Thursday, September 19, 2013

Boss Schmidt Bears Down

My new fave old tymer - Charles "Boss" Schmidt

I got a couple old postcards of 1907 Detroit Tigers players, one of them is Charley Schmidt.

I didn't know who he was so I looked him up and was instantly taken by the colorful stories around the guy. He was the main cog in the three man platoon of players the Tigers employed at catcher during their dominant days of the first decade of the 1900s. The Tigers were defeated in the 1907 and 1908 World Series by the Chicago Cubs.

Charley Schmidt made the final out in both series, the only man to make the final out in two different world series. And he did it in consecutive years. But while that may be Schmidt's only entry into the record books, its not the only bizarre mark he left on the game.

The Deadball-era Tigers are known mostly for Ty Cobb, who was perhaps the most hated and feared man in baseball at the time and for as much as a century afterwards. The feisty Georgia Peach fit right in with the colorful characters who populate the Detroit roster around 1907. And when I say "colorful" I mean "abnormal and/or insane".

Jennings giving signs
The team is led by manager Hughie "Eeh-yah" Jennings, known for his unusual habit of yelling "Eeeyaghh!" from the 3b coaches box as he gave the batter signs. The signal could be the raised foot, could be that he was standing on the line, could be if there was a pause or an accent in the yell.

Jennings turned a blind eye to the team's hazing of rookies, including young Tyrus Cobb, who had his shoes nailed to the clubhouse floor in just one of many instances of the older players welcoming him.

Jennings was well known for his insanity, often used to distract opposing pitchers in the form of whoops and whistles and yells.

He once dove headfirst into a swimming pool, not knowing it was empty and fractured his skull. It was one of at least four skull fractures and concussions incurred during his lifetime. Hughie would leave MLB after a nervous breakdown in 1925, and pass away just three years later. But in 1907 he was at his height, coaching the Tigers to three straight American League pennants, though he would lose twice to the Cubs and once to the Pirates.

Other nuts residing in the clubhouse include 1b Claude Rossman, who is a capable defender in every way except one - it gets around the league that he will freeze if he is holding the ball in a stressful situation.

Pretty soon every runner at first takes a big lead to draw a throw from the pitcher, when the toss comes to chase the runner back the baserunner could advance to second base as Rossman would freeze up when he got the ball.

Rossman would pass away at an insane asylum as he dealt with mental issues.

Red Downs
Red Downs was a Tiger infielder who would later do time for robbing a jewelry store at The Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. He claimed that liqour had robbed him three times, once of his MLB playing, once for costing him place in the Pacific Coast league and a third time for getting him involved in armed robbery.

He split time with the (in)famous Germany Schaefer at second base.

Germany Schaefer is a pioneer of baseball clowning and is known more for his antics than his play, though he was the first man to steal first base and caused a rule to be created prohibiting it.

He would come to bat wearing a false mustache, eat popcorn while coaching third base and show up at court to defend the drunks arrested the previous night (he got them off scot free).

Germany Schaefer was the first to play in an overcoat and galoshes when it was raining to convince umps to call a game. He may have invented play by play announcing while narrating his own game winning home run as he ran the bases. During WW1 he changed his name to "Liberty" Schaefer, as the country took to renaming german things (sour kraut became liberty cabbage, etc).

Basically, he fit right in with this team!

SS O'Leary
Charley O'Leary was the Shortstop, and along with fellow Chicagoan/best friend and part-time vaudeville partner Schaefer, was the inspiration for two musicals, including the film "Take me out to the Ball Game" with Gene Kelley and Frank Sinatra.

At almost 59 he became the oldest player to appear in a major league game, the oldest to score a run and get a hit.


Third Baseman Bill Coughlin holds the record for successful Hidden Ball Tricks, with seven. He even got one in the World Series, the only time its been done successfully!

Third catcher Jimmy Archer was a defensive gem, able to gun down baserunners while staying in his catching squat - a la Benito Santiago. Archers incredible arm strength was due to his muscles being shortened when, at the age of 19, Jimmy fell into a vat of boiling sap in an industrial accident, which wasn't considered unusual at all back in the day.

No, not that guy!
Outfielder Davy Jones was normal in spite of sharing a name with the pirate ruler under the oceans, a future Monkee and Ziggy Stardust. He didn't appear to have any arrests, breakdowns, insanity or clowning on his resume'. Just that name, which is enough.

With Ty Cobb in center and Wahoo Sam Crawford known as the best hitter in the league already entrenched in the lineup, Jones is forced to split time in the outfield with veteran Matty McIntyre.
Matty McIntyre (1905).jpg
Matt McIntyre

McIntyre, who had a rookie Ty Cobb cut in front of him and cause Matty to drop a ball knew how to hold a grudge. The play made McIntyre look bad and he took exception to the incident and started a hazing campaign against the future hit king.

This hazing continued for years, and was egged on by other players on the team - which brings us to Charley Schmidt.

Schmidt was one of those who teased Cobb, flicked food at him and called him names until Cobb finally snapped and offered to fight any or all who would take him on.

Jack Johnson
Schmidt stepped up to accept the challenge and after the dust settled Tyrus was out cold on the floor. Charley wasn't worried, he had fought tougher than the Georgia Peach - in fact Schmidt had sparred with heavyweight champ Jack Johnson.

Charley Schmidt came from the coal mines of Arkansas. He spent a couple seasons in the minors but soon joined Detroit and by 1907 had spent three seasons in the bigs. He was probably happy to pass along the hazing he had been thru to the rookie from the south.

After a second dustup Cobb was again knocked out but won Schmidt's respect, and after Charley helped revive him, the two formed a life long friendship.

Charley Schmidt
Charley Schmidt would appear in several notable Cobb moments, including a fight in Philadelphia that involved Ty beating up a black groundskeeper who tried to shake his hand and then the groundskeepers wife.

Charley jumped in and broke it up by knocking Cobb out and dragging him off before he could be arrested. It would cause legal trouble for Cobb and the Detroit team, and force the Tigers to schedule extra travel to avoid seeing Tyrus arrested in the state of Pennsylvania.

At this point, you are probly thinkin what I was, that Charley is a brawler of the bare-knuckled variety. But then I found a couple more interesting notes to consider, I found him a cut above the usual barroom fighter that hung around with Billy Martin.

Charley was called Boss, in part for his ability to drive a nail into the floor with his bare fists.

Boss Schmidt didn't wear shinguards when he caught during games. He didn't think they were "manly".

On a team trip to the Circus the players took in a sideshow - patrons were offered $500 if they could last two minutes in a boxing ring with a bear. Boss Schmidt PINNED the bear!

WTF?!  How does a guy PIN A BEAR?
many have wrestled, few have won

Okay, Schmidt, you are officially the toughest man in baseball history. Some guys can put a nail in the floor, some guys can fight with fists, but pin a bear to the floor in two minutes? You are the Boss!

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