Tag Archives: Crazy Schmit

Crazy Schmit Stories

13 May

Fred “Crazy” Schmit was widely considered to be the first pitcher to keep a “book” on hitters, it was mostly attributed to his poor memory, and the pitcher kept an actual book in his pocket listing the weakness of each hitter.  The earliest reference to Schmit’s book was in The Sporting Life in 1894, but the story was repeated in newspapers for the next thirty years, usually as a story told by John McGraw or Hughie Jennings.

The article said Schmit kept:

“(A)n account of the weakness at bat of his opponents, setting them down in a small book, which he always carried with him on the diamond…One day when he had the Chicagos as opponents (it was the season that Captain Anson led the League in batting), Anson came to the bat. “Crazy” Schmit looked at the big first baseman, then went down into his pocket, and, taking out his book, read “Anson, base on balls.”

Over the years the story changed—the batter was sometimes Elmer Flick, Nap Lajoie, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Tris Speaker, and as Jennings said in 1926, “Every good hitter since Anson’s day, but Anson is the player whose weakness was reported to be a base on balls.”

"Cap" Anson

“Cap” Anson

Jennings also claimed that during the 1890s as part of a prank by teammates aboard a ferry, Schmit’s suitcase, with his book inside, fell overboard, and said:

“Schmit was a losing pitcher from that time on.  He won a few games but lost a great many more…The bottom of Hudson River held his ‘pitching arm.’”

Pitcher turned sports cartoonist Al Demaree said Schmit “used to warm up with an old water-soaked ball that weighed several pounds—at a distance of 75 feet, and not the regulation 60 feet from his catcher.”

Al Demaree's Schmit cartoon--as with most references to the pitcher, his name is spelled incorrectly

Al Demaree’s Schmit cartoon–as with most references to the pitcher, his name is spelled incorrectly

After his final game with the Baltimore Orioles in 1901, Schmit continued to play with semi-professional and quasi-professional teams for more than a decade.  His antics continued to make the papers.

In 1906 Schmit joined Jim “Nixey” Callahan’s Logan Squares in the Chicago City League.  The Sporting News’ Revere Rodgers told a story (complete with Schmit speaking in a comic German accent) about the team going to Joliet, Illinois for a game:

“(The Logan Squares) knew the umpire was a ‘homer’—a man who couldn’t see a close decision without giving his team the best of it.  He stopped before the grandstand, hat in hand, and announced (the batteries)…’Crazy’ Schmit was right behind him and when (the umpire) finished Schmit took off his cap and making a sweeping bow said: ‘Laties and schentlmen, der umpire for der game today vill be Mister Miller of Joliet and he vill as usual slightly favor der home glub mit his decision.”

According to The Chicago Tribune’s Hugh Fullerton Schmit was deeply disappointed at the end of the 1906 season when Callahan did not allow him to pitch in the Logan Squares victories against the World Champion White Sox, and National League Champion Cubs.

Schmit continued to play in the Midwest and also did some scouting for John McGraw’s New York Giants.  A story that appeared in The Duluth News-Tribune said Schmit pitched a few games for the Fond du Lac in the Wisconsin-Illinois League (Schmit’s name does not appear on any Fond du Lac roster in either of the two years the other player mentioned in the story was with the team (1909, 1911)so the story may be apocryphal):

“Along about the seventh inning, with Rockford leading by 6 to 4 the first man up got on.  Schmit pitched out three times in an attempt to get the runner going down to second base, but the runner made no attempt to purloin the sack.  With the count three and nothing on the batter he grooved the next one, only to have the batter lean on it and drive it over the left field fence for a homerun.

“After the runners had circled the bases the umpire threw up another ball.  Schmit took it, shook his head and walked over to Bobby Lynch, who was playing third base…and said to him ‘Say, Bobby, no wonder I can’t beat these fellows.  I won’t pitch against them any longer.  I quit right now.  They don’t know how to play baseball and yet they are leading in this league.  The runner that was on first base just let me waste three balls and yet he does not attempt to steal; then when I put one over for the batter who has three balls and no strikes, he hits it.  Tell me, how can a man of my intelligence and baseball knowledge pitch a game of baseball against such boneheads and unscientific playing of the game?”

“Crazy” Smith died in Chicago in 1940.

Crazy Schmit in Cleveland

10 May

Crazy Schmit pitched for the Cleveland Spiders in 1899; compiling a 2-17 with a 5.86 ERA for the 20-134 last place team (in Schmit’s defense the 1899 Spiders were one of the worst teams in history, losing 24 straight at one point, and Schmit’s ERA was a half of a run better than the team ERA).

The pitcher had grown tired of his nickname “Crazy,” and of references to his behavior as “tacky.”  After being called both by The Cincinnati Enquirer in August, he responded:

“I have stood this sort of thing just about long enough.  I am neither tacky nor crazy, and without wanting to throw any flowers at myself, I will make the statement that there is not another left-handed pitcher in the business who used as good judgment when pitching as I do.

“Furthermore, I am the only left-hander in the business who has an effective slow ball.  Some of these ten-thousand-dollar beauties and phenoms look like thirty cents to me.  I can also swell up and say that I threw the Phillies down this year.  I beat that hard-hitting gang by a score of 6 to 2.”

