SABR

Joe Schultz

This article was written by Rory Costello.

Joe Schultz, a catcher in his playing days, spent over 40 years in professional baseball. His career included five full seasons and parts of four others as a fringe reserve in the majors. That paved the way for 13 years as a minor-league manager and another 14 as a big-league coach. He was there for all three pennants that the Cardinals won in the 1960s. Yet Jim Bouton’s classic Ball Four is what made the manager of the 1969 Seattle Pilots famous to generations of fans.

“Who could have created Joe Schultz?” said the pitcher-turned-author in 1990. “You couldn’t dream up those guys.”1 Although many perceived Schultz as a figure of fun in the diary, the comedy was often intentional. Bouton also said, “I think Joe Schultz knows the guys get a kick out of the funny and nonsensical things he says, so he says them deliberately. . .There’s a zany quality to Joe Schultz that we all enjoy and that contributes, I believe, to keeping the club loose.”2

Joseph Charles Schultz, Jr. was born on August 29, 1918, in Chicago. His father, Joe “Germany” Schultz, was a major leaguer from 1912 through 1925. Joe Sr.’s cousins, Hans and Frank Lobert, were also big leaguers. Mrs. Josephine Schultz (née Doyle) had three other children after Joe Jr.: two daughters named Pauline and Josephine, and a son named John.3 As a child, Joe’s parents nicknamed him “Dode” -- although the boy “had no idea what it meant, if anything.”4

Germany Schultz became a manager in the Cardinals’ minor-league chain. In 1932, he was skipper of the Houston Buffaloes in the Texas League (whose star pitcher was Dizzy Dean). On the last day of the season against Galveston, he sent his 14-year-old son -- the team mascot and batboy -- up as a pinch-hitter. As Joe recalled in 1975, “They had a left-handed pitcher, Hank Thormahlen, who’d been with the Yankees. . .The pitcher didn’t throw hard and I hit a single through the box.”5 The eighth-grader became the youngest “man” ever to get a base hit as a pro. He then stole second and third and scored.6

Young Joe attended St. Louis University High, a Jesuit prep high school for boys founded in 1818. He was a member of the Class of 1936. His real minor-league career began that summer, shortly after graduation. By that time, his father was one of Branch Rickey’s most trusted scouts. Joe Jr. started with Albany in the Georgia-Florida League (Class D), one of the Cardinals’ many outposts. He had very little power, and his arm was not strong either, but he typically hit for a high average (.304 over his career in the minors). Overall, Schultz did enough on the field to climb the ladder successfully in three years.

At the tail end of the 1939 season, Joe Jr. made it to the majors for the first time, playing four games with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who bought the young catcher’s release from the Houston Buffaloes, where he had arrived almost seven years after that first hit. The break came courtesy of his father, who had become the Pirates’ farm director in December 1937.7

Pittsburgh manager Frankie Frisch kept Schultz as an extra receiver at the beginning of the 1940 season, largely to send a wakeup call to Ray Mueller. “I’m not going to waste my time with his type, especially with a kid like Schultz around,” Frisch snapped.8 At the end of May, though, the Pirates obtained catcher Eddie Fernandes from Portland in the Pacific Coast League. In exchange, they sent Joe to Portland on option, recalling him on August 31. The same year Schultz began to study law at St. Louis University,9 but he attended for only two years.

Before the 1941 season, the Pittsburgh Press wrote, “Frisch thinks Joe Schultz needs another year of steady work in the minors and with Al Lopez and Spud Davis around, the youngster couldn’t hope to be used much in Pittsburgh.”10 Germany Schultz would not influence the decision; on April 13, two days before Opening Day, he passed away after a brief illness. Nonetheless, Joe Jr. did stay until May 13, making (as expected) just two appearances. The Pirates then picked up catcher Bill Baker on waivers, and with the deadline looming to get down to the 25-man roster limit, they sent Joe back down to Portland.

