Today marks the first appearance of a new Thursday feature here, Different player/Different era. Each week, I will examine a player who might have thrived in another era. My debut piece looks at two players, Irish and Bob Meusel.
What they did: They’re essentially a poor man’s version of the Waner brothers, Paul and Lloyd, who are both in the Hall of Fame and have the all-time record for hits for brothers with 5,611. Neither of the Meusel brothers lasted anywhere near as long in the majors as the Waners did or came close to Cooperstown, but in their primes, they swung similarly sweet.
Irish Meusel hit .310 lifetime with 1521 hits and was a standout for the New York Giants in the 1920s. He had perhaps his finest season in 1921 when he hit .343 with 14 home runs and 87 RBI and helped the Giants prevail over the Yankees in the World Series by hitting .345 in eight games. His younger brother Bob Meusel managed a .309 clip with 1693 hits and was part of the Murderers Row Yankees. In 1925, when teammate Babe Ruth played just 98 games, Bob Meusel led the American League with 33 home runs and 138 RBI.
Era they might have thrived in: Current
Why: There are a couple of big reasons.
First, each Meusel brother was done in the majors by 34, in an era when the vast majority of players didn’t last much beyond 35. Modern medicine might help each Meusel brother play longer. In the current game, they also might make tremendous designated hitters. Paul Molitor, one of the first regular DHs to be enshrined in Cooperstown, only had a few hundred more hits than either Meusel brother around the age each bowed out. Molitor’s .306 lifetime average is also below their career clips.
The second reason I could see the Meusel brothers thriving in the current game is a little more subtle, but was also common in their day when Major League Baseball did not exist west of St. Louis. The brothers were both born in the San Francisco Bay Area and each played for a California team in the Pacific Coast League after their time in the majors ended. A lot of ballplayers left the show for more money and warmer weather in the PCL, and many were Golden State natives, men like Tony Freitas and Joe Marty.
If the Meusels played in the majors today, I could easily see them spending their latter seasons DHing for the Angels or A’s and building up sufficient Cooperstown credentials.