Charles "Boss" Schmidt (September 12, 1880 – November 14, 1932) was an American baseball catcher.

Boss Schmidt
Boss Schmidt (1908 Detroit Free Press portrait).jpg
Catcher
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
April 30, 1906, for the Detroit Tigers
Last MLB appearance
October 8, 1911, for the Detroit Tigers
MLB statistics
Batting average.243
Hits360
Runs batted in124
Teams

A native of Arkansas, Schmidt played professional baseball from 1901 to 1926, including six seasons in Major League Baseball with the Detroit Tigers from 1906 to 1911. He was the starting catcher on the Detroit teams that won three consecutive American League pennants from 1907 to 1909. He also led the American League in errors by a catcher in each of those seasons. In six major league seasons, Schmidt appeared in 477 games, 410 of them as Detroit's starting catcher. He compiled a .243 batting average, .270 on-base percentage, .307 slugging percentage, 41 doubles, 22 triples, and 23 stolen bases.[1]

Early yearsEdit

Schmidt was born in 1880 in either London, Arkansas,[1] or Coal Hill, Arkansas.[2] His parents were immigrants from Germany. As a young man, Schmidt worked in the local coal mines, "cutting, shoveling, and pushing carts of coal."[3]

Professional baseball playerEdit

Minor leaguesEdit

Schmidt began his baseball career with a semipro team in Fort Smith, Arkansas.[3] In 1901, he joined the Little Rock Travelers of the Southern Association. He then played for the Springfield Reds of the Missouri Valley League (1902-1904), the Rock Island Islanders of the Three-I League (1903), and the Minneapolis Millers of the American Association (1904-1905).[4]

Detroit TigersEdit

1906 seasonEdit

In late August 1905, the Minneapolis Millers sold Schmidt and two other players to the Detroit Tigers.[5] Schmidt was initially a holdout from the Tigers' 1906 training camp, but he finally reported on March 21.[6] During the 1906 season, Schmidt appeared in 68 games, 64 as the team's starting catcher, while sharing catching duties with John Warner and Fred Payne. During the 1906 campaign, Schmidt compiled a .218 batting average. Despite appearing in less than half the team's games, he ranked among the American League's best defensive catchers with 106 assists (fourth in the American League), 72 players caught stealing (fifth in the American League), and a 50.7% rate of catching runners attempting to steal (fourth in the American League).[1]

1907 seasonEdit

In 1907, Schmidt appeared in 104 games, 96 as the Tigers' starting catcher, and compiled a .244 batting average with six triples and eight stolen bases. Defensively, he led the American League's catchers with 14 double plays turned, but also led the league with 34 errors at catcher and ranked second with 16 passed balls.[1]

The Tigers won the American League pennant and lost to the Chicago Cubs in the 1907 World Series. Schmidt hit .167 (two singles in 12 at bats) in the World Series,[1] and his multiple defensive lapses in Game 1 were particularly costly. In Game 1, the Cubs stole six bases on Schmidt. And a poor throw to second base in the fourth inning failed to catch Frank Chance who was heading down the line when the batter swung and missed; an accurate throw would have ended the inning, and instead Chance scored on a base hit. Even worse was a costly passed ball that cost the Tigers a victory. The Tigers led in the ninth inning with two outs and Chicago's Harry Steinfeldt on third base; Chicago pinch hitter Del Howard swung on a third strike that should have ended the game, but "Schmidt missed the ball, which got by him to the crowd," allowing Steinfeldt to score the tying run.[7] After the game, the Detroit Free Press wrote: "The surprise of the game was the poor work of Charlie Schmidt, who had an off day such as probably will not come to him again in the series. He found it almost impossible to locate second sack, and only once, in a half dozen tries, did he manage to put the ball where the infielder could get it on the runner."[7] Schmidt also appeared in Games 3 and 4, allowing two stolen bases in each game.

After the season, x-rays revealed a severe dislocation on the forefinger of Schmidt's throwing hand. Doctors examining the injury questioned how it was possible that Schmidt had been able to play in the World Series at all.[8] The finger was broken in a game in mid-September; he underwent surgery in November to re-break the finger to allow it to heal properly.[9]

1908 seasonEdit

In 1908, Schmidt appeared in a career-high 122 games, 113 as the Tigers' starting catcher, and compiled a .265 batting average. He had his best defensive season, leading the American League's catchers with 184 assists and 129 runners caught stealing, though he also led the league with 37 errors at catcher and 115 stolen bases allowed. He also ranked second among the league's catchers with 12 double plays turned and third with 541 putouts. His defensive wins above replacement rating of 2.6 was the third highest among all position players in the league during the 1908 season.[1]

Schmidt's 1908 season was again marred by another poor showing in the World Series. The Tigers won their second consecutive pennant and again lost to the Cubs in the 1908 World Series. Schmidt hit .071 (one single in 14 at bats) in the series,[1] and allowed 12 stolen bases in four games of the series.[10][11][12][13] He also made the last out in consecutive World Series in 1907 and 1908, the only player ever to do so.[14]

