Athlete, Pre 1960
There is some controversy over the birth date of the late John “Chief” Meyers, early major-league baseball star. According to a 1969 article in the Riverside Press Enterprise, he was born in 1880, but in other records, Meyers listed his birth date as 1882. The son of a German-American Civil War veteran from Indiana and a Cahuilla American Indian woman from the Santa Rosa Reservation, Meyers grew up in Riverside. He played semi-pro and sandlot baseball in Hemet and Riverside and attended Dartmouth College for at least one year before signing on as catcher for the New York Giants and other major-league teams from 1909 to 1917.
The highlight of Meyers’ career was playing in four World Series with the Giants and the then Brooklyn Dodgers. He holds the record for most assists (12) in a six game Fall Classic. From 1911-13, he batted .332, .358, and .312 for the national League champions. He was a career .291 hitter.
John Meyers was one of the most readily recognized ballplayers of his time. His athleticism, affable personality, and ethnic identity made for good copy, and he developed friendships and acquaintances reading like a “who’s-who” of early baseball. While with the Giants, Meyers and Jim Thorpe roomed together and formed a lasting friendship. Meyers was also battery mate to future Hall of Famers Christy Mathewson and Rube Marquard in the Giants organization.
Meyers was known in the baseball world as “Chief” but his family and friends called him Jack. In 1933, he was appointed chief of the Mission Indian Agency of Southern California by the federal government, a post he held until retirement. He died at the age of 91 in July 1971.
In 1972, “Chief” was the first Mountain Cahuilla tribal member named to the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame, located at Haskell Indian Nations University in Kansas.