Army in April 1918 and served one year, being discharged the following April. At the time of his draft registration he was single, but he married Rubena Gray on December 20, 1919. By the time of the 1920 US Census he and Rubena, along with his brother, Ward, were living with his mother and stepfather in Lake Crystal. Merton and Rubena later had two daughters, Nancy and Mary.
During most of the 1920s Meixell continued to play on, and occasionally manage, numerous semipro teams in southern Minnesota, including stops at Rochester (where he was a teammate of Black Sox Swede Risberg), New Ulm, Albert Lea, Blue Earth, and Fairmont. He and Rubena made their home in Mankato, where they are listed in city directories beginning in 1921 through 1960. The 1927 Mankato directory listed his occupation as salesman, and in the mid-’30s he worked as a painter. Directories from 1948 through the mid 1950s indicate his occupation as state game warden.
Sometime after his retirement in the 1950s, Meixell and his wife moved to California. He died August 17, 1982, in Los Angeles at the age of 94. He was cremated and his remains were interred at the Lake Crystal Cemetery in his hometown.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author also accessed Meixell’s file maintained at the Giamatti Research Center, National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Cooperstown, New York. Genealogy, census, and city directory information was taken from Ancestry.com. Unless otherwise noted, statistics have been taken from Baseball-Reference.
1 Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 20, 1920.
2 Sporting Life, August 10, 1912.
3 Grand Forks (North Dakota) Daily Herald, May 26, 1907.
4 Belleville (Kansas) Republic County Democrat, April 7, 1909.
5 Unpublished research conducted by the author.