Joe again spent the rest of the season with Portland. As of early September, reports indicated that the Bucs wanted him to report to spring training in 1942 -- but at the end of the month, they released him outright to Memphis in the Southern Association. This completed a deal for yet another catcher, Vinnie Smith (who played a mere 16 games for Pittsburgh in 1941 and 1946). Schultz saw no big-league action at all in 1942.

That November, the St. Louis Browns drafted him from the Pittsburgh organization, and he served as their third-string catcher for most of the next six years (he never appeared in more than 46 games or got more than 102 at-bats in a season). In August 1943, the Army rejected Joe for military service.11 Despite the reprieve, he got into just three games for the Brownies’ one and only pennant-winning team: the 1944 squad, which featured assorted other 4-Fs. On May 11, 1944, his bad throw lost a game at Washington. Manager Luke Sewell sent Joe down to Toledo; although he was recalled in September, he saw no further action.

The 1946 season was Joe’s pinnacle: though he caught in just 17 games, he went 22 for 57 (.386) with 14 RBIs, also drawing 11 walks to bring his on-base percentage close to .500. In both 1947 and 1948, although he was on the roster for the full year, Schultz did not get into a game behind the plate at all. The lefty swinger served exclusively as a pinch-hitter and bullpen catcher. Joe hit his only big-league homer on August 11, 1947, at Comiskey Park off Pete Gebrian of the Chicago White Sox. The Browns released him in October 1948; his career batting average was .259 in 328 at-bats.

Schultz spent 1949 as a “battery coach” for the Browns.12 Then, from 1950 through 1962, he was a minor-league manager. He started with Wichita (Class A) in the Browns’ organization, and remained in that city when the franchise became affiliated with the Cleveland Indians. After that came four years in the Cincinnati chain -- in 1953 he was mentioned as a possible candidate to succeed Rogers Hornsby with the Reds -- and two with Baltimore. These jobs were at the Double-A level.

Schultz then joined the Cardinals organization. He spent three of the next five seasons in Triple-A ball. In 1961, he started the season in San Juan, but the team was uprooted to Charleston, West Virginia, in May. Joe was runner-up for Manager of the Year honors as the Marlins finished second in the International League, though they lost in the first round of the playoffs.

Schultz went to the new top affiliate, the Atlanta Crackers, in 1962. He boosted the club with many speaking engagements before spring training, noting that Atlanta was a future major-league town, especially if it got a new stadium. Introduced at one talk as “one of the best umpire baiters in the world,” Joe said, “I finally gave up arguing with the umpires the last couple of years. I was getting myself real excited for nothing and besides, I haven’t won a decision yet.”13 He never fully reformed, though, getting ejected on nine occasions to come as both major-league manager and coach.

Harry Fanok, a Cards prospect with Atlanta in 1962, recalled, “Joe Schultz was famous for his beer and cold cuts. Cold cuts is all he talked about when the time was appropriate.”14 The Crackers finished the regular season in third place in the International League with a modest 83-71 record. Yet they came back from a poor first half to win 34 out of their last 49 games, closing with a 20-6 run. Then they won the league playoffs, overcoming two-game deficits against both Toronto and Jacksonville. To cap it all, they conquered Louisville in the Little World Series. Joe, who again was second in the voting for IL Manager of the Year, said, “I’ve managed about 20 clubs in 13 years, counting winter leagues, and I’ve never had a team make such a terrific comeback.”15

Even so, for Schultz the success was sour -- news of his firing broke before the season ended. Atlanta journalist Lee Walburn, who later became PR director for the Braves, remembered it as the first real scoop of his newspaper career.16 Another leading Atlanta sportswriter, Furman Bisher, said it happened because the Cardinals were dissatisfied with how young players had developed under Joe (the winning squad was heavy on veterans).17

