Al Schulz

This article was written by Steve West

Al Schulz (National Baseball Hall of Fame)The career of Al Schulz might be summed up as “promise unfulfilled.” He received several opportunities in the minor and major leagues, but through a lack of ambition never achieved the success that had been expected of him. Although he was possibly the best left-hander in the Federal League, this was, as his one-time manager Frank Chance would later say, more a commentary of the outlaw league’s quality than praise of Schulz.1

Albert Christopher Schulz was born on May 12, 1889, in Toledo, Ohio. His mother, Sarah (née Trame), was born in Ohio to German immigrants, while his father, George Schulz, was born in Denmark. The family name was variously spelled. Newspaper articles disagreed on the spelling, on occasion putting it three different ways (Schulz, Shulze, Schultz) in the same article. Although his birth registration says Schultz, Schulz appears to be the most common spelling in official documents. It appears on his death certificate that way, and that is how he himself signed it on his draft registration card.

Albert was the fifth of six sons born to Sarah and George between 1877 and 1893. George was listed as a “billiard marker” on one of his sons’ birth records. This appears to be a man who maintained a billiards hall, keeping score and supplying food and drink for the customers. The boys were athletic, and at least two of Al’s brothers, Henry and Carl, played minor-league baseball. George died in 1898, when Al was 9, and his mother was remarried a few years later, to Joseph Wissler, originally from Germany. After Joseph died in 1909, she married once more.

With Germanic ancestry and the surname Schulz, Al was regularly known as Heinie in print. This common nickname of the time often led to confusion. In 1909 and 1910 Al and his older brother Henry pitched together for the Savannah Indians in the Class-C South Atlantic League. They were known as Big Heinie and Little Heinie, and their statistics have been conflated over the years. At the same time a pitcher named Edward Schulze played for Macon in the same league, and he was also known as Heinie. On a couple of occasions Al and Edward pitched against each other, and their surname spellings were also mixed.

There is no information available on Schulz’s youth baseball activity, or where he played as a teen. In 1909 he entered pro ball with Savannah. The team’s manager, former major leaguer Bob Gilks, had given Henry a tryout a year earlier, but had not signed him. Now he brought in Albert for a trial and kept him, saying that he was better than Henry.2

The Indians struggled all year, going a combined 60-61 across the two halves of the season. Most interest on the team was in pitcher Henry Mathewson, brother of superstar Christy, and outfielder Joe Jackson, who had returned south due to homesickness. While Jackson won the batting title, Mathewson struggled with injuries and was released in midseason. This gave an opening to Schulz, who had begun the season as the fourth pitcher on the roster. He did well enough to earn considerable playing time, finishing with an 18-14 record and among the league leaders with a Run Average (RA) of 2.43. (There is no record of how many were earned.)

Late in 1909 Henry joined the team, having spent most of the season struggling with Mobile of the Class-A Southern Association. The brothers pitched together in Savannah for the last month of 1909 and the first month of 1910. Henry started Opening Day of 1910, and Albert relieved him. Albert then pitched a complete game the following day. At the beginning of May, needing to get down to the roster limit, Savannah cut Henry, who was 0-5 with a 5.73 RA.

Albert once more took on a dominant role on the Savannah staff, and although his record was 14-16, he lowered his RA to 2.28. He had his ups and downs during the season. One highlight was shutting out league-leading Macon twice in three days in July. Another was when he pitched both games of a seven-inning doubleheader against Columbus in August. He lost both games 1-0, which quickly turned controversial. Accusations rang that Savannah had thrown at least the second game, which had been lost on an error by the left fielder. The Macon newspaper wrote, “There is not a sport writer in the circuit … who does not believe that the second game was deliberately thrown to Columbus.”3 The claim was that Savannah did not like Macon, and was trying to help Columbus win the league title. (Columbus ended up 1½ games ahead of Macon.) No specific accusations were leveled against Schulz.

