Erskine Mayer (born James Erskine)
After he learned that his White Sox teammates had thrown the 1919 World Series, this star hurler never played another major league game. His wife said, "Erk loved baseball for the true sport it afforded, and he felt if a game had been thrown he was through with baseball."*
An outstanding pitcher, this sidearming curveballer had back-to-back seasons of 21 wins in 1914 and 1915. Mayer was sometimes called "Eelskin" because his pitches were so slippery; "Scissors" was another nickname. He played in two World Series: with Philadelphia in the National League, and with Chicago in the American (the infamous 1919 Black Sox team; he was not a part of any of the dishonesty in that series).
Birth and Death Dates:
b. January 16, 1889 - d. March 10, 1957
In 1910, Mayer dropped out of Georgia Tech when his success as a college pitcher attracted professional offers. After playing for several Southern minor league teams, Erskine was brought up to the majors by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1912. Although he only appeared in 7 games that season, he remained with the club and established himself as one of the National League's best pitchers in 1914. That year, he won 21 games (7th in the league) with a remarkable 24 complete games. Unfortunately, he was overshadowed by his roommate, the great Grover Alexander, who won 27.
In 1915, Mayer continued his success and helped lead the Phillies to the World Series. For the second straight season, Erskine won 21 games, and although Alexander won 31, Mayer proved more valuable with the bat. That year when the entire Philadelphia team had a batting average of .247, Mayer hit .239, with four extra-base hits (one a homer)! In Game 2 of the World Series (against the Boston Braves), Mayer faced Rube Foster in a terrific game that was attended by President Woodrow Wilson, the first President to attend a World Series game. Erskine lost the 2-1 pitchers duel in the ninth inning when Foster drove in the winning run. He then had a disastrous Game 5 when he was rushed into starting after Alexander injured his arm -- Erskine lasted less than three innings and the Phillies lost the Series.
After two consecutive 21-win seasons, Mayer's 1916 performance (7-7) was a disappointment to many Phillie fans. He returned to form the following year, but was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates midseason -- Mayer went 9-3 with a 2.26 ERA for the Pirates. While a Pirate that season, Mayer participated in a truly memorable game as he pitched an incredible 16 scoreless innings against the Boston Braves before being relieved -- the Pirated won the game 2-0 in the 21st inning! In 1919, he was traded to the Chicago White Sox, the best team in baseball, but quit the game after the Black Sox scandal was revealed. One of the greatest Jewish baseball players, Mayer had an outstanding lifetime winning percentage of .565, with a 91-70 mark.
Mayer pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies, 1912-18, the Pittsburgh Pirates, 1918-19, and the Chicago White Sox, 1919
6'0", 168 pounds
Winning pct.: .565
Games Started: 166
Complete Games: 93
Innings Pitched: 1427
Hits Allowed: 1415
Strike Outs: 482
Home Runs: 2
Batting Average: .185
Double Plays: 17
Total Chances per Game: 2.0
Fielding avg: .967
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PHOTOGRAPHS AND OTHER IMAGES
* quoted by Harold U. Ribalow & Meir Z. Ribalow, in The Jew In American Sports.
Also, read a chapter from Jewish Baseball Stars by Harold U. Ribalow and Meir Z. Ribalow
encyclopedia of JEWS in sports, by Bernard Postal, Jesse Silver, and Roy Silver (New York: Bloch Publishing Co., 1965)
The Baseball Encyclopedia: Tenth Edition (New York: McMillan, 1996)