SABR

Frank Schneiberg

This article was written by Bill Lamb.

Good size/Above-average stuff/Poor attitude. This familiar micro-profile would have neatly summarized Frank Schneiberg, a right-handed pitching prospect in the early 1900s. Innate talent afforded Schneiberg a fair degree of success in the minor leagues, particularly while he was hurling for clubs situated in his native Wisconsin. But a lack of self-discipline and other temperament problems often placed Schneiberg at odds with club management and forestalled the opportunity for him to show his stuff in the majors. And when he was finally given a chance by the 1910 Brooklyn Superbas, the major-league career of Frank Schneiberg was brief, confined to a single nightmarish relief outing. Swiftly returned to the minors, a discouraged Schneiberg pitched ineffectively thereafter and was out of the game by the end of the 1913 season.

Frank Fred Schneiberg was born in Milwaukee on March 12, 1880,i the youngest of the nine children known to have been born to Johann Schneiberg (1827-1906) and his wife, the former Katerina Karabova (1840-1901).ii The elder Schneibergs were immigrants from Bohemia who settled in Milwaukee in 1876, where Johann found employment as a butcher. Little is known of son Frank’s early life. His schooling ended after the eighth grade and Frank presumably joined his siblings in the Milwaukee work force. A strapping youth (6-feet-1 and eventually close to 200 pounds), Schneiberg began his baseball career pitching for local amateur teams.iii In 1903 his standout performances while hurling for a Pabst Brewery Company nine attracted the interest of baseball scouts. In December 1903 Schneiberg entered the professional ranks, signing with the Rockford (Illinois) Red Sox of the Class B Three-I League.iv Schneiberg appeared in several 1904 preseason exhibitions for Rockford, but by late April he had been acquired by a Three-I League rival, the Springfield (Illinois) Hustlers. In a later-life interview, Schneiberg maintained that he won 19 of 21 starts for the pennant-winning (72-48) Springfield club,v but contemporaneous sources place his Springfield record at a prosaic 6-5.vi Thereafter, Schneiberg reportedly suffered an arm injury during a postseason exhibition game in Racine, and was sold to Three-I League rival Davenport the following February.vii

Little information survives regarding Schneiberg’s tenure with the Davenport (Iowa) Riversides, but sometime during the 1905 season he was acquired by the Freeport Pretzels of the Class D Wisconsin State League. Years later, it would be reported that Schneiberg “won 12 straight” games upon his arrival in Freeport.viii The 1906 Spalding Guide, however, puts the Schneiberg record with Freeport at 16-13 in 246 innings pitched. The ensuing campaign found Frank in the uniform of Wisconsin State League rival La Crosse. There, under the tutelage of pitcher-manager Pink Hawley, once a 31-game winner for Pittsburgh, Schneiberg’s professional career finally gained some traction. Appearing in 53 games for the pennant-winning (76-42) Pinks, Schneiberg went 22-12 in 289 innings pitched. At season’s end he was drafted by the Detroit Tigers for $300 and placed on the Detroit reserved list for the 1907 season,ix thus making in one bound the leap between Class D ball and the majors. That fall there was also a major change in Schneiberg’s domestic situation. On October 6, 1906, he married Margaret Maria Hanson (née Huther), a resident of Browning, Wisconsin, who would be his wife for the next 41 years. The couple would have no children of their own, but Frank served as stepfather for Margaret’s young daughter, May Elizabeth Hanson.

In camp with the Tigers the next spring, Schneiberg impressed observers with his arm, but turned them off with his attitude. “He has the earmarks of a great pitcher … speed, curves, control, and a pretty good collection of baseball brains,” reported the Associated Press. “But Schneiberg was lazy [and] wasn’t eager to pitch.”x A similar assessment was rendered by Detroit manager Hughie Jennings: “He knows how [to pitch] but he won’t exert himself. I don’t want anybody who will not hustle.”xi Schneiberg was therefore released to the Milwaukee Brewers of the Class A American Association.

Milwaukee-born with an affable (albeit lackadaisical) disposition and a distinctly Germanic surname, Schneiberg soon became a great favorite of Brewers fans, many of whom were of German stock themselves. He began well with Milwaukee, winning nine of his first 11 starts. But eventually he made his way into manager Jack Doyle’s doghouse, reportedly by threatening to punch out Doyle during a dispute involving teammate Barry McCormick.xii Thereafter, Schneiberg’s pitching faltered. That August, meanwhile, the Tigers attempted to assert a putative option right to Schneiberg’s services. Milwaukee resistance to the claim placed the matter before the National Commission, which ultimately concluded that Detroit had forfeited its hold upon Schneiberg when a written waiver of its rights had accompanied the pitcher’s release to Milwaukee.xiii For the 1907 season, Schneiberg’s final 13-16 (.448) log was about on par with the lackluster 71-83 (.461) record posted by the seventh-place Brewers as a whole.

