The major-league career of Dutch Schliebner can be summed up in three words: “George Sisler’s replacement.” When the 1922 American League MVP, Sisler, came down with sinus conditions after his banner season, it put the St. Louis Browns in a terrible bind. After the Browns experimented with Marty McManus and Cedric Durst at first base early in 1923, it was apparent that St. Louis was in dire need of a capable first sacker. While no one expected the replacement to hit .420 as Sisler did in 1922, it was a means of getting someone to do the job with credibility. Dutch Schliebner had spent eleven years in pro baseball prior to 1923. Before arriving in St. Louis, Schliebner made his major-league debut with the Brooklyn Robins in mid-April, one month before his 32nd birthday.
Frederick Paul Schliebner was born May 19, 1891, in Charlottenburg, Germany1 to Frederick and Bertha Schliebner. Fred was the middle child (Frieda and Richard were his siblings). Iowa experienced a great influx of German immigration during the nineteenth century. In 1893, the Schliebners moved to Davenport, Iowa, where the father worked for French & Hecht, a manufacturer of steel wheels for trucks and tractors, as a welder.2
The earliest mention of Dutch playing baseball is 1908 when he was the star first baseman for the West End Grocer team that played for the Davenport city championship. Two other teams, the American Can Company and the Dixie Juniors, also vied for the title. On August 16, the Can Company claimed a victory over the Grocers, 6-4.3
Dutch grew to 5’10” tall, weighed 180 pounds, and was right-handed all the way. He was playing amateur baseball in the Tri-City area by 1911 with a team called the Smoke House. He batted fifth in the order.4 Late in the season, Schliebner was loaned out to the Rock Island Islanders. His stats with Rock Island are unavailable. He returned to the Smoke House team in time for them to beat the American Can Company, 4-2. Dutch went 1-for-3 with a double.5
Schliebner’s play in 1911 attracted the attention of Dick Smith who managed the Springfield (Illinois) Senators of the Three-I League (Class B). Again, Schliebner’s stats are not available. Schliebner was released by Springfield and, on May 17, signed to play for the semipro Washington (Iowa) Independents.
By late October 1912, Schliebner signed a contract with the Ottumwa (Iowa) Packers of the Central Association League (Class D).6 This gave him the opportunity to play for manager Ned Egan who was often referred to as “The Minor Leagues’ Connie Mack.”
Things were going well for Schliebner during the 1913 season until he sprained an ankle in late April. He stayed on crutches for about 10 days. Overall, Schliebner hit .283 while appearing in just 71 games. He also spent time playing for another Central Association team, the Monmouth (Illinois) Browns.
Schliebner’s fortunes as an everyday player improved in 1914. On April 7, he signed with his third Central Association team, the Clinton (Iowa) Pilots. On May 17, Schliebner had one of his greatest days as a pro player. Against Mescatine in a doubleheader, Schliebner had five hits including two home runs in the first game. Clinton won both games, 5-4 and 8-7.7 During the season, the Omaha Rourkes of the Western League (Class A) were interested in Schliebner. On July 13, Clinton manager Bert Hough turned down an offer of $1,000 to sell Schliebner. Days later, Schliebner had another two-homer day against Cedar Rapids.8
Omaha’s persistence finally paid off on July 15 when Clinton sold Dutch to the Rourkes for $1,000 plus two players.9 By this time, Schliebner had established a reputation being a good fastball hitter and was becoming adept at hitting curveballs. By August 29, Schliebner’s average with Omaha was .331.10 On September 25, the Pittsburgh Pirates bought Schliebner’s contract with the intention that he’d compete for the first base job the following year. Between Clinton and Omaha, Schliebner finished the year hitting .275 in 150 games.
Dutch Schliebner did not play in the major leagues in 1915. Pirates manager Fred Clarke felt that Schliebner needed more time in the minors. As a result, the Pirates released Schliebner with the condition of an optional agreement for a repurchase.11 Returning to Omaha, Schliebner hit a mere .251 in 141 games prompting the team to release Dutch in 1916.12
Away from the diamond, Dutch Schliebner found greater joy in 1915 when he married Marvel McCutcheon in Omaha. The Schliebners had four children over the years: Frederick, Richard, Glenn, and Carolyn. They also had several grandchildren.
