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The Senator From Mississippi Is Recognized



College Baseball Central complements its coverage of Southeastern Conference baseball by returning our feature series on Mississippi State's Ron Polk Ring of Honor. Now in its sixth class since 2019, CBC writers Doug Kyle and Bo Carter team up again to provide insight into the 2024 class of honorees, infielder Charles "Buddy" Myer, broadcaster Jim Ellis, and pitcher Bobby Reed. Today, we profile an early pioneer who wore the maroon and white before heading off to the American League, Buddy Myer.


By Doug Kyle


No one alive today ever saw C.S. “Buddy” Myer play baseball for Mississippi A&M. It’s equally unlikely anyone reading this witnessed him during his long Major League career, primarily with the Washington Senators. But, in deference to parliamentary procedure, the Senator from Mississippi is being recognized, with his selection to the 2024 class of the Ron Polk Ring of Honor recently announced by Mississippi State Baseball.


It’s a bit of a centennial honor to be bestowed April 6, 2024, Myer having logged his last game in maroon and white nearly 100 years before, in a May 20, 1924, win in Jackson, MS, over Mississippi College, 9-5.



Born Charles Solomon Myer in 1904 in the South Mississippi town of Ellisville, Myer lettered as the starting shortstop for A&M 1922-24 but played mostly second base for both Washington and the Boston Red Sox 1925-41. With the advent of a draft still 40 years away, players were often courted by multiple scouts, agents, and teams, and accounts vary on how Myer was signed and broke into pro baseball.


One published story has him agreeing to a contract with the Senators while still at A&M, with the stipulation that he be permitted to finish his college education two years hence. Another has him trying out after leaving A&M with the Cleveland ball club, only to be rejected when he asked for a $1000 bonus, an amount more comparable to an inning in today’s big league economy than a season.



Regardless, Myer found himself in Major League Baseball late in the 1925 season with the Senators. By the next spring, he was the starting shortstop, but having replaced an American League Most Valuable Player and also playing for a player-manager second baseman, Myer’s defense drew intense scrutiny and eventually led to somewhat of an impulse moving of him to the Boston Red Sox for the 1927 season. Fielding was still a concern in Beantown, but a move to third base worked wonders for Myer. He led the Sox in hitting and led the entire American League in stolen bases for the 1928 season.



Meanwhile, in Washington, the shortstop swap had gone sour, so the Senators now wanted Myer to rejoin them and wound up giving the Red Sox five players in exchange. Myer would go on to finish his career as the second baseman in the Capital City, wearing #1 from 1931 (the first year records indicate Senators' uniforms had numbers) to his final season in 1941, winning the 1935 American League batting championship with a .349 average, and completing his playing days at a lifetime .303.


That .349 went down to the last day of the season and not without its dramatic moments. As play began that afternoon, Myer’s .345 average trailed Cleveland’s Joe Vosnik (.349) and was barely ahead of Philadelphia’s vaunted Jimmie Foxx (.343). Vosnik sat to begin the day, but a 4-5 showing from Myer spurred him to hit in protection of his lead. When the dust settled, the final numbers read Myer at .349026, Vosnik at .348387, and Foxx at .345794.


With a lifetime Major League batting average of .303, one would think Myer would have received more consideration for the Hall of Fame than he apparently did. While Myer made the All-Star team twice, he never got on the field, the American League starter at his position playing every inning six years straight that included those two.


In All-Star voting, Myer reportedly, and inexplicably, received one vote. Renowned analyst Bill James compared his career to second baseman, and 1975 Hall of Fame selection, Billy Herman from the National League:



So, one of these is a Hall of Famer and one gets one vote? That was the sentiment of James as well, when he commented, “How in the world can you put one of those in the Hall of Fame and leave the other one out?” Baseball is said to be the most statistically-dependent sport when evaluating individual merit, but this oversight by voters boggles the mind.


Perhaps it’s because Myer played for an also-ran team not located in New York, Boston, Chicago, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, or St. Louis.


