Jerry Standaert

This article was written by Bill Nowlin

Jerry Standaert was an infielder who hit almost the same in the majors (.318 lifetime) and minors (.320 lifetime); while he enjoyed a good long career in minor-league ball, he had little opportunity to play in the big leagues.

Third base was his preferred position in the minors, with over 90% of his games played at the hot corner, but in the 51 games he played a position in the majors, he played 21 at second base, 14 at third, 10 at first base, and 6 at shortstop. He also pinch-hit or pinch-ran in almost as many games as he was asked to play a position.

Jerome John Standaert was born in Chicago on November 2, 1901, to Belgian immigrants from the Flemish part of Belgium – Prosper and Elizabeth Standaert. Prosper had arrived in America in 1889 and Elizabeth three years later. At the time of the 1910 census, Prosper Standaert worked as a flour packer in a flour mill in Chicago. The children in the family at the time were Richard, Jerome, Frank, Helen, and Prosper. Later came Louise, Paul, Julia, and Albert. All six of the Standaerts’ sons played baseball.1 Only Jerry appears in the records of Organized Baseball.

Standaert reported that his first year in Organized Ball was with the Watertown (South Dakota) Cubs in 1920.2 A Standaert is found playing outfield for the Huron Packers (also in the Class-D South Dakota League) in 1921. It is in 1922 that we are first able to find a record of regular play, Standaert played in 93 games at third base for Watertown, batting .332 with eight home runs.

The young third baseman had gotten off to a spectacular start, with 30 hits (six of them homers) in his first 69 at-bats. In mid-August, he was one of four Watertown players sold to American Association teams, with Standaert and two others purchased by Milwaukee.3 They were to report at the end of the season. Standaert arrived in Milwaukee in time to appear in 14 games for the Brewers, batting .283 in his first time in Double-A ball.

He started the 1923 season in Class A with the Texas League's Shreveport Gassers, listed at hitting just .238 in 37 games. He moved around a little. In July, he played a number of games for Meridian in the Cotton States League and then for the Marshall Indians in the Class-D East Texas League, where he hit .327 in 24 games.

In 1924 he played a full year with the Winston-Salem Twins in the Piedmont League (Class C) and hit for a solid .332 in 112 games. He was beaned by a pitch and was unconscious for 10 minutes in the June 28 game against visiting Greensboro, but was back in action on the 30th and went on a bit of a batting spree. On July 2, the Twins had only three hits in the game until the seventh inning, and Standaert had all three of them. He homered the day after that, and hit a pair of doubles on July 5. Contract matters are often confusing in this era, with players owned by one team playing for another. One newspaper reported that Standaert played the 1924 season on a Galveston contract.4 And yet, when the Brooklyn Robins drafted him in October, it was from Atlanta, who had farmed him to Winston-Salem before the season began.5 Several stories featured his fielding. The Greensboro Record, in reporting his being drafted, said he was "rated as the classiest dizzy corner guardian in the loop," adding that he "fielded like a demon" and, for some reason, dubbing him Jerry the Jester.6

He'd apparently been a popular player in Winston-Salem and the December 15 Winston-Salem Journal gave him a nice sendoff, though saying he had been on a Shreveport contract.

His first year in the majors saw him get one plate appearance and no more, striking out as a pinch-hitter in the third game of the season, on April 16, 1925, at Ebbets Field.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle wrote that Robins manager Wilbert Robinson envisioned him replacing Milt Stock at third base, or moving Jimmy Johnston to the outfield. The Eagle's James J. Murphy wrote that Standaert "was given his start in organized baseball by Johnny [Jack] Sheehan, an infielder who had a trial with Brooklyn in 1920 and failed to make the grade."7 Murphy noted that Standaert was right-handed, stood 5-feet-10, and weighed 168 pounds.

As it happens, Stock moved to second base in 1925 and had an excellent season. Johnston played most of the games at third, while Standaert – after his one plate appearance – was optioned to Springfield (Massachusetts) on April 27 to play for the Eastern League's Springfield Hampdens (newspapers outside Springfield often called them the Ponies). He played in 140 games and hit nine homers with a .330 batting average. Brooklyn had finished second in 1924, but even before the season began they hadn't been expected to contend, due to a few departures from the pitching staff. Indeed, they finished sixth.

In 1926, Stock was a holdout in the spring and was released by the ballclub in early May. Standaert made the team out of spring training and was used steadily throughout the season, appearing in 66 games (39 as a position player, the rest in pinch situations). He did well, hitting .345, well above Babe Herman's .319, tops among the regulars. He drove in 14 and scored 13. His two-run single to left field in the May 28 3-2 win over the Phillies earned him a headline in the New York Times: “Standaert's Bat Helps Robins Win."

Brooklyn finished sixth once again, sometimes for lack of hitting. In the June 20 game against the Cardinals, only one Brooklyn batter reached first base against St. Louis's Willie Sherdel – Standaert, who squeezed a hit between third and short in the fourth inning and then dropped a Texas Leaguer into right field in the ninth. On September 3 his 4-for-4 day helped the Robins eke out a 4-3 with over Philadelphia.

