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Adams County Pa. Related Historical Articles

Remembering Gettysburg born major league baseball player Jim Myers 

Mike Strong

This summer's exhibit on "Gettysburg Eddie" Plank, Adams County's only member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, led to the uncovering of a long forgotten Major League baseball player who was born and raised in Adams County. Thanks to Gregory Myers of York, the Society has learned of the baseball exploits of Mr. Myers' great-uncle, Elmer Myers. Nicknamed "Jim" at an early age and called by early admirers "Big Jim" or "Chief."

Elmer Glen Myers was born in York Springs in 1894. A letter to a Philadelphia newspaper in 1916 by J. Harvey Neely states that Elmer's father was the village blacksmith and that "the muscles on the budding flinger's right arm were developed by pounding the anvil."

At 6 feet 3 inches tall "Big Jim" soon became the pitching star for the York Springs Social Club, earning many wins while playing with teammates Tom Cashman, Raymond Starry, Norman Starry, Ralph Lischy, Jim Myers, Oscar Howe, Chester Albert, W. Roy Starry, J. Harvey Neely, William Grove, Harry Hardman, and Harry Plank ("Gettysburg Eddie's" cousin) and managed by Charles Griest.

The lanky youngster was scouted by Philadelphia Athletics manager Connie Mack and signed to a professional contract in the fall of 1913. Mack decided that the hard-throwing pitcher needed additional ex-perience and shipped him to Raleigh, NC, the next spring to pitch for a minor league team managed by Mack's son Earl. "Big Jim" won 19 games in the Carolina Association that year. Myers remained with Raleigh through the 1915 season until Earl notified his father, Connie, that the hard throwing right-hander was ready for the "big-time." His big league debut that fall came against the Washington Senators. Elmer pitched a complete game two-hitter and struck out a dozen hitters, a first game record that stood for another 40 years.

It was Elmer's fate to hurl for a proverbial tail-ender in the years he wore the A's uniform. The rival Federal League had raided Mack's World Champion Athletics of many of their stars, including Eddie Plank. The following 1916 season, Elmer was a workhorse for the woeful A's, starting 35 games and pitching 31 complete games. Although hurling 315 innings and compiling a commendable 3.66 ERA, Myer's win/loss record was only 14-23, but his strength and stamina impressed rival Detroit Tiger manager Hughie Jennings who dubbed Myers the "Iron Man" after Myers pitched three consecutive complete game victories in seven days for the lowly A's that year. Despite pitching for a losing team, Myers pitched 38 games in 1917 and 18 games in 1918 before he was drafted for World War I duty.

It was an attack of German "mustard" gas, unleashed in the Verdun sector occupied by American Expeditionary Forces late in 1918, which blasted what might have been a remarkable baseball career. Tragedy broke into Elmer's life with the Armistice but a few months away. A stretcher-bearer attached to Evacuation Hospital No. 15, near Verdun, Myers was "gassed in action" two months after he was sent up to the front lines.

Myers spent weeks in hospitals behind the lines recuperating from the effects of the gas. That winter he was traded by Manager Mack to the Cleveland Indians. Returning to the States and joining the Indians in June, Myers defeated the New York Yankees 1-0 in his Indian debut. But the effects of the "gassing" began to take their toll. With the A's before the war, Myers had weighed 200 pounds. He dropped to 160 pounds and with the weight loss came the loss of his fast ball. Myers participated in 23 games for the Indians, winning 8 and losing 7. Starting 2-4 the next season, he was traded to the Red Sox where he created a sensation by winning nine straight games. The after-effects of the gas though, continued to plague the weakened Myers. He would manage to hang on for two more seasons with the Red Sox, going 9-13 before his poor health forced him from the Major Leagues.

Hoping to regain his strength and pitching form, Myers asked the Red Sox to assign him to Salt Lake City in the Pacific Coast League, figuring the high and dry altitude would help him in his battle for health. He would spend the 1922 and 1923 seasons in Salt Lake City before joining the Los Angeles team for two seasons. Still trying grimly to regain his form and health, Myers pitched for Knoxville, TN, in the South Atlantic League in 1926 and 1927 before finishing his professional career in organized baseball in 1928 with Columbus of the American Association, ironically just as the Mack Men of Philadelphia were regaining the baseball prominence that had abandoned them with the departure of "Gettysburg Eddie" years before.

In nine major league seasons Myers had pitched in 185 games, starting 127 times. He completed 78 games, pitching over 1100 innings, and compiling a win-loss record of 55-72. While not a Hall of Fame member like the more famous Eddie Plank, Adams County native Elmer "Big Jim" Myers had been to "The Big Show" and had made his mark.

With his baseball career over, Elmer returned to the Philadelphia area where he drove a truck and sold meat products for a New Jersey packing house. He operated a concession stand on the boardwalk in Atlantic City for a few years before taking up residence in Collingswood, NJ, where he operated a tavern on the Black Horse Pike for a number of years. "Big Jim" never forgot his York Springs roots, returning often to visit with family members and reminisce with his old team- mates from the York Springs Social Club. According to family members, Elmer was an avid hunter and enjoyed stalking deer in Adams County. He was particularly close to his boyhood friend, W. Roy Starry, known in the old days as "Jack" and later as "Prof." In 1975 the Philadelphia Phillies honored the old Philadelphia baseball and war hero, "Big Jim" Myers, with a day at Veterans Stadium. Myers died the next year and is today buried in the Myers burial plot in Sunnyside Cemetery in York Springs.

Do you know of an individual who helped shape the Adams County?
If so, send their story to us at: History@myGettysburg.net