Perhaps it’s because he had the misfortune of an incident during his playing days of a brush and vicious brawl with volatile Ben Chapman during his Yankees playing days. Chapman, who is depicted in movies as the Philadelphia Phillies manager boorishly taunting Jackie Robinson in 1947, was also known for similar behavior around Jewish players. (It’s said Myer and Chapman were observed to be cordial to each other later as teammates, but clearly with less notoriety.)



Buddy Myer was inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 1971 and the Mississippi State Athletics Hall of Fame in 1972. And, assumed to be Jewish during his MLB days, he was also inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.


While his father was Jewish, Myer’s mother was not, and his family religious upbringing was Baptist. Myer had a reputation for being soft spoken and likable off the field but cocky and fiery between the lines, so perhaps the former resulted in there not being a clarification by Myer that possibly could have been perceived as a slight. And, in that light, Myer was ranked at the time by many as the second best Jewish player in baseball, behind the venerable Hank Greenberg.


Myer eventually settled after his baseball career in Baton Rouge, LA, where he prospered in a banking and real estate career before passing away in October 1974. He had one son, Charles “Stevey” Myer, who was a member of the LSU baseball team, followed him in business, and passed away in 2017; and another, William Richard “Dick” Myer, who played professional golf in the 1960s.


Rich Myer, grandson of Buddy, was pleased to learn of the selection and spoke on behalf of the family. “We’ve always been proud of Buddy’s baseball legacy, and honors like this are always welcome to us. As his grandson, it’s always neat for me when he’s mentioned in this way.”


As for stories passed along through the years, Rich Myer fondly recalls his father Richard talking about when Buddy took him to see the famed Subway Series in New York City, introducing his son to Joe DiMaggio and other iconic players against whom Buddy had competed during his lengthy MLB career.



Coincidentally, Buddy Myer’s death followed just a few months behind that of another famous baseball player with Mississippi connections, Dizzy Dean, the St. Louis Cardinals pitcher/MLB broadcaster who settled in Wiggins, MS. If you’re wondering, there’s no record the two ever faced each other in an official game, which in the days prior to regular season interleague play between American League and National League teams typically happened only in the World Series.


But, there were some interesting matchups between Myer and other notable hurlers of the day. Records show he faced 339 pitchers during his .303 career, and he held his own against the biggest names of the day, several of them Hall of Famers themselves. Myer hit .281 against Yankees HOFer Lefty Grove and even managed .212 off the legendary Bob Feller fastball. Although he hit 38 career home runs, Myer was better known for his speed on the base paths, 15 of the round trippers being inside the park.


Myer is also believed to have been involved with at least two firsts in the history of Mississippi A&M/State baseball. Based on a published quote from a long-time school luminary at a team banquet in 1924, his senior year, Myer is believed to have hit the first grand slam in school history, against Ole Miss of course, which proved huge in a 6-4 win. Whether it was inside the park too is unknown.


And, among the same records that document his at-bats against Grove, Feller, et al, another interesting name pops up on that list. During the 1932-33 seasons, Myer faced Chicago White Sox pitcher Paul Gregory, who may be better known as a fellow Ron Polk Ring honoree, head coach at State of four SEC Champions and one College World Series team, and the only person in MSU history to coach two different sports for at least 150 games. Similar to the Ole Miss grand slam, it appears likely to be the first time two former Maroon/Bulldog baseball players ever competed directly against each other in a Major League Baseball game. Here is the breakdown from the website stathead.com:



With his enshrinement into the Ron Polk Ring of Honor, Buddy Myer joins Gregory and Dave “Boo” Ferriss as the third RPROH member to have played for Coach Dudy Noble, the original namesake of the stadium where his commemorative plaque will be installed. Along with being a member of two Southern Conference Championship teams in1922 and1924 (below) at A&M and numerous Major League accomplishments, it’s a fitting and final honor for him that was literally a century in the making.



 

Photo sources are credited when known. Acknowledgements and special thanks: Rich Myer, Mississippi State Athletics, The Reveille, Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), The M Book of Athletics (John Wendell Bailey), Wikipedia, International Jewish Hall of Fame, The Advocate, www.baseball-almanac.com, and www.stathead.com.


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