In November he was traded for pitcher Clarence Griffin and sent to Memphis, though apparently through an agreement that gave Brooklyn a bit of a claim on him.8 A brief note in the Omaha World Herald said Standaert had "hit sufficiently to remain in the big show, but his fielding was a trifle erratic."9 He had a shot at making Brooklyn again, and trained with the Robins at Clearwater, but his work on defense held him back. "If the contest should be decided by hitting alone Standaert would win. He is a better batsman than fielder," wrote an Associated Press story in the early springtime.10

It looked like it could be another year as a reserve infielder for Standaert in 1927; an International News Service report datelined March 21 stated "Jerry Standaert will be carried for another season because of his hitting, the club having exactly none."11 The very next day, on March 22, with three weeks of spring training yet to come, he was given his unconditional release by manager Robinson and immediately signed with Memphis, playing both 1927 and 1928 in the Southern Association. "His fielding has marred his progress," the Springfield Republican wrote.12 He continued to hit. We lack ’27 year-end stats but with the end of the season just a day or two away he was hitting .305.13

He had an even better 1928, hitting .358 in 112 games. Memphis notified the press on September 19 that they had sold his contract to Kansas City.14 Officially, though, he was taken from Memphis in the Rule 5 draft on October 3, selected by the Boston Red Sox. This offered him a possible ticket back to the big leagues; the Red Sox were a perennial last-place team at the time and anxious to do what they could to bring good players on board. They also drafted infielder Bob Barrett from Buffalo.

Red Sox scout Pat Monahan had watched Standaert play for Memphis and said he thought Standaert was "one of those gamesters of the diamond, a player who was best in the tightest spots." Burt Whitman of the Herald said, "Standaert is an aggressive ball player. He is of that tribe who never give up. He had the reputation of starting a lot of fights, and ending them, too, in Dixie. Bill Carrigan, Red Sox manager, likes the fighting type of ball player…."15 Whitman quoted an unnamed scout who said, "Jerry's trouble was…a tendency to over-play a ball, for which he came straight in. He'd fight it and many such balls would get away from him." He thought Standaert had addressed the weakness. Even though his usual work was at the other three infield positions, Carrigan apparently saw Standaert as the backup for first baseman Phil Todt.16 He finished spring training with a flurry of hits (13-for-36) and made the team.

For the Red Sox, he played in 19 games, usually as a late-inning replacement and nine times as a pinch-hitter. Only once did he have more than two plate appearances in a game. A two-run, two-out double in the ninth inning of the May 20 game -- his second game -- helped the Sox beat the Senators, 6-5, and got him a front-page headline in the next day's Boston Herald. But his average declined over the six weeks or so he was used, dropping to .167 by May 30. That was his last game with Boston. Standaert had four RBIs in his time with Boston.

After the game on the 30th, the Sox sold his contract to Mobile. About 10 days after joining Mobile he was badly spiked in a play at first base and expected to be out of action for a month.17 On June 16, though, his contract was reportedly sold to Birmingham.18

Whatever the transactions, he began 1930 with Mobile, then was claimed by the Nashville Vols off waivers on May 15. (It was later reported that he was part of a nine-player trade between the two teams.)19 He hit for a combined .301 in 129 games, almost all with Nashville. He had clearly improved his work on defense; his .953 fielding percentage led the league.

In 1931 he dropped down one level of classification, to Class-B baseball with the Springfield (Illinois) Senators of the Three-I League. He played for the Senators in 1931 and 1932, 110 games in '31 (.319 with a career-high 10 home runs) and 60 games in '32 (.289). Standaert's season ended early when he was "cast adrift" by Springfield in late July.20

In 1933 he played for the Duffy Florals, described as a "strong Chicago semipro club."21

Standaert's last year in baseball was 1934, back in Class A with Cedar Rapids in the Western League. He accumulated 115 at-bats in 31 games and hit for a .322 average. As in 1932, he was released near the end of July.22

We know little about his life after baseball, other than that he was married (his wife's name was Helen) with one daughter, Carol. He worked as a foreman for the Wisconsin Steel Co. in Chicago.23

Jerry Standaert died at his Chicago home of a heart attack on August 4, 1964.24

 

Sources

In addition to the sources noted in this biography, the author also accessed Standaert’s player file and player questionnaire from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, Retrosheet.org, Baseball-Reference.com, and the SABR Minor Leagues Database, accessed online at Baseball-Reference.com.

 

Notes

1 Chicago Tribune, July 21, 1963.

2 See Standaert's player questionnaire at the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

3 Aberdeen Journal, August 18, 1922.

4 Greensboro Daily News, August 7, 1924 and Greensboro Record, October 10, 1924.

5 Dallas Morning News, October 9, 1924.

6 Greensboro Record, October 10, 1924.

7 Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 28, 1924.

8 Springfield (Massachusetts) Republican, November 15, 1926.

9 Omaha World Herald, November 28, 1926.

10 Washington Evening Star, March 9, 1927.

11 Rockford Republic, March 21, 1927.

12 Springfield Republican, March 23, 1927.

13 New Orleans Times-Picayune, September 18, 1927.

14 New Orleans Times-Picayune, September 20, 1928.

15 Boston Herald, January 11, 1929.

16 Boston Herald, March 11, 1929.

17 New Orleans Times-Picayune, June 12, 1929.

18 Tampa Tribune, June 17, 1929 and New York Times, June 17, 1929.

19 New Orleans Times-Picayune, February 8, 1931.

20 Springfield (Massachusetts) Republican, July 28, 1932.

21 Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield, Illinois), June 16, 1933.

22 Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield, Illinois), July 24, 1934.

23 Information supplied by his brother Richard Standaert in response to a questionnaire supplied by the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

24 Trenton Evening Times (Trenton, New Jersey), August 5, 1964.