Dutch was back in Class-D ball during the 1916 season while playing for Clinton. Schliebner recorded the first of four years in which he hit .300 or better, including career highs in the power departments: 12 triples and 16 homers. Along with his .310 batting average, Dutch surprisingly stole 39 bases.13
On April 20, 1917, the Dallas Commodores of the Texas League (Class B) purchased Schliebner. It was a good season for Schliebner as he hit .287 in 155 games. The team finished in first place with a 96-64 record. In June, in a series against the Houston Buffaloes, he went 8-for-11 with a home run. When America entered World War One, Schliebner’s draft board exempted him. By this time, he had a one-year-old son.14
The war limited baseball in 1918. Schliebner divided his time with the Dallas Giants and the AA American Association St. Paul Saints. He had a career-low .219 batting average without hitting a home run. From 1919-1921, Schliebner played with Dallas, Wichita Falls, and Galveston. His batting averages during that time were .280, .285, and .275. Schliebner’s popularity with Galveston in 1921 was apparent. As one news source said, “Schliebner has one of the keenest batting eyes in the league. When he connects with the ball, she sails out on a line with the healthy crack that she announces a solid meeting of ash and leather. He covers acres of ground around first and is one of the most likable and willing players on the team.”15
Schliebner’s 1922 season propelled him to the major leagues. On April 4, Schliebner was traded from Galveston to the Little Rock Travelers of the Southern Association (Class A) for Henry Demoe. Two weeks later, Schliebner was hit by Chattanooga pitcher Ted Wingfield in the sixth inning. A fight ensued in which the fans became involved on the field while Schliebner and Wingfield traded punches. John D. Martin, league president, announced that Schliebner and Wingfield would each receive a five-game suspension for fighting.16 Martin explained, “Rowdyism in this league will be dealt with in a drastic matter.”17 Wingfield’s suspension was lifted shortly thereafter while Schliebner served his time.18
The season went well as Schliebner was hitting .361 by May 28. On August 12, the Brooklyn Robins purchased Schliebner’s contract. Scout Nap Rucker of Brooklyn spent time in Little Rock and liked what he saw. The intent was to invite Dutch to spring training in 1923.
By September 10, Schliebner’s average dwindled to .333. However, he caught fire and by season’s end it rose to .354. He won the Southern Association batting crown.19 He stole 17 bases and struck out only 28 times.
Brooklyn acquired first baseman Jack Fournier from the St. Louis Cardinals during the off season. There seemed be little chance for Schliebner starting but there remained some enthusiasm for his presence in camp. Yet Fournier had no intention of reporting to the Robins. On February 17, Schliebner signed his Brooklyn contract.20
On April 17, Schliebner made his major-league debut against the Philadelphia Phillies. In 14 innings, Dutch went 2-for-7 with a double and a run scored. The game ended in a 5-5 tie in a contest that lasted less than three hours. He batted fifth in the order. By the end of April, Brooklyn was 3-9 with one tie and Schliebner was hitting .259.
Jack Fournier finally ended his holdout in early May and played his first game for the Robins on May 6. This was also Schliebner’s last game with Brooklyn. Dutch went 1-for-2, leaving his average at .250. Although Brooklyn manager Wilbert Robinson was satisfied with Schliebner’s defense at first base, Fournier provided a great deal more offensive punch in the lineup. The Chicago Cubs were reportedly interested in Schliebner when their first baseman, Ray Grimes, went down with an injury.21
Over in the American League, the St. Louis Browns had finished in second place, just a game behind the Yankees, with a 93-61 mark in 1922. Yet, as the 1923 season began, it was apparent that George Sisler would miss the entire campaign. The Browns needed a first baseman. Initially they tried Cedric Durst at the position. He displayed a weak bat and wound up hitting .212 for the season. Regular second baseman Marty McManus played 20 games at first and displayed a good glove. While McManus was at first, Eddie Foster took hold of second base. His .180 batting average did not suffice for a regular. Acquiring a first baseman would allow the Browns to put McManus back on second base.
Pitcher Frank “Dutch” Henry was the property of the Browns. He was placed on waivers. No takers. On May 17, the Robins traded Dutch Schliebner for Dutch Henry. The Browns threw in $2,500 to complete the transaction.
