Tag Archives: Springfield Hustlers

“The Man who Ate Himself out of the American League”

20 Nov

Frank Frederick Schneiberg was born in Milwaukee in 1882 (Baseball Reference lists his year of birth as 1880, but all available documents say 1882).

He began playing baseball for amateur teams in the Milwaukee city league, and after playing for the Pabst Brewery team in 1903 signed with the Springfield Hustlers in the Three-I League.  No records survive, but according to The Milwaukee Journal Schneiberg “won 19 out of 21 starts.”  He played with the Freeport Pretzels in the Wisconsin State League in 1905 and according to the Journal “won 12 straight.”

Frank Schneiberg

He won 22 games the following season with the La Crosse Pinks, which earned him a shot with the Detroit Tigers.

It didn’t go well.

Schneiberg was released to the Milwaukee Brewers before the beginning of the season.

The Associated Press said:

“He has the earmarks of a great pitcher…speed, curves, control and a pretty good collection of baseball brains…but Schneiberg was lazy…He wasn’t eager to pitch.”

The story quoted Tigers manager Hugh Jennings:

“He knows how (to pitch) but he won’t exert himself, I don’t want anybody who will not hustle.”

The Toledo News-Bee blamed his release on something else:

“He is known all over the country as the man who ate himself out of the American League.”

It is unknown whether either or both versions of his time with the Tigers is accurate, in either case, Detroit did try to claim that Schneiberg was still their property later that season when he was pitching well for the Brewers.  The claim was denied and he remained in Milwaukee.

Schneiberg pitched for the Brewers for three seasons compiling a 40-48 record.

While a fan favorite in Milwaukee, Schneiberg appears not to have been popular in at least one other American Association city.  The Toledo News-Bee accused him of being a head hunter in 1908:

“Schneiberg has the reputation of threatening to ‘bean’ batters.”

The following season The News-Bee claimed the Brewers were trying to trade the pitcher and said the team was:

“(V)ery anxious to trade the German, who does not work with any spirit, but the player is not highly regarded around the circuit.”

Regardless of the opinion in Toledo, The Brooklyn Superbas thought highly enough of Schneiberg to draft him from the Brewers at the end of the 1909 season.

He appeared in his only Major League game. On June 8, 1910, with Brooklyn trailing the Cincinnati Reds 4-0, Schneiberg relieved Nap Rucker in the top of seventh inning.  He walked four, gave up five hits and allowed 7 runs (Baseball Reference shows Schneiberg giving up eight runs, with seven earned—the box score from the game shows 7 total).

Schneiberg was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the seventh.  Within days, he was traded to the Des Moines Boosters in the Western League.

He retired after the 1910 season, but in February of 1913 signed with the Memphis Chickasaws of the Southern Association.  He appeared in two games and was released, and in June signed with the Springfield Watchmakers in the Three-I League.  It’s unclear whether he appeared in any games with Springfield.

Frank Schneiberg 1932

Schneiberg retired to Milwaukee after the 1913 season, he became an asbestos worker and an official in the Asbestos Workers Union.  He passed away in Milwaukee in 1948.

Alonzo Hedges and the Hunting Dog

31 Oct

In 1903 Alonzo Hedges briefly became a baseball sensation.

“Pongo” Joe Cantillon, manager of the pitching strapped Milwaukee Brewers in the American Association acquired fellow Kentuckian Hedges in August from the Paducah Chiefs in the Kitty League (no roster exists for the team, but Hedges is listed in multiple box scores in Kentucky newspapers).

Said to be a 19-year-old, Hedges started his first game for Milwaukee the day after his arrival and shut down the Columbus Senators–he took a no-hitter into the ninth inning, giving up a single with two outs.

After another shutout in his second game, Hedges, “The Boy Pitcher of Milwaukee,” appeared headed for stardom.  He wasn’t.

Alonzo Hedges

First, The Chicago Tribune revealed in mid August that “The ‘boy pitcher’, whom a number of clubs are after, is really 23-years-old.”   Then Hedges faltered.  While posting a 5-4 record he was hit hard in last 11 games with Milwaukee, after being nearly unhittable in the first two.

Back in the Kitty League with the Springfield Hustlers in 1904, Hedges was effective and helped lead the team to the league championship (again, no statistics survive), but he was no longer mentioned seriously as prospect.

Newspaper accounts indicate he was the “Hedges” who appeared in four games for the Webb City Goldbugs in the Missouri Valley League in 1905—although an arm injury ended his career early in the season.   Hedges signed with the Springfield Senators of the Three-I League in 1906, but it appears that he never played for the team.

How Hedges ended up with Springfield after his brief time in Milwaukee is the real story.

One of the stories that has been told and retold about the colorful Joe Cantillon is that in 1915, while part owner and manager of the Minneapolis Millers, he traded a player, “outfielder Bruce Hopper,” to the Chicago Cubs for a hunting dog.

There are two problems with the oft-repeated story:  “outfielder Bruce Hopper”  is actually pitcher Bill “Bird Dog” Hopper, and contemporaneous accounts mentioning that Hopper was once traded for a dog provide no details of the transaction and predate Hopper’s tenure playing for Cantillon.

Joe Cantillon

However, such a trade might have taken place, but it happened more than ten years earlier and the player traded was Alonzo Hedges.

A 1910 article in The Milwaukee Sentinel mentions that Milwaukee Brewers owner Charles Sheldon Havenor kept a photo of Cantillon on his desk, along with a letter.  The letter read:

“The mother of the dog in the picture is the one I received in exchange for Alonzo Hedges, the pitcher.”

The story went on to tell the story of the trade:

“Cantillon went to Springfield, IL, to see a friend of his who owned the Springfield club and ran a cafe on the side.  During the course of the afternoon the friend showed Joe a couple of dandy setter puppies.”

Later in the discussion when the Springfield owner mentioned his need for pitching, Cantillon offered to sell him Hedges, and Cantillon said “I’ll let you have the fellow for one of those dogs.”

The Sentinel concluded:

“Mr. Hedges may not have been much of a bear cat as a pitcher, but he probably has the distinction of being the only ball player in captivity ever traded for a dog.”

One more note on Hedges.  The Chicago Tribune might have been wrong, the 23-year-old “Boy Pitcher,” might have actually been 26-years-old.  While Hedges grave lists his birth date as 1880, all extant records, including Hedges’ death certificate and census data, indicate he was born on 1877.

Hedges passed away January 12, 1928 in Paducah, Kentucky.