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The Bizarre Debut of Jouett Meekin or is it Mr. Stewart
The year is 1891, Benjamin Harrison is in the White House. It is a hot July day in Washington, the 5th of July to be exact. Washington has just swept an Independence Day doubleheader and the Colonels and the spectators hope the team can somehow turn around the train wreck of a season they have been watching.
The visiting Louisville Colonels take the field. In the box is a tall, slender pitcher. He is fast too. The buzz in the stands is that he must be some fastballing rookie signed by veteran manager Jack “Death to Flying Things” Chapman.
Chapman first played baseball back in the 1860s. Although most spectators know him as the manager for the scandal ridden 1877 Louisville team, although Chapman was not involved in it. It should be noted too that his unique nickname is also associated with a former teammate Bob Ferguson.
Manager Chapman introduces his pitcher to the crowd. His name is Stewart, Chapman informs the crowd. His name is not in the score card but the scorecards are notorious for being faulty. Unfortunately for Chapman, a sharp eyed Washington sports reporter and Larry Murphy, the left fielder of the team, see through the trickery and expose the deception.
The pitcher isn’t Mr. Stewart; the pitcher is Jouett Meekin, the former twirler for St. Paul.
The press writes, “Why this trick should have been resorted to is not clear, but the most generally accepted theory is that Meekin, who is a contract jumper from St. Paul, does not care to face a crowd in his own identity just now, when the enormity of his inquiry is still fresh in the public mind. But he pitched a good game, nevertheless, and did not appear handicapped by his alias in the least. He was not touched up very heavily at any point during the game, but kept the Statesmen guessing. On the other hand Kid Carsey seemed to be quite acceptable to the Colonels. They jumped on his delivery in sports in bunches of three and were sure winners after the fifth inning. The Senators played well in the field, making but two errors, but those two very costly and let in two runs. Gil Hatfield made the error, throwing the ball into the bleachers in an effort to field a ball that Tommy Dowd had already fumbled. Washington loses 6 to 4.”
Jouett would go on to play two years in Washington. The Wagner brothers then deal him to New York for a couple of warm bodies and cash, lots of cash. Meekin responds with a record of 33-9 for the Giants.
It should be noted that Meekin was fast, how fast? Maybe the fastest of his era, maybe the fastest pitcher ever! Hard to say, others like Joe Wood, Nolan Ryan and of course Walter Johnson could bring it too. He is credited by some for the reason the National League moved the mound back in 1893. But he is certainly in the top tier of fastballers in Washington baseball history. But few have such an odd debut.