Schliebner made his Browns debut on May 19 against the Yankees in St. Louis. While batting in the 8th slot, he went 1-for-4 in a 6-5 New York victory. For the remainder of the season, Schliebner was the everyday first baseman. Eddie Foster observed, “The fellow is swinging late. However, discovering the defect is not removing it. Schliebner looks to me like a natural right field hitter.”22 Unlike Wilbert Robinson, Browns manager Lee Fohl was patient with his new first baseman.
June 18 was a breakout game for Schliebner. In a doubleheader in Boston, he went 6-for-8 as St. Louis swept the Red Sox, 6-2 and 9-0. The next day, Schliebner hit his first major-league home run off Red Sox pitcher Curt Fullerton in a 12-6 win. Schliebner had 10 hits in two days and his average climbed to .278.
There was still the optimistic hope that Sisler would return. The Browns were willing to put Schliebner at third base in the event he did. On July 11, Schliebner hit his second home run of the season against the Washington Senators. In a valiant effort to catch the ball, outfielder Sam Rice was knocked unconscious. Jim O’Neill replaced Rice for the remainder of the game. The Browns won, 10-4. The following day, Rice again patrolled right field and Schliebner hit home run number three of the season off Allen Russell.
Schliebner was indebted to manager Fohl. He explained, “Lee Fohl is responsible for my improved hitting. After my first game, he told me I was pushing instead of swinging at the ball. He also said my stance at the plate was wrong. A strong fellow like me ought to hit to all fields. Inside of a week he had changed my style entirely and I am now reaping the benefits. From a dead right field hitter, I can pull a ball to left field as good as the next fellow.”23
August 7 was probably Schliebner’s finest game as a major leaguer. Against New York at Yankee Stadium, Schliebner went 4-for-4 with four RBIs including his fourth home run of the season off Bob Shawkey in a 12-10 Browns win. Significantly, this was Lee Fohl’s last managerial game for St. Louis. At the time of his departure, the Browns were 52-49-2. He was replaced by Jimmy Austin who went 22-29 for the rest of the year. Schliebner proved his worth as a hitter as he ended August with a .287 batting average.
September-October were tough times for the Browns as they went 13-21, to end with an overall season record of 74-78-2. Considering that the Browns were without George Sisler, it did not come as a complete shock. Meanwhile, Dutch had a last taste of glory during a doubleheader at Fenway Park on September 24 with a 4-for-9 performance. Schliebner was the hero in the second game when he knocked in two runs in the 10th inning for a 4-2 Browns win. In Schliebner’s final game as a major leaguer he went 3-for-4 against Detroit on October 7. His final average for the Browns was .276, which gave him a season total (including his time with Brooklyn) at .271. The Browns finished in fifth place.
Dutch wanted to play for the Browns in 1924 even if it meant playing second string. He stated, “Of course it may be realized that if George does play, it will be mighty hard for me. I want to stay with the Browns. They are a wonderful bunch of fellows, and with Sisler at first base next season they will finish second, if not first. I hate to sit on the bench, but I also want to stay.”24
During the winter, the Browns announced Sisler as their manager for 1924. In March, Schliebner reported to spring training in Mobile, Alabama. At the time, it was not a sure thing whether Sisler would be able to play. Schliebner did not sit around during the off season. He worked as a plumber in Davenport. It was a profitable business. Schliebner said, “There is no chance that I will give up baseball. In fact, I will not quit baseball as long as I can make good. I like the game too well.”25 He signed a 1924 Browns contract.
As March rolled on, Schliebner’s spot on the team looked promising. However, the aspiring Schliebner had the misfortune to contract blood poisoning during spring training. Taken to the hospital with an infected left foot, he was under the care of Browns trainer Tommy Brammel. It was a month before Schliebner could play again. By this time, the season had started and Sisler had reclaimed his position at first base. On May 15, the Browns officially released Dutch Schliebner. He was immediately picked up by the Toledo Mud Hens of the American Association (AA). Schliebner never again appeared in a major-league box score. Toledo did prove to be a positive destination as it was home to Dutch and Marvel for the rest of their lives. He hit .294 during the 1924 campaign.