In 1908 a change at the helm (McCormick replaced Doyle as Milwaukee manager) produced scant difference in the fortunes of either Frank Schneiberg or the Milwaukee Brewers. The 14-19 (.424) Schneiberg record resembled his previous season’s mark while the Brewers’ 71-83 finish replicated their 1907 record. Through it all, Schneiberg remained popular with Brewers fans. But Frank’s reputation elsewhere in the American Association, and particularly in Toledo, where he was accused of being a headhunter, was not always favorable.xiv Early the following season, the ever-critical Toledo News-Bee reported that Milwaukee was “very anxious to trade the German, who does not work with any spirit, but the player is not highly regarded around the circuit.”xv Whether the trade rumors were true or not, Schneiberg remained with Milwaukee, where he posted more mediocre numbers in 1909. He also managed to offend, at least momentarily, John McCloskey, the latest Milwaukee manager. McCloskey took exception to being addressed by Schneiberg as “Bughouse” and strode menacingly toward the big pitcher until informed that Schneiberg was only trying to summon a pet dog of that name from the clubhouse.xvi Pitching for a (90-77) pennant contender, Schneiberg posted an indifferent 13-13 mark. But his early-season performance was hampered by a “poisoned finger,” and a four-hit shutout of St. Paul on August 29 was more representative of Schneiberg’s late-season work. Shortly thereafter, Schneiberg was drafted by the Brooklyn Superbas.

That winter sportswriter John B. Foster took humorous note of Schneiberg’s acquisition by Brooklyn, writing that the arrival of a kinsman would “fill [heavily German] Williamsburg with joy from the toes of its wooden shoes to the top of its German cap.”xvii Inheriting a poor (55-98) team, new Brooklyn manager Bill Dahlen took a horde of pitching prospects, including Schneiberg, to spring training in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Schneiberg secured a spot on the Brooklyn roster with a just-good-enough complete-game performance in a 10-8 exhibition-game victory over Baltimore of the International League.xviii Once the regular season started, however, Schneiberg remained glued to the Superbas bench. He did not see any game action for almost two months. Then on June 8, 30-year-old Frank Schneiberg made his major-league pitching debut, summoned to the mound in relief of staff ace Nap Rucker in a home game against the Cincinnati Reds. Taking over in the top of the seventh inning with Brooklyn trailing 4-0, a nervous and rusty Schneiberg quickly put the contest beyond reach. He retired only three of 12 enemy batsmen, surrendering four hits and four walks. In the process, Reds center fielder Dode Paskert “stopped a wild shoot with his head” and was briefly rendered unconscious.xix By the time a third out was recorded, the score had ballooned to 11-0 in Cincinnati’s favor. That was enough of Frank Schneiberg for manager Dahlen, who used a pinch-hitter for his rookie reliever in the bottom of the frame, and never turned to Schneiberg again after that. The big-league career of Frank Schneiberg was over, his statistical record forever frozen at one game, one inning pitched, and seven runs allowed.

On June 14, 1910, Brooklyn dispatched Schneiberg and $3,000 to the Des Moines Boosters of the Class A Western League in return for outfielder Jack Dalton. A disheartened Schneiberg initially refused to report to Des Moines, going home to Milwaukee instead.xx Induced (probably by a salary increase) to join the pitching-strapped Boosters, Schneiberg arrived in Des Moines on June 30 and began working himself back into pitching shape. When placed in the Boosters’ rotation, Schneiberg got off smartly, posting complete-game victories in his first two Des Moines starts. From there, things went downhill. Frank dropped his next four decisions and had been reduced to mop-up relief when he was suspended by the club in mid-August. Still, the name Frank Schneiberg was on the reserved list submitted by Des Moines at season’s endxxi and he began the 1911 campaign pitching for the Boosters once again.

Following a 12-6 loss to Lincoln, Schneiberg’s record in 1911 stood at 1-3 when he drew a ten-day suspension from Des Moines club president-owner John F. Higgins for not being in shape. Schneiberg responded with a letter of protest to National Commission chairman Garry Herrmann that began: “I want to ask you if an owner of a ball club has the right to suspend a pitcher for having a sore arm.”xxii Whether or not Herrmann replied to Schneiberg is unknown but, whichever the case, Frank remained a Booster, toiling for a dismal last-place (49-113) team. He returned to Des Moines the following season, but was released in early May 1912.xxiii Sometime thereafter, Schneiberg hooked on with the Savannah Indians of the Class C South Atlantic League.xxiv In between, he may have pitched for independent clubs in the upper Midwest. In 1913 the minor-league odyssey of Frank Schneiberg came to its end. After a brief stint with the Memphis Chickasaws of the Class A Southern Association (0-1 in two games), Schneiberg’s professional career ended as it had begun ten seasons earlier: pitching for Illinois clubs in the Three-I League, first for Quincy, then for Bloomington.xxv

Frank Schneiberg spent his post-baseball years in Milwaukee, working for Fred Sprinkman & Sons, an asbestos manufacturer and installer, and he eventually served as an official in the Asbestos Workers Union. Leisure hours were often devoted to hunting and fishing. He also followed the play of the hometown Brewers and remained one of the club’s most popular alumni. In retirement Schneiberg was stricken with stomach cancer and died at home on May 18, 1948. He was 68 years old. After funeral services, he Schneiberg was buried at Wanderer’s Rest Cemetery (now Lincoln Memorial Cemetery) in Milwaukee. He was survived by his wife, Margaret; his stepdaughter, May Hanson; and older brothers John and Albert Schneiberg.