1909 seasonEdit

Prior to the 1909 season, Schmidt did not attend spring training with the team and was instead a holdout over salary issues. On March 3, he announced that he had purchased a half interest in a shoe store in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and would miss the 1909 season so that he could manage his store. Aside from salary demands, he expressed frustration he played the latter half of the 1907 and 1908 seasons with broken fingers and a mangled hand, yet was still roasted and hammered by sports writers for misplays.[15] He ultimately reported to the team on April 9.[16]

Schmidt's holdout provided an opportunity for rookie Oscar Stanage to impress the team's manager. In the end, Schmidt and Stanage shared the catching duties in 1909 with Schmidt starting 76 games and Stanage 74. Adding to Schmidt's challenge, his batting average in 1909 dipped to a career-low .209 while Stanage hit more than 50 points higher at .262. Moreover, Schmidt led the American League's catchers in errors (20) for the third consecutive year. To his credit, he also ranked third among the league's catchers with 83 runners caught stealing.[1]

The Tigers won their third consecutive pennant in 1909. In the five games of the 1909 World Series in which he played, Schmidt compiled a .222 batting average (three doubles and a single in 18 at bats),[1] and the Pirates stole 15 bases.

1910 and 1911 seasonsEdit

In the offseason before the 1910 season, Schmidt purchased a saloon in Fort Smith, Arkansas.[17] During the 1910 season, he was overtaken by Oscar Stanage as the Tigers' primary catcher with Stanage starting 83 games at the position to 54 for Schmidt. Schmidt's batting average improved to .259, and he hit a career-high seven triples.[1]

 
Detroit manager Hughie Jennings

In January 1911, Schmidt sent a lengthy letter published by the Detroit Free Press complaining of mistreatment by manager Hughie Jennings. The letter asserted:

"If ever a catcher has worked under a handicap, I certainly have. I have had a manager to fight, besides the other clubs and he has done everything in his power to put me out of baseball. . . . When the manager and catcher speak only when absolutely necessary, during a whole season; when a catcher that has worked as hard as I did in three seasons, pennant winning seasons, and then is benched for half a season, for nothing more than a personal dislike and when a man has given a team his best efforts and worked with a broken ankle, crippled hands, disabled in other ways, something no other man would have done and then gets hooks thrown into him, it doesn't make him feel the best in the world. . . . I think I have got a rotten deal in Detroit. I like Detroit and its people. They have all treated me well. . . . but Jennings and I can never get along."[18]

During the 1911 season, Schmidt appeared in 28 games, only seven as the Tigers' starting catcher, and compiled a .283 batting average in 46 at bats. He appeared in his final major league game on October 8, 1911.[1] The Detroit Free Press in October 1911 wrote: "Schmidt, who reported with a sore arm, has done practically no work this season, beyond warming up the pitchers and some very useful pinch hitting when called upon."[19] In January 1912, the Tigers dealt Schmidt to the Providence Grays.[20]

In six major league seasons, Schmidt appeared in 477 games, 410 of them as Detroit's starting catcher. He compiled a .243 batting average, .270 on-base percentage, .307 slugging percentage, 41 doubles, 22 triples, and 23 stolen bases.[1]

Reputation for toughnessEdit

As a young man, Schmidt worked in the coal mines and developed a muscular and powerful physique. According to the Detroit Tigers information office, Schmidt beat Ty Cobb in several fights.[21] In the second fight, Schmidt knocked Cobb unconscious but admired Cobb's resiliency while fighting and stayed to revive Cobb as he lay motionless on the Tiger dressing room floor. Despite their clashes, Schmidt and Cobb (both tough as nails) became close friends until Schmidt's death in 1932. [1]

Schmidt also played a role in Cobb's March 1907 fist fight with an African American groundskeeper. When the groundskeeper tried to shake Cobb's hand, Cobb slapped him and chased him to the clubhouse. The groundskeeper's wife yelled at Cobb, and Cobb began to choke her. Schmidt intervened and stopped Cobb from hurting her further. Cobb and Schmidt then got into a fight and had to be separated by their teammates.[22]

Schmidt was a skilled boxer. In March 1910, Schmidt issued a public challenge to fight any player in the major leagues, saying, "I want a fight and I want it badly." He announced that he was training with former welterweight boxing champion Rube Ferns and offered to put up $2,000 of his own money on the outcome of the fight.[23] In early 1911, Schmidt won a match against a boxer named McDonald, and stories spread that Schmidt hoped to become the "great white hope" by taking on heavyweight champion Jack Johnson.[24] Schmidt's representative, Rube Ferns, issued a public letter denying any interest on Schmidt's part in fighting Johnson or "any of the Ethiopian race."[25]

Aside from his prowess as a fighter, Schmidt was also known for other displays of his physical toughness. As a catcher, Schmidt never wore shinguards. He could force nails into the floor with his bare fists. He once visited a local carnival with some of his teammates and wrestled and pinned a live bear. Schmidt's career was shortened due to numerous fractures sustained over the years of his thumb and fingers.[26]