Schultz wound up switching spots with St. Louis coach Harry Walker. He remained on the big-league staff for the next six seasons (1963-68). Aside from his duties in the coaching boxes (both first and third base), he remained a mentor to Tim McCarver, as he had been in the minors. He also joined Clete Boyer in recommending Roger Maris to manager Red Schoendienst, who recalled, “[Schultz] said, ‘Maris can help us.’ That was good enough for me.”18

Among other things, Joe was credited by longtime Cardinals announcer Jack Buck with labeling the 1967 Cardinals team “El Birdos.”19 That sounds correct, because at one point in Ball Four, Joe said, “Hey, I want to see some el strikos thrown around here.” A little Spanish must have rubbed off on him while managing in winter ball. Schultz was a skipper in the Dominican Republic (including the 1958-59 champion Licey Tigres), Venezuela, and Puerto Rico.

Another clubhouse anecdote about Schultz and his love of food came from Tim McCarver. The team had noticed Joe’s habit of setting up a choice plate in advance from the postgame spread, and then hiding it under a towel. So they ate his fried chicken and then replaced the bones under the towel. Joe reacted with a stricken wail, “Who the f--- did that?”20

Schultzie’s fondness for beer reportedly cost him one of the World Series rings that he won in St. Louis. “[He] was said to be out drinking with friends one night when he tossed a beer from the open car window, only to have the ring fly off with the can of suds. ‘He and some others came back and looked for it the next day,’ [St. Louis memorabilia collector Jerry] McNeal laughed. ‘And they found it along the road, but it had been run over so many times it was ruined.’”21

Late in the 1968 season, it became an open secret that the Seattle Pilots, one of the new expansion teams for 1969, wanted Schultz to become their manager. Seattle’s general manager, Marvin Milkes, and Joe were friendly from their days together in San Antonio (1956-57). When asked how long it took him to make the decision, Joe said, “About thirty seconds, maybe less than that. . .My association with the Cardinals has been great. It’s the finest organization in baseball. I think I’ve learned some things from the players. So I had to take the job. I owed it to myself.”22 Tim McCarver wished Joe well, saying, “Joe Schultz deserves a chance to manage in the majors.” He also prefigured Jim Bouton by remarking, “[Joe] knows how to keep a team loose.”23

Bouton’s gift for turning a phrase was on display as he described his manager in the spring of 1969. “He’s out of the old school, I think, because he looks like he’s out of the old school, short, portly, bald, ruddy-faced, twinkly-eyed.” Joe’s salty sayings (including his own special expletives) and love of brew amply supported this belief.

Schultz was optimistic that his team would do well, predicting a third-place finish in the AL West.24 As of August 13, the Pilots were indeed in third (albeit 20 games off the lead at 48-66). However, they then lost 10 in a row and 16 of 17, falling to the cellar. That was where they finished, and Milkes fired Joe on November 19, 1969.

In his book about the Pilots, author Kenneth Hogan got first-hand views of Schultz from many team members. While everybody agreed that Joe was a nice and entertaining guy, opinions of him as a manager were mixed. To select just two, Wayne Comer said, “I thought he got a raw deal. He didn’t have a whole lot to work with.” On the flip side, pitcher Dick Baney saw the Peter Principle at work. “He didn’t create a winning atmosphere. I don’t think he had full control on the field, he was definitely better as a third base coach.”25

A 2006 feature in the Seattle Times also showed the pros and cons of “the rollicking, lovable skipper” and his easygoing approach. “‘Schultzie was the right guy for that job,’ said [Mike] Hegan. ‘He had a great sense of humor, a great personality, and he was very patient. He knew what he was dealing with.’ ‘Everyone loved Joe,’ said [Greg] Goossen. ‘That’s why he only managed a year. If the players like you, watch out. Your days are numbered.’”26

Joe “stoically described his dismissal as ‘part of the game.’”27 With that in mind, he landed on his feet. The Twins reportedly considered him to succeed Billy Martin, whom they had fired; oddly enough, there were also rumors that Billy might head to Seattle. Instead, Joe joined the staff of the Kansas City Royals in late November. Royals GM Cedric Tallis said, “Schultz is a fine baseball man. Now that he has been released by the Pilots this will give us a chance to talk to him.”28 However, Joe spent only the 1970 season in K.C.; he then moved on to the Detroit Tigers, where Martin had become manager. Schultz remained in the Motor City for the next six seasons.