(The writer is indebted to early Milwaukee baseball expert Dennis Pajot for his research assistance and editorial input on this biography.)

 

Notes

i Other sources give 1881, 1882, and 1883 as the year of Schneiberg’s birth and record his full name as Frank Frederick Schneiberg. But Frank Fred Schneiberg and a birth date of March 12, 1880, are the data inscribed on his World War I draft registration card by Schneiberg himself and are the identifiers utilized by Baseball-Reference, the statistical authority relied upon herein.

ii Sources for the biographical information contained in this profile include the Frank Schneiberg file maintained at the Giamatti Research Center, National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Cooperstown, New York; US Census data, and certain of the newspaper articles cited below. The older Schneiberg children were Joseph (born 1859), Anton (1861), Anna (1863), James (1866), Agnes (1870), Johann (John, 1872), Bartholemus (Albert, 1875), and Charles (1877).

iii The first published reference to Schneiberg appears in 1898 when he was pitching for an amateur nine called the Freedoms. See Milwaukee Journal, August 10, 1898.

iv Sporting Life, December 12, 1903.

v Much of the later-published chronology of the Schneiberg career derives from an entertaining, if somewhat fantastic, 1932 newspaper interview conducted by an old Milwaukee Brewers teammate of Schneiberg. See Stoney McGlynn, “Schneiberg, Former Brewers Star, One of the Most Colorful Characters,” Milwaukee Sentinel, April 10, 1932. Supplied by Schneiberg himself, the career detail in the McGlynn article is often improbable, when not demonstrably false. Nevertheless, the claim that he had posted a 19-2 record for Springfield was among the tales reiterated uncritically in Schneiberg obituaries. See e.g., Milwaukee Journal, May 19, 1948, or The Sporting News, June 2, 1948. McGlynn and Schneiberg had been teammates on the 1909 Brewers.

vi As published in the Decatur (Illinois) Review, November 3, 1904, and the Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Evening Gazette, November 4, 1904. See also the 1905 Spalding Guide.

vii Sporting Life, February 25, 1905.

viii See e.g., Milwaukee Journal, May 19, 1948, or The Sporting News, June 2, 1948.

ix Sporting Life, October 20, 1906, and April 16, 1907.

x As reprinted in “The Man who Ate Himself Out of the American League,” Baseball History Daily, November 20, 2009, accessible via http://www.baseballhistorydaily.com/tag/wisconsin-state-league. If the title of the piece is any indication, Schneiberg also had conditioning issues.

xi Ibid.

xii As recalled by Schneiberg years later for the Milwaukee Sentinel, April 10, 1932.

xiii Chicago Tribune, November 5, 1907; Sporting Life, November 23, 1907.

xiv The Toledo News-Bee alleged that “Schneiberg has a reputation of threatening to ‘bean’ batters,” as per Baseball History Daily.

xv As quoted in Baseball History Daily. Milwaukee’s desire to trade Schneiberg was also reported in Sporting Life, January 9, 1909.

xvi Something of a storyteller in his later years, Schneiberg always took delight in recalling this yarn. See e.g., Milwaukee Sentinel, April 10, 1932. See also Milwaukee Journal, May 19, 1948.

xvii Sporting Life, February 12, 1910.

xviii As reported in the New York Times, April 10, 1910. The Brooklyn defense preserved the Schneiberg triumph with a late-game triple play.

xix As reported in the New York Times/Washington Post, June 9, 1910, and elsewhere.

xx As reported in the Des Moines Daily News, June 15, 1910, Des Moines Evening Tribune, June 16, 1910, and elsewhere.

xxi As noted in all four Des Moines daily newspapers, October 5-6, 1910.

xxii Letter of Frank Schneiberg to Garry Herrmann dated May 14, 1911, preserved in the Schneiberg file at the Giamatti Research Center.

xxiii Sporting Life, May 11, 1912.

xxiv Pitching for Savannah on August 30, 1912, Schneiberg gave up 15 hits in an 11-1 loss to the Jacksonville Tarpons. Sporting Life, September 14, 1912.

xxv The Schneiberg signings by Three-I League clubs were noted in Sporting Life, May 13, 1913 (Quincy), and June 21, 1913 (Bloomington).

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