1899 Cleveland Spiders--finished 20-134

1899 Cleveland Spiders–finished 20-134

Within weeks Schmit was let go by Cleveland;  The Baltimore American reported on the release of the former and future Oriole:

“Pitcher Schmit, that queer and original baseball character, was yesterday given his ten days’ notice of release by the Cleveland club management and afterward notified that he had been fined for insubordination.”

The American quoted Schmit:

“I was released I suppose because it had been reported that I was not doing my best to win and because the owners were displeased with me for several accidents that happened to me.  I missed the train in Chicago, and while I was riding into Cincinnati from one of the suburbs with a young lady who may one day be Mrs. Schmit, lightning struck the trolley wire and I missed the train again.  I guess that is why I was fined.  They wished to make an example of me.  I do not mind the release, as I can easily get another and better position, but I hate that $50 fine, because my salary is not quite as high as that of some bank presidents.”

Despite his release and his record, Schmit still considered himself a great pitcher, blamed his career statistics on the teams he played with, and the more he spoke the more valuable he became as a player:

“I have in my career pitched for fourteen tail-end clubs and I am done with them.  Unless I can pitch for some club that can win a game occasionally I will stop pitching ball.  The longer I pitch the more stuck I am on myself as a pitcher.  I have pitched good ball for Cleveland, but who could win with six and eight errors behind him, and misplays that are far worse than errors and that go as hit.

“I am the most popular player on the circuit and the only man who knows how to coach as a science.  If some of these managers knew something of the theatrical business they would wire on and advertise I am to pitch a certain game.  When it is known I am to pitch I have often brought enough into the box office in a single game to pay my whole salary for the season several times over.  We played before 14,000 people in Chicago and of that number fully 5,000 came to see me.”

Schmitt did not “easily get another or better position” in 1899 or 1900—he sat out the remainder of 1899 and spent 1900 in the Interstate and New York State Leagues.  Schmit opened the season at 2-3 in five games with the Columbus Senators before being released; there are no surviving records for his New York State League games with the team that split the season between Elmira and Oswego.  The next season John McGraw would give him a chance to pitch in the American League.

More Crazy Schmit next week.

Crazy Schmit

9 May

In 1913, Giants manager John McGraw, wrote an article that ran in newspapers across the country, in which he made the case that baseball had “practically eliminated the ‘bad actor,’” citing the World Series and the development of the game as a business as the primary factors.

McGraw said many of the players of his day “had paths worn from the ballpark to some favorite saloon and back to the grounds.”  McGraw singled out one player in particular to make his point.

Frederick “Crazy” Schmit pitched for parts of five seasons for five different American and National League teams from 1890-1901, posting a career record of 7-36.  (Schmit’s name was almost universally misspelled by contemporary newspapers–the misspellings have been corrected in quotes that reference him).

Crazy Schmit

Crazy Schmit

McGraw wrote (and likely embellished) about Schmit, who was his teammate in 1892 and ’93 and who he managed in 1901 with the Baltimore Orioles:

  “(W)e had a pitcher named Schmit generally and aptly called ‘Crazy’ Schmit.  His habits were nothing for a temperance society lecturer to dwell upon as an example…I called (Schmit) into a corner the day before the first game (of a series with the Cleveland Blues) and told him that I wanted him to pitch the next afternoon and asked him to get into good shape.  He said he would be out there with everything on the ball.  That was one thing about him—he never knocked his own ability.

“But Schmit’s notion of preparations did not coincide with mine.  I learned afterwards that he went directly from my lecture to his favorite loafing place and remained there telling his friends what he would do to Cleveland the next day.”

McGraw claimed that Schmit fell down on the mound (there’s no contemporary report o confirm it) and:

“Those were the days of quick action, so I rushed into the box from third base where I was playing, sore enough to do anything.

‘Get out of here.’  I yelled at him ‘You are released.’

“He laboriously regained his feet, and with ludicrous dignity walked out of the pitcher’s box and toward the exit of the park.  As he left he whirled on me and exclaimed dramatically: ‘I go to tell the world that the great Schmit has been released.”

McGraw said the pitcher only made it as far as the same tavern he had been at the day before, “and we had to send his clothes to him.”

John McGraw

John McGraw

McGraw wrote that before he release Schmit he used a tactic he later tried with “Bugs” Raymond; withholding money from the pitcher to keep him from spending it on liquor:

“After a time I began to miss baseballs in great numbers from the clubhouse and my suspicions were aroused, so I followed Schmit when he left the grounds one night…Schmit proceeded to a corner and mounted a soapbox which he produced from the bushes nearby, and then he pulled five or six league balls, partly used, out of his pocket and began to auction them off as ‘genueen leeg balls.’  For some of them he got as high as $5 apiece.  Or rather, he received $5 for the first one, and then I interrupted him and took the rest away.”

Schmit was released by the Orioles on June 10, 1901; he continued to pitch in semi-pro and outlaw leagues for more than a decade, and worked as a scout–for the New York Giants, managed by John McGraw.

Another “Crazy” Schmit story tomorrow.

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