In the wake of Ball Four’s publication, Schultz remained in comical character. He said, “I wouldn’t dignify Jim Bouton by reading his book. Besides, a lot of the things he put in there weren’t true.” In the end, though, he said, “What the s---. The more I think about it, it’s not so bad.” In Bouton’s view, if there were ever to be a movie made of Ball Four, only Joe Schultz could play Joe Schultz (though in the short-lived 1976 sitcom version, short, portly, bald character actor Jack Somack played the character of “Cappy”).29

In 1972, Joe still did the bidding of his boss, Billy Martin, by running Bouton (then an ABC TV reporter) off the field.30 No doubt the revelations about Mickey Mantle in Ball Four peeved Billy, Mantle’s old bar buddy. Martin did not reward Schultzie’s loyalty, though, as Tigers outfielder Jim Northrup recalled. “He’d go after those coaches with all of us around. Joe Schultz especially took a horrible beating. No man should have to put up with what Joe Schultz took. No matter what Joe did, it was wrong.”31

On August 31, 1973, American League president Joe Cronin suspended Billy for ordering two of his pitchers to throw Vaseline balls to retaliate against Cleveland’s Gaylord Perry. Schultz ran the team in his absence, but just a couple of days later, the Tigers dismissed Martin for assorted “policy infractions.” As interim manager for the rest of the season, Schultz won 14 and lost 14. That brought his mark as a big-league skipper to 78-112 (.411).

In September 1976, the Tigers announced that Schultz would not be rehired. No reason was given. Joe then retired from baseball and went back to St. Louis. His wife, Mary Grace Tesson (whom he married on September 2, 1940) died in 1981 at the age of 62. Grace, as she was known, and Joe had two children: Mary Jo (born 1944) and Thomas (born 1950).

As of 1984, the widower was working as a salesman for a company that supplied parts for railroad freight cars.32 Five years later, aged 70, he was still on the road with that business. The Milwaukee Journal interviewer recalled how Joe cheerfully encouraged his players, “Pound that ol’ Budweiser!” Schultz responded, “I have one in my hand right now.” He said about the Pilots, “You had to be a humorist out there,” and mused about how he would have liked Milwaukee if he had made it for the club’s move. “I would have been in a good town with all that beer.”33

Joe Schultz passed away from heart failure on January 10, 1996. He was 77 years old. Among his many comical sayings, one in particular endures: “Well, boys, it’s a round ball and a round bat and you got to hit it square.”

 

This biography is included in the book "Drama and Pride in the Gateway City: The 1964 St. Louis Cardinals" (University of Nebraska Press, 2013), edited by John Harry Stahl and Bill Nowlin. For more information, or to purchase the book from University of Nebraska Press, click here.

 

Sources

www.retrosheet.org

www.ancestry.com

St. Louis University High School website: www.sluh.org

Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, records: www.archstl.org/cemeteries

The Sporting News Official Baseball Guide, 1968.

The Sporting News Baseball Register, 1948.

Detroit Tigers Press Guide, 1971 (provided names of children)

 

Notes

1 Peary, Danny (editor). Baseball’s Finest. North Dighton, Massachusetts: JG Press, 1990.

2 Bouton, Jim. Ball Four. New York, NY: Dell Publishing, 1971 (paperback edition): 117, 159.

3 “Pirates Lose Executive.” Associated Press, April 14, 1941.