Dutch Schliebner played baseball in the minor leagues until 1928. In June of 1926, Toledo traded him to the Columbus Senators of the International League (AA) along with shortstop Bob Connolly and pitcher George Lyons for first baseman Roy Grimes. Columbus managed to go 39-125 that year. In his last season, 1928, Schliebner played for the single-A Beaumont Exporters in the Texas League, who finished last with a 50-106 record. In 112 games, he hit .268. Schliebner, excepting 1923, was a career minor-leaguer. In the junior circuits, Schliebner had 2,053 hits along with a .286 average.26 Though not spectacular, Schliebner’s career was solid.
In 1928, Schliebner got a job as a machinist with the Toledo-based National Supply Company. In October 1928, Schliebner was one of seven in line to manage the Rock Island Islanders in the
Class-D Mississippi Valley League. He did not get the job.27 In 1933, he was the head groundskeeper for the Toledo Mud Hens.28 A managerial job came open in 1936 for the Fremont Reds (Class D, Ohio State League). Schliebner especially wanted this position. He said, “If I get the job, I’ll take a low salary. I promise you my chief objective will be to get young boys started toward the major leagues.”29 Once again, managing in the minor leagues eluded him. He was president of the Toledo Old Timer’s Baseball Players Association from 1940 to 1951 while continuing to work for National Supply Company until he retired from the machinist career in 1956.
Marvel Schliebner died in October 1974 while Dutch passed away six months later on April 15, 1975, in Toledo. They are buried at Toledo Memorial Park Cemetery in Sylvania, Ohio.
This biography was reviewed by Bill Nowlin and Phil Williams and checked for accuracy by SABR’s fact-checking team.
1 Several sources list Berlin as Fred Schliebner’s birthplace. The Baseball Cube and Baseball Necrology puts his birthplace in Charlottenburg, Germany.
2 Death Notices, Daily Times (Davenport, Iowa), November 4, 1943: 8.
3 Quad-City Times (Davenport Iowa), August 17, 1908: 10.
4 “Amateur Baseball-Smoke House Is Winner,” Daily Times, June 19, 1911: 8.
5 “Smoke House Wins Tri-City Honors,” Quad-City Times, October 9, 1911: 7.
6 Daily Times, October 24, 1912: 15.
7 “Dutch Schliebner’s Hitting Helps Clinton To Win Two Games on Sunday,” Daily Times, May 18, 1914: 11.
8 “Refuses to Sell Schliebner,” Daily Times, July 13, 1914: 6.
9 “Schliebner Is Sold to Omaha,” Daily Times, July 17, 1914: 14.
10 “Schliebner Davenport Boy Slips Down To Tenth Place In Western League – Now Batting .331,” Daily Times, August 29, 1914: 14.
11 Ralph S. Davis, Pittsburgh Press, February 18, 1915: 24.
12 “Western Getaway Somewhat Chilly,” Lincoln Journal Star (Lincoln, Nebraska), April 21, 1916: 7.
13 Bud Rutherford, “Boyland News and Notes,” El Paso Herald, April 20, 1917: 13.
14 “Kike’s Korner,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, February 13, 1918: 8.
15 Galveston Daily News, April 24, 1921: 9.
16 George H. Butler, Arkansas Democrat (Little Rock, Arkansas), April 18, 1922: 7.
17 Oklahoma City Times, April 19, 1922: 12.
18 Chattanooga Daily Times, April 20, 1922: 8.
19 The official statistics put Dutch Schliebner’s 1922 batting average at .354. The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball acknowledges Schliebner as the batting champion. Johnny Schulte of the Mobile Bears hit .357 in 89 games and is often referred to as the batting champion. League statistician, Irwin M. Howe, confirmed Schliebner as the batting champion.
20 I.E. Sanborn, Daily News (New York, New York), February 18, 1923: 50.
21 Boston Globe, May 16, 1923: 11.
22 Dent McSkimming, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 28, 1923: 21.
23 Post-Crescent (Appleton, Wisconsin), July 30, 1923: 10.
24 Ray J. Gillespie, St. Louis Star and Times, December 7, 1923: 25.
25 Ray J. Gillespie, St. Louis Star and Times, February 12, 1924: 17.
26 The 1912 stats are not complete. Therefore, the overall lifetime record of Schliebner is incomplete.
27 Daily Times, October 19, 1928: 38.
28 “Sid Keener’s Column,” St. Louis Star and Times, May 8, 1933: 19.
29 News-Messenger (Fremont, Ohio), April 10, 1936: 12.