Schulz returned to Savannah in 1911, but struggled. With an 8-7 record in June, he was sent to Yazoo City (Mississippi) of the Class-D Cotton States League. His ability was not questioned, but rather his focus. “When right the big portsider was considered without a superior in the circuit. … [T]o his one fault, a palpable lack of ambition, can Schulz attribute his release.”4 He stayed there until the season ended, finishing 11-6 for the Zoos before being recalled to Savannah for the following season.

The 1912 season became his breakout year. Whatever he learned at Yazoo City, he took it and dominated the Sally. He finished the year 25-12, having thrown 371 innings. This brought him major-league attention, especially after his performance on August 24, when he threw two complete games, beating Columbus in both games of a doubleheader while allowing just one run and four hits in 18 innings. He had been scouted by several teams during the season,5 and these games became his big break. Four days later he was sold to the New York Highlanders for “a fancy price.”6

Schulz made his major-league debut in Boston against the league-leading Red Sox on September 25, 1912. His first inning went poorly when, after two outs, he gave up three hits which with an error gave Boston four runs. Schulz went on to complete the game, though, giving up two more runs, but lost 6-0 as Red Sox pitcher Smoky Joe Wood threw a two-hit shutout. Schulz pitched in relief in two more games that season, getting his first win on October 5 when he finished the game by allowing one run in five innings against Washington.

Returning to New York in 1913, Schulz split his time between starting and the bullpen. He finished 7-14 with a below-league-average 3.73 ERA on a poor Yankees team.7 One lowlight was giving up a grand slam on May 11 to former teammate Joe Jackson, now with the Cleveland Naps. Still, Schulz improved as time went by and it was reported that manager Frank Chance “had a high opinion of him.”8

In the spring of 1914, Schulz’s issues with focus returned, and reports were that Chance yelled at him every day. One paper said that “Schulz is a good hurler but he doesn’t show enough pepper to suit Chance.”9 Still, he must have done enough, as he made the team to start the season, at a salary of $2,400 for the season.10 He got a win in his first game, on April 23, throwing seven shutout innings in relief, but struggled after that. Through June 1 he was 1-3 with a 4.76 ERA.

Things then changed quickly. The Federal League had been signing players from major-league rosters all spring, and was looking for more. In mid-June the league made a breakthrough, signing several players to their teams and surprising Organized Baseball. The Federal League had conceived a plan in which players would demand an improved contract from their clubs, and provide the contractually dubious 10 days’ notice if it was not forthcoming. The biggest name was Hal Chase, briefly Schulz’s teammate on the Yankees but now a first baseman for the White Sox, who jumped to the Buffalo Federals. Schulz joined Chase in Buffalo after jumping the Yankees on June 14. While on a road trip to Detroit, Schulz left the team, pretending that he was going to visit his home in nearby Toledo, but instead heading to Buffalo.

The Yankees immediately pledged legal action, and sought an injunction preventing Schulz from playing baseball for anyone else. Schulz spent some time evading deputies who were sent to serve him with the suit. After his first game for the Buffeds, in Indianapolis, the team traveled to Chicago but Schulz returned to Buffalo, knowing that deputies would be waiting at the Chicago ballpark for him.11

Yankees manager Chance at first said he had no reason for Schulz to desert the team, and “he knew of no dissatisfaction on the pitcher’s part.”12 The story quickly changed to acknowledge that Schulz had told the Yankees that he would jump if they didn’t improve his contract.13 In his weekly column a few days later, Chance wrote:

“I hold no acrimony in my heart toward the Federal League for taking Heine [sic] Schulz off my hands. He was my only southpaw, it is true, but I would sooner have none than one whose word was no good. Schulz was of little use to me. I thought I might be able to teach him something in time; that is the only reason I held on to him so long. He didn’t appear to know his mind two minutes at a time. If he breaks any records in the new league, it will simply be a tip-off on the class of the Gilmore circuit. I am not sore at losing Schulz; simply provoked at the manner in which he took French leave. He went home early from the first game in Detroit and made a getaway. He had been assuming great loyalty to the very last so that the club would pay his expenses from St. Louis to Detroit.”14

A story published a few years later suggested yet another reason why Schulz left the Yankees. It claimed that in a game against St. Louis, Chance told the players to hurry up so they could complete the inning and win before rain reverted the score. Schulz misunderstood him, and dawdled through the inning, until Chance yelled insults at him and the pair got into a war of words. Schulz quickly signed with Buffalo when the Yankees returned to New York.15 This story contains several details to make it seem plausible, but others – such as the fact that Schulz never pitched against the Browns in 1914 – make it questionable.

