by Steven Travers
American Reporter Correspondent
San Francisco, Calif.
April 10, 2006
MICKEY MEISTER WAS MY FRIEND
SAN FRANCISCO -- Mickey Meister passed away this week. To those who knew what had become of him, this was news we expected since 2003. He was 44 years old. His life is a Shakespearean cautionary tale of wasted talent and excess. He was a man of extraordinary flaw, yet also one of great charisma. It is the fervent hope of this old friend of Mick's that somehow that charisma, combined with Mick's spiritual knowledge of death's impending harvest - and hopeful repentance - impressed God enough to grant salvation to his soul.
Where do I start? Well, for one, Mickey is the greatest high school baseball pitcher in the history of the Marin County Athletic League. He played during the MCAL's "golden age" - the 1970s. Redwood High School was the best prep program in America. Great pitchers like Gene Frey, Eddie Andersen, Jeff Lucchesi, Frank Ferroni and Jimmy Jones came out of Al Endriss' program like so much wheat gracing an Indiana cornfield. Charles Scott of Terra Linda was another superstar. But Mickey's record was unparalleled. He deserves to be in the Marin Athletic Hall of Fame. The Marin Old-Time Athlete's meet May 1, and I for one will lobby for Mick at that event.
He played four years of varsity ball. His sophomore year, Mickey was my teammate, the ace of a club that not only won the NCS championship but also was voted "mythical" national champions of prep baseball by Collegiate Baseball magazine and the Easton Bat Co. You can look it up.
The Tamalpais Union High School District office still displays a giant photo of that "number one team in the nation." Mick was 11-1, first team All-MCAL. As a junior he was 14-0, a high school All-American. Redwood won the NCS title again and finished number two in the nation. As a senior, Mick again made All-American, was named by Cal-Hi Sports the state's best baseball player, and another organization even went so far as to award him the title "National Athlete of the Year."
Mick turned down the Boston Red Sox to accept a full ride to play for Rod Dedeaux at USC. This is where he and I were again classmates. At USC, he was the Trojans' ace, going 9-3 his sophomore year. He beat John Elway and Stanford at Sunken Diamond, 2-1 in a classic performance. After USC, he played in the Seattle Mariners organization.
It can be said that the leafy, affluent suburbs of Marin County may produce the very best and brightest of America's high school students. In 1979, if one were to survey all of Marin to determine which of that year's seniors was the "most likely to succeed," the most obvious choice would have been Mickey Meister. His baseball success was only part of the story.
Mick was 6-5, 225 pounds, and if you looked up "handsome" in Webster's, his smiling face was to be found there. Girls craved his attention. Guys wanted to bathe in his sunshine.
Mick was also a mathematical genius who could rival Dustin Hoffman's Rainman when it came to adding up and computing numbers in his head. He was smart, savvy, street-smart, funny, the life of the party. Nothing got past him. He was nobody's fool. He was a movie buff whose knowledge of Hollywood rivaled Siskel and Ebert's. Similarly, he knew the history of rock music in like fashion.
Mick grew up in a mansion in Ross. His parents reportedly gave him $100 a day for "expenses."
So, after Redwood, after USC, and after the Mariners, where did it all go wrong? I was his friend, so I wanted to know that answer. Three years ago, when Mickey became homeless in Texas, I wrote an article that ran nationally for The American Reporter, trying not just to understand his cautionary tale but maybe to help him, if I could.
The article found its way to Texas, where residents of Earl Campbell's old hometown of Tyler were trying to make sense of the strange, oddly entertaining drifter named Mickey. The article detailed Mick's success, his failures and his faults. The desired effect was that he would grasp the realities of his life, causing him to right his ship; take stock in himself; stop drinking; find peace through Christ.
I heard through friends that Mick was peeved at the article, especially since it shed light that made it harder to flimflam local Texas women. But he had a strange pride in his faults, causing him to show the article around town, cherry-picking the parts about his sports heroics and, oddly, bragging that "it's all true." Even the parts about his childhood affluence were used to create the image that a trust fund was waiting, that he just needed enough to get by, a loan, an investment in an Internet stock that was a sure thing until his ship came in.
The article hit a nerve. Numerous old Redwood and USC people came across it and contacted me with "Meister stories." Mick's circle of friends started getting emails from Tyler, Texas. The typical query went like this: "I have a female friend who has befriended a man named Mickey Meister. She is not very attractive and quite flattered to receive male attention. Each day she meets Mickey at TGI Friday's,' where he spends the day drinking on my friend's tab until she arrives after work. They drink and eat, she pays the tab, and they go. Mickey has access to her bank account, ATM and 401K. He promises he will pay her back, as he is investing in a big deal. He claims a doctorate from USC, to be a former big league All-Star, and other fantastic fables."
Mick's friends, myself included, tried to warn off these "lonely hearts club women," apparently with some success, but there was always another one. Finally, some months ago, he talked one of them into coming to California with him. She weighed close to 300 pounds and had given Mick access to her savings. Looking back, Mick was coming home to die. He knew his liver could not take the alcohol abuse he put it through. The handsome pitching ace was unrecognizable the last few years.
But, again... why? As his friend, Alex Jacobs once said, "Mick's a complex human being." To figure out the roots of his demise, one must look to a youth in which his physical, mental and economic gifts were so great that he took them for granted. To those of us who knew him, this was plainly obvious.
As an athlete, he showed up and dominated. Females? Same thing. Money? It seemingly grew on the trees of his Ross surroundings. Academics? His photographic memory meant he did not need to study. His parents doted on him; his friends were more like apostles. Door after door... Welcome, Mick.
But Mick cheated on girlfriends and stole from his male friends. One good pal had a computer heisted by Mick. He was dishonest. Employment never lasted. He took money from a Marin County bank that employed him as a teller, telling a friend who inquired how he could do such a thing, "It's really pretty easy once you get past the morality of it."
When caught red-handed stealing, cheating and lying, he just smiled. He was proud of his ability to get away with stuff. He loved Bill Clinton because he was a slickster who never got caught. He used his math skills to cheat at cards.
My personal, humble analysis is that he lacked spiritual guidance. As it says in the Gospel according to Matthew, "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, only to lose his soul?" It was in this verse that I found strange hope for Mick, because in the end he lost the whole world. This was why I wrote about him in 2003, hoping he would realize this, repent and save his soul, for in God's mystery our earthly stumbles can be the pathway to Heaven. This remains my hope.
Mick's friends will gather for memories of him at Marin Joe's on April 29.
Steven Travers is the author of "Barry Bonds" Baseball's Superman" and the
upcoming "The USC Trojans: College Football's All-Time Greatest Dynasty."
Contacvt him at firstname.lastname@example.org.