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.”
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.”
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.