There is little doubt, though, that Schulz jumped for the money. While other players may have been looking for more playing time, or one last hurrah toward the end of their careers, Schulz wanted to be paid, and the Federal League was reportedly offering three-year deals. At the age of 25, he had already been found wanting in terms of both major-league talent and temperament. One paper went so far as to say he “is a doubtful proposition, so much so that it would seem           almost a waste of money to make any fight for his services, unless as a matter of principle – certainly not for his value as a player, if he is to be measured by past performances.”16

So Schulz joined the Buffalo Federals. He started the game in Indianapolis, giving up three runs in one inning, then sat for a few weeks while avoiding legal action.17 By early July that threat had receded, and he moved into the rotation. He had a poor July, but was much improved in August and September, and finished the season at 9-12 with a 3.37 ERA for Buffalo. Always a poor hitter – his career batting average was .155 – he did hit his only career home run on September 11, day on which he threw six shutout innings in a 12-0 Buffeds win over Chicago.

Schulz improved in 1915, going 21-14 with a 3.08 ERA for the team now known as the Buffalo Blues. He had the best performance of his career on August 6, taking a no-hitter into the ninth before giving up a double and settling for a one-hit shutout. Control remained his problem, as he led the league with 149 walks. On the other hand, Schulz’s 160 strikeouts were second in the league.

The Federal League collapsed at the end of 1915. With owners losing money hand over fist, they sought and got a truce with the two major leagues. While the truce contained provisions for some of the owners to join the big leagues, many of the players were left high and dry. Although they were exonerated for jumping their previous contracts, more than 300 players simply became free agents.

For Schulz, though, there was an added hurdle. Although there was no ban on players rejoining teams in the major leagues, American League owners had particular enmity for the way Schulz and Chase had jumped their teams during the season. They were unofficially blacklisted from the American League.18 But the National League had no problem with them, and both signed with the Cincinnati Reds. One report suggested that Schulz signed for between $7,500 and $15,000, the most money the Reds had ever paid a player.19

Schulz did not earn his money in 1916. His 3.14 ERA on a last-place team doesn’t sound bad until you realize that the league ERA was 2.61. His record was 8-19, although he didn’t pitch in the last six games of the season, presumably to avoid getting the 20th loss. Schulz had been as inconsistent as ever, with half of his games coming out of the bullpen. A rare highlight came on June 18 when, after Clarence Mitchell allowed the first three batters to reach base, Schulz came in and threw nine innings in relief without allowing a run.

At the end of the year Cincinnati sold Schulz to the Toledo Iron Men of the American Association. Manager Roger Bresnahan appeared to like former Yankees, as more than a third of his roster was made up of them. He had Charlie Mullen at first, Luke Boone at second, Roy Hartzell at third, Ed Sweeney at catcher, and pitchers Ray Keating, Neal Brady, and Dazzy Vance, along with Schulz.

Schulz did not impress for Toledo in 1917, going 13-19 with a 3.70 ERA on a team that was 57-95. He continued his career-long pattern of being either really good or really bad. Nobody knew which version of Schulz would show up on any particular night. For example, in July he threw seven no-hit innings before tiring, and in the next game gave up 13 hits and eight walks.

In 1917, with the United States entering World War I in April, Schulz registered for the draft. He also married Martha Campbell in October in Kansas City, Missouri. The couple never had children. Schulz rejoined Toledo in 1918, but it was a short-lived stint. He was 0-4 with a 6.21 ERA when he was called into active military service in May.

