1966 BASEBALL INDUCTEE
Only the shortness of a career, so reduced by a sore arm, prevented Fresno-born Alex Metzler from becoming a longtime fixture in the major leagues. After signing his first professional contract with Topeka of the Western Association in 1924, it took the stocky and fleet Metzler just three years before he started in center field for the Chicago White Sox. Prior to making it big in 1927, he played nine games for the Chicago Cubs in 1925 and twenty for the Philadelphia A’s in 1926. One of the first people chosen for the Baseball Hall of Fame, the immortal Ty Cobb labeled Metzler as a future star the first time he saw him play. Cobb was quoted: “This kid Metzler has the fire and stuff that make a ball player..”
In 1927, Metzler showed what Cobb was talking about. He played 134 games, batted .319, had 173 hits which included twenty-nine doubles, eleven triples and three home runs. He drove in sixty-one and scored eighty-three. The following year, he hit .303 with eighteen doubles, fourteen triples, and three home runs. In his third year as the starting ChiSox center fielder, his average tailed off to .275, but he still had pop in his bat with twenty-three doubles, fourteen triples, and two home runs. Then came a collision with the center field wall while chasing down a fly ball. He injured his right shoulder and was unable to throw properly. He played fifty-six games each for the White Sox and St. Louis Browns in 1930 and then retired.
Metzler continued to play some type of semi-pro baseball for another sixteen years, mostly in the San Joaquin Valley. He was a dangerous hitter with the Fresno Tigers prior to turning professional and later starred in the Fresno Twilight League and with the strong Roma Wines team. His longtime hunting and fishing companion, Larry Powell said of Metzler: “Alex was the salt of the earth. Totally honest, never made excuses, and played every game to the best of his ability. He was a line drive hitter with power. He received the nickname “Steer Knee” when he and a teammate went to a Chicago feedlot. Alex remarked ‘Look at the knees on that steer!’ The name stuck. Alex could run which is why he had so many triples. He had an upbeat, cheerful attitude, no matter the circumstances and could always see the bright and humorous side of life. He told me many times ‘Larry, everything I have to baseball and anytime Ican give something back or help a youngster along the way, I am tickled to do it.”
After Metzler’s death on November 30, 1973 at seventy, the legendary Fresno State baseball coach Pete Beiden said: “Alex was one of my first idols. I think more than anything, he opened the way for young men of the German-Russian community to do something in athletics. It was the custom in the old country for boys to stay at home and work, work, work. Alex was a pioneer and the first of this group to reach the majors. As I got to know him better I liked him tremendously. He was sincere, effervescent, and a good farmer.” Metzler also served on the staff of The Fresno Bee Baseball School.