John Tortes “Chief” Meyers
Born: July 29, 1880 - Riverside, CA
Died: July 25, 1971 - San Bernardino, CA
Career BA: .291
New York Giants NL (July 29, 1880 - July 25, 1971)
Brooklyn Robins NL (1916–1917)
Boston Braves NL (1917)
One of the more captivating players of the Cracker Jack Collection, John Tortes “Chief” Meyers was a man of many talents who made his mark on our National Pastime. A Native American from the Cahuilla Tribe, Meyers attended Dartmouth College in 1905 and did very well academically. When Dartmouth officials discovered that he never completed high school, they offered him admittance if he would complete a prep program. Instead, Meyers signed with Harrisburg of the Tri-State League and was on his way to becoming one of the best catchers of the Deadball Era.
As he worked his way up through the Minor League ranks dealing with the racism that was prevalent at the time, Meyers’ experience in the Northwestern League and the American Association was difficult, to say the least. His persistence and hard work paid off and in 1909 he made the New York Giants team. After getting his feet wet the first year, Chief Meyers, as he became known, developed into the best-hitting catcher in baseball. In 1911 he batted .332 and in 1912 he not only batted .358 but his .441 on-base percentage led the league. For three consecutive years Meyers was a candidate to win the Chalmers award as the Most Valuable Player. From a defensive standpoint, he was better than average and worked very well with his pitchers.
As his popularity increased Meyers played the vaudeville circuit in the offseason, demonstrating pitching and catching techniques with his batterymate Christy Mathewson. Outside of the diamond, Meyers was considered an intellectual who frequented museums and enjoyed engaging in political debate. Going into the 1915 season, the wear and tear of catching began to take its toll and Meyers’ skills began to diminish. He spent 1917 between Brooklyn and Boston before joining the U.S. Marine Corps to serve in World War I. Upon his return, Meyers played and managed in the minors until 1920. After leaving the game, he served as police chief and later worked as an Indian Supervisor for the Department of the Interior.
– Tom and Ellen Zappala, The Cracker Jack Collection: Baseball's Prized Players. For more information on their book and/or to order a copy at a special PSA discount, visit http://crackerjackplayers.com/PSA_order.html