There is no record of Schulz pitching in 1919, but there are conflicting stories. His death notice in The Sporting News says he was suspended by Toledo,20 while a 1922 article declares that he pitched in the Western outlaw leagues that year.21 It is possible that both stories are true. In 1920 Schulz joined the Milwaukee Brewers of the American Association, going 3-4 before his release in midsummer to an independent team in Minnesota. He pitched semipro ball for Sangamo, Illinois, in 1921 and for the Massillon, Ohio, Agathons in 1922. There is no further record of his playing career.

After Schulz’s baseball career ended, he and Martha returned to live in Toledo. He had spent his offseasons there, working as a machinist for an automobile company. At some point he developed epilepsy, although whether this was a lifelong problem or a recent development is not known. Although his size was regularly mentioned in newspapers – he was 6-feet-2 and 182 pounds, large for the time – there was no mention of epilepsy during his playing career. Later in his life he switched from being a machinist to a stock picker, perhaps due to his condition. It apparently worsened, as in 1931 Schulz traveled to Gallipolis, Ohio, to receive treatment at the Ohio Hospital for Epileptics. He died there on December 14, 1931, aged 42, of a cerebral hemorrhage brought on by epileptic seizures. Albert Schulz was buried in his hometown.

 

Sources

In addition to the sources in the notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org. In some cases Baseball-Reference shows different minor-league statistics than what appears in the article. The author has extensively researched Schulz’s minor-league appearances and believes the statistics on Baseball-Reference conflate Albert and Henry’s stats, especially in 1910.

 

Notes

1 Frank Chance, “Western Trip Was Disastrous to Most of the Eastern Clubs,” Charlotte (North Carolina) Observer, June 22, 1914: 3.

2 “Savannah Will Stay in South Atlantic,” Charleston (South Carolina) Evening Post, March 2, 1909: 3.

3 “General Comment by the Sporting Editor,” Macon (Georgia) Telegraph, August 21, 1910: 9.

4 “Sally Gossip,” Columbus (Georgia) Ledger, June 9, 1911: 7.

5 “Heinie Schulz Wins Two Games in Single Day,” Washington Times, August 25, 1912: 18.

6 Senator, “Nationals’ Recruit from Denver Club May Play Against Yankees Tomorrow,” Washington Times, August 28, 1912: 11.

7 The Highlanders were officially renamed the Yankees in 1913.

8 “King Cole May Get in Trouble,” Bridgeport (Connecticut) Evening Farmer, February 2, 1914: 9.

9 Wagner, “First Baseman Johnstone and Pitcher Quinn Report Here,” Bridgeport (Connecticut) Evening Farmer, April 7, 1914: 13.

10 “Schulz Evades Service,” Evansville (Indiana) Courier and Press, June 21, 1914: 4.

11 Ibid.

12 “Pitcher Schulz Jumps,” Evansville (Indiana) Courier and Press, June 15, 1914: 4.

13 “Schulz Deserts to Feds,” New York Tribune, June 16, 1914: 10.

14 Chance.

15 “Why Schulz Hopped to Feds,” Springfield (Massachusetts) Republican, January 23, 1916: 20.

16 “Formality Necessary to Jump Contract Now,” Tacoma (Washington) Daily Ledger, June 28, 1914: 31.

17 Hal Chase did the same, playing two games for Buffalo in late June, then sitting for almost a month before returning to the team.

18 “Magnates Object to St. Louis Securing Chase for First Base,” Bridgeport (Connecticut) Evening Farmer, February 5, 1916: 9.

19 “Cost Reds Big Sum,” Cincinnati Post, February 10, 1916: 6.

20 “Caught on the Fly,” The Sporting News, December 24, 1931: 7.

21 “Central Steels Get Heinie Schulz, Husky Left-Hander,” Canton (Ohio) Evening Repository, April 25, 1922: 12.

Full Name

Albert Christopher Schulz

Born

May 12, 1889 at Toledo, OH (USA)

Died

December 13, 1931 at Gallipolis, OH (USA)

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