Herman “Germany” Schaefer

April 10, 2013 § Leave a comment


Vintage 1913 photo of baseball player Germany Schaefer leaping to catch a ball

Germany Schaefer in a non-comedic pose, 1913 (Bain Collection, Library of Congress)

This negative from the Bain Collection in the Library of Congress depicts Germany Schaefer during his time with the Washington Senators, for whom he played from 1910 to 1914. One of the early baseball “clowns,” Schaefer is perhaps best-known for stealing first base (at least once; an anecdote about a possible second instance, related by Davy Jones in The Glory of Their Times, does not seem able to be verified). In the ninth inning of a tie game in 1911, on first base with a runner on third, Schaefer stole second. Failing to draw the throw he had hoped might allow the runner from third to score, he headed back to first base on the next pitch. This started an argument, and after much chaos the runner on third, Clyde Milan, finally broke for home and was thrown out (though the Senators went on to win the game anyway). Several years later baseball instituted a rule that forbade such shenanigans. Rule 52, known to some as the “German Schaefer Rule,” states that  “A base-runner having acquired legal title to a base cannot run bases in reverse order for the purpose of confusing the fielders or making a travesty of the game.”

Travesties or not, Schaefer’s antics were legion, and you can read much more about them in this excellent piece. Schaefer seems to have felt that his pranks were of some actual value, once commenting that the approach “keeps our fellows in good spirits, and it sometimes distracts the opposing players.” And as the long-time Detroit baseball writer Harry Salsinger once wrote, “As a drawing card, Herman ranks second only to Cobb.”

Sadly, Schaefer died of complications of tuberculosis in 1919 at the age of 43, just over a year after playing his last major league game.

“After a Hard Battle with Willow River”

March 26, 2013 § Leave a comment


Vintage snapshot of a handsome amateur baseball player wearing a "Rutledge" uniform after a game

Postgame (c 1910s)

The back of this real photo postcard reads: “This picture was taken after a hard battle with Willow River.” I love how his socks sort of disappear into the vegetation, giving the whole thing a bit of a ghostly feel.

Murderers’ Row: The 1927 Fairfax High School Team

March 6, 2013 § Leave a comment


Yearbook photo of the 1927 Fairfax High baseball squad

The 1927 Fairfax High School baseball team, Los Angeles, CA (click to enlarge)

I recently came across a 1927 yearbook from Fairfax High School in Hollywood, and liked how they called the varsity teams from the various sports “Heavyweight” (for the football team they use that term in the title; here it is in the last sentence, where they refer to the “heavyweight nine”). It seems they were a good team, ending up in second place — rather than first — mainly due to some pitching issues. No players are named.

Odd Spot for a Ballplayer

February 15, 2013 § Leave a comment


Vintage snapshot of a baseball player in uniform, likely in Winona, Minnesota, circa 1920s

Winona, Minnesota, c 1920s (click to enlarge)

This is another snapshot from my collection, and one in which I have never been quite sure what is going on. There is a stamp on the rear from Van Vranken’s Studio in Winona, Minnesota, so I assume it was likely taken in or near that city, which is tucked into the southeastern corner of the state along the Mississippi River. The ballplayer has his right arm around whatever that black object is —  some sort of rolled flag or banner perhaps?

“Over the Fence and Far Away”

February 13, 2013 § Leave a comment


Vintage snapshot of an Occidental college baseball player swinging a bat, c 1922

Occidental College player, c 1922 (click to enlarge)

It’s a little hard to know precisely how to begin a project like this, but I figured I would start with this circa 1922 snapshot of a player from Occidental College in Los Angeles — partly because it happens to be my most recently acquired baseball photo, partly because I live not far from the school and have actually played games on its field in my adult baseball league, and lastly, because I love inscriptions on photos, and thought this one had something sweet and simple to it. I found it on an album page of other shots from Occidental, including some of a 1922 football game against Pomona-Pitzer. I have no idea who this is, and have not been able to find a roster for that year’s team.

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