John Robert Meyer (March 23, 1932 – March 9, 1967) was an American professional baseball player, a right-handed pitcher who appeared in all or parts of seven Major League seasons (1955–1961) with the Philadelphia Phillies. Born in Philadelphia, he came from a '"well-to-do New Jersey family," was educated at the exclusive William Penn Charter School, and attended the University of Delaware and Wake Forest University. He was listed at 6 feet 1 inch (1.85 m) tall and 175 pounds (79 kg).
Meyer signed with the Phillies in 1951 and steadily rose through their farm system, winning 15 games for the 1954 Syracuse Chiefs of the Triple-A International League. His most successful Major League season was his 1955 rookie campaign, when he led the National League in games finished (36) and saves (16) and fanned 97 batters in 110⅓ innings pitched. He also made five starts, and finished second (to Bill Virdon) in NL Rookie-of-the-Year balloting. His effectiveness then began to fade, however, and he spent part of 1957 back in Triple-A.
Meyer rebounded to post respectable seasons in both 1958 and 1959, largely in middle relief, but his career was negatively affected by his growing reputation as a drinker and late-night carouser. He was a member—with fellow pitchers Turk Farrell and Jim Owens—of the so-called "Dalton Gang," who received notoriety around baseball for multiple, and well-publicized, off-field incidents.
Meyer, who was given the nickname of "The Bird," went on the disabled list with a herniated disk and was fined $1,200 (nine percent of his salary) after a bout of post-game drinking in Pittsburgh in May 1960 led to confrontations with two sportswriters and Phillies' broadcaster Byrum Saam, then a fight with Farrell and several teammates, which left Meyer injured. He missed the remainder of the 1960 season and only pitched in one more game, in 1961, before leaving baseball.
For his MLB career, he compiled a 24–34 record in 202 appearances, most as a relief pitcher, with an 3.92 earned run average and 375 strikeouts.
Meyer suffered a heart attack while watching a basketball game on television and died on March 9, 1967, at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. Meyer, who was 34 years old, had a history of heart problems. He left a wife and three children.
His nephew, Brian Meyer, pitched briefly for the Houston Astros from 1988 to 1990.
- ^ a b c d "The Dalton Gang Rides Again," Sports Illustrated, 1960-6-13
- ^ retrosheet
- ^ http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/m/meyerbr01.shtml
By Dean Hanley
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