4 Skipper, James K. Baseball Nicknames: A Dictionary of Origins and Meanings. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co., 1992:

5 Green, Jerry. “Memories of the Beloved St. Louis Browns Still Linger.” Baseball Digest, December 1975: 50.

6 Charlton, James, editor. The Baseball Chronology. New York, NY: Macmillan, 1991: 269. This event has often been cited as occurring in 1931, but that does not appear correct – see “Darrow Gets 15th and Hank 21st as Bucs Win Two.” Galveston Daily News, September 12, 1932. Note also that on July 19, 1952, 12-year-old African-American batboy Joe Relford grounded out as a pinch-hitter.

7 “Pirates Take Scout’s Advice; And His Son, Too.” Chicago Tribune, September 7, 1939: 23.

8 Biederman, Lester. “Mueller May Be Farmed As Pirate ‘Wake Up’ Measure.” Pittsburgh Press, April 8, 1940: 21.

9 “Collegians Add Names To Pirate Roster.” United Press, January 8, 1940.

10 Biederman, Lester. “Handley Demoted; Deb [sic] Garms Gets Chance At Third.” Pittsburgh Press, April 1, 1941: 27.

11 “Army Rejects Joe Schultz.” Associated Press, August 21, 1943. Detail on the reason for rejection is still pending; this article mentioned only the usual “extensive physical examinations.”

12 “Brownies’ New Acquisitions Will Help, Predicts Schulte.” Associated Press, January 21, 1949. The headline refers to a conversation between Schultz and Red Sox coach John Schulte.

13 “Schultz Sees ‘Heck Of A Club’ For Crackers.” Rome (Georgia) News-Tribune, February 21, 1962: 8.

14 E-mail from Harry Fanok to the author, May 16, 2007.

15 “Crackers Tabbed ‘Miracle’ Club.” The Sporting News, September 29, 1962: 28.

16 Walburn, Lee. “This Old House.” Atlanta, November 2001: 84.

17 Bisher, Furman. “Crackers Rule as Comeback Kings After Playoff Victory.” The Sporting News, October 6, 1962: 49.

18 Clavin, Tom and Danny Peary. Roger Maris: Baseball’s Reluctant Hero. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2010: 311.

19 Buck, Jack and Rob Rains. That’s a Winner! Champaign, Illinois: Sports Publishing LLC, 1999: 105.

20 McCarver, Tim. Oh, Baby, I Love It! New York, NY: Villard, 1987.

21 Muller, Rich. “Rudy's Rings Are Latest Twist in World Series Lore.” American Chronicle, May 11, 2007.

22 Burnes, Robert L. “Thirty Seconds and Joe Schultz Jumped Cardinals to Seattle.” Baseball Digest, February 1969: 47-48.

23 Mann, Jimmy. “Schultz Eager To Tackle Big Test.” St. Petersburg Times, October 15, 1968: 3-C.

24 “Schultz Is Happy.” Spokane Daily Chronicle, May 27, 1969: 36.

25 Hogan, Kenneth. The 1969 Seattle Pilots. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co., 2007: 159, 157.

26 Stone, Larry. “Endearing & enduring: The 1969 Seattle Pilots.” The Seattle Times, July 9, 2006.

27 “Dave Bristol plans to talk with Seattle.” Associated Press, November 20, 1969.

28 “Joe Schultz KC Prospect.” Associated Press, November 15, 1969.

29 Bouton, Jim. I’m Glad You Didn’t Take It Personally. New York, NY: Dell Publishing, 1971 (paperback edition): 153.

30 Spoelstra, Watson. “Schultz Savors Edict to Ban Bouton.” The Sporting News, April 1, 1972: 42.

31 Falkner, David. The Last Yankee. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1992: 169.

32 Blanchette, John. “Where there’s low smoke, there’s Joe Schultz.” Spokane Spokesman-Review, September 16, 1984: D1.

33 Clines, Frank. “The Pilots.” Milwaukee Journal, April 9, 1989: 18C.

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