Return to minor leaguesEdit

After his major league career ended, Schmidt continued to play in the minor leagues for another 15 years, including stints with the Providence Grays (1912), Mobile Sea Gulls (1913-1916), Vernon Tigers (1916), Memphis Chickasaws (1917), Sioux City Indians (1919), Tulsa Oilers (1919), Fort Smith Twins (1920-1921), Atlanta Crackers (1921-1922), Springfield Midgets (1924), and Kalamazoo Celery Pickers (1926).[4] He served as a player-manager at Mobile (1915-1916), Sioux City (1917, 1919), Fort Smith (1920-1921), Springfield (1924), and Kalamazoo (1926). He also managed the Quincy Red Birds in 1927.[4]

Family and later yearsEdit

Schmidt's younger brother, Walter Schmidt, was also a major league catcher, playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1916 to 1924.[27]

After his playing career ended, Schmidt was employed as a coach for Brooklyn of the National League in 1923, a Pacific Coast League umpire in 1925, a manager at St. Joseph's in 1927, an Atlantic League umpire in 1928, and a coach for the Detroit Tigers in 1929.[2] In the early 1930s, he worked for Ford Motor Company in Detroit and managed the Walkerville baseball team of the Michigan–Ontario League in 1932.[2]

Schmidt died suddenly in November 1932 in Altus, Arkansas. The cause of death was reported to be a stomach ailment.[2] He was buried at St. Mary Catholic Cemetery in Altus.[1]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Boss Schmidt". Baseball-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved July 21, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d "Charlie Schmidt, Old Tiger Catcher Dies Suddenly: Helped Detroit Win Three Flags in Row". Detroit Free Press. November 15, 1932. pp. 17–18 – via Newspapers.com.
  3. ^ a b "Boss Schmidt". Society for American Baseball Research. Retrieved July 23, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c "Boss Schmidt Minor & Cuban League Statistics". Baseball-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved July 21, 2019.
  5. ^ "Detroit Gets Three Millers". The Minneapolis Journal. August 28, 1905. p. 8 – via Newspapers.com.
  6. ^ Joe S. Jackson (March 22, 1906). "Last of Tiger Holdouts in the Cage". Detroit Free Press. p. 9.
  7. ^ a b "Darkness Stops Opening Contest". Detroit Free Press. October 9, 1907. pp. 1–2 – via Newspapers.com.
  8. ^ Joe S. Jackson (November 24, 1907). "Now The Fan Gets Chance". Detroit Free Press. p. 18 – via Newspapers.com.
  9. ^ "Charlie Schmidt a Papa: Tempers Joy With Discovery That Right Hand is Bad". Detroit Free Press. November 9, 1907. p. 8 – via Newspapers.com.
  10. ^ "Score of First Game, World's Series". Detroit Free Press. October 11, 1908. p. 17 – via Newspapers.com.(Game 1: 5 stolen bases allowed)
  11. ^ "Game 2 summary". Detroit Free Press. October 12, 1908. p. 6 – via Newspapers.com.(Game 2: 3 stolen bases allowed)
  12. ^ "Game 4 summary". Detroit Free Press. October 14, 1908. p. 11 – via Newspapers.com.(Game 4: 4 stolen bases allowed)
  13. ^ "Game 5 summary". Detroit Free Press. October 15, 1908 – via Newspapers.com.(Game 5: 0 stolen bases allowed)
  14. ^ "The Ballplayers - Boss Schmidt". BaseballLibrary.com. Retrieved July 22, 2019.
  15. ^ "Schmidt Again Says He's Done". Detroit Free Press. March 4, 1909. p. 9 – via Newspapers.com.
  16. ^ "Return of C. Schmidt Only Event To Break Quiet in Tigers' Camp". Detroit Free Press. April 10, 1909. p. 9 – via Newspapers.com.
  17. ^ "Sleuths Giving Schmidt Worry". Detroit Free Press. January 22, 1910. p. 8 – via Newspapers.com.
  18. ^ "Charley Schmidt Says Jennings 'Abuses' Him". Detroit Free Press. January 29, 1911. pp. 17, 23 – via Newspapers.com.
  19. ^ "No Action Taken as Yet to Dispose of Jones and Schmidt". Detroit Free Press. October 3, 1911. p. 9 – via Newspapers.com.
  20. ^ "Schmidt Going To Providence". Chicago Tribune. January 7, 1912. p. 22 – via Newspapers.com.
  21. ^ Boss Schmidt | BaseballLibrary.com Archived September 30, 2007, at the Wayback Machine at www.baseballlibrary.com
  22. ^ ESPN.com: March Classic Moments at espn.go.com
  23. ^ "Schmidt Would Enter the Ring". Detroit Free Press. March 16, 1910. p. 9 – via Newspapers.com.
  24. ^ "Charley Schmidt Pines to Be White Man's Hope in Ring". Detroit Free Press. February 19, 1911. p. 15 – via Newspapers.com.
  25. ^ "Denies Schmidt Is White Hope". Detroit Free Press. March 17, 1911. p. 10 – via Newspapers.com.
  26. ^ "Legends of the Game". Archived from the original on 2001-01-07. Retrieved 2016-11-05. at www.deadball.com
  27. ^ "Walter Schmidt". Baseball-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved July 22, 2019.