Mayer only pitched for two partial seasons in the MLB, both with the Cubs from 1957-58. The Cal-Berkley alum was signed by the Boston Red Sox out of college and he slowly began to work his way up the ladder. After later being taken by the St. Louis Cardinals in the minor league draft of 1955, his velocity finally took him to the upper minors.
It wasn't until the Cubs traded Jim King to get him (with Bobby Del Greco) in April of '57 that Mayer finally made it to the top of the pyramid. That year, Ed got a September call-up and saw some brief action out of the bullpen and even got one start. The start was a doozy - he gave up 5 runs in 5 innings against the Giants - but the Cubs came back and he didn't allow a run in his 2 relief appearances. The FO liked what they saw.
They were impressed enough that Ed broke camp with the parent club the next season as a member of their bullpen, were his velocity was better served due to his spotty control (16 walks in 23 innings). Through May, Ed was impressive. Keeping his ERA under 3 throughout most of the month, he kept the surprisingly competitive team in ballgames. But, as May came to an end, unknowingly, Ed Mayer's big league career was also wrapping up.
In late May, Ed's arm started to get tired - then downright sore. He was losing velocity on his fastball and his ERA started to climb. On June 5th, he gave up 2 earned runs without recording an out against the Phillies and the Cubs sent him back to the bush leagues. He eventually recovered enough to keep going in the minors until 1959 (with less than stellar results), Ed Mayer never saw his name in a big league lineup again.
While his career was a pretty common tale in the annals of baseball history, Ed was notable for his being Jewish in a time when major league sports shunned the religion; he faced a fare amount of prejudice during his time in professional baseball.
For instance, in 1956 when pitching for the Cardinals AAA club “Out there on the mound, I hear this guy yelling stuff about me because I was Jewish, and I didn't pay any attention to him, but he was getting on my a-- about it.”
The incidents didn't stop when he came to the Cubs either. “One of my teammates on the Cubs, who I won’t name, didn’t like Jews at all,” Mayer commented. “He was overtly anti-Jewish, and you could tell. That wasn’t good.” We'll never know who that teammate was because Ed took the high road. Thus, even though his baseball career didn't amount to very much, Ed should be remembered for his being a good man and standing tall in the face of discrimination.
The American Jewish Historical Society agrees with me. In 2003, they issued a special commemorative baseball card set that depicts Major League Baseball players who practiced Judaism in order to shine a light on some forgotten trailblazers. The Society has since issued a few updates, including one earlier this year, in order to include more recent heroes, such as Adam Greenberg and Jason Marquis.
Courtesy of JewishMajorLeaguers.com
The set was printed is limited quantities and has become highly sought after. They are one of my favorite oddball sets of all-time; they shine the spotlight on forgotten heroes, further an excellent cause, are made of good quality and are relatively rare - what's not to like?
With that, I must go - today is another packing day for my upcoming move. While I'd rather blog about baseball, life just has a habit of getting in the way. I'll be back tomorrow with Old as Moses Monday.