Harry Fenton (Larry) Schlafly began his professional playing career in 1901, which many people recognize as the first year of modern baseball. He was actively involved in the game every year thereafter until a month before his untimely death in 1919. He played in the major leagues with the Chicago Cubs in 1902, the Washington Nationals in 1906 and 1907, and the Buffalo Buffeds in the Federal League in 1914. He was a manager in 1908, and from 1911 through 1916.
During his baseball career, Schlafly was a player, team captain, coach, manager, scout, umpire, and team owner. He was a fiery competitor, but was popular with players and fans. In discussing Larry’s impending return to the lineup after an extended illness in 1906, the September 8 issue of Sporting Life stated: “He has gone to Ohio to recuperate and will join the team in the west. Schlafly is a warm enough proposition without any fever.” Sporting Life on April 12, 1912 said, “Manager Schlafly, of the Skeeters, is like Manager Harry Wolverton, of the Highlanders, in at least one respect. He doesn’t talk much, except on the field.” The January 4, 1913 Sporting Life described him as “Larry Schlafly, prince of good fellows.” The Buffalo Express on May 29, 1914 stated: “Schlafly, while probably a few years older than the other men in age, is equally as young in actions.”
Perhaps Larry’s greatest claim to fame was his role in helping to convert the Federal League to a major league in 1914. He was hired as the manager of the Buffalo team, and began his activities in preparation for that job as early as November 1913. He worked tirelessly during the off-season prior to 1914, signing American and National League players to Federal League contracts.
Schlafly was no stranger to controversy. Research of the game write-ups during his career revealed 13 instances of his being ejected from games. He was a stickler for the rules, and was not hesitant to express his point of view to game officials. Two instances where Schlafly disagreed with official rulings:
* Schlafly’s 1908 Toronto team had to forfeit a game to Jersey City for failing to show up on time for a game on August 6. Schlafly pointed out that he was not given written notice 24 hours in advance of the game time, as required by league rules. The league upheld the forfeit, stating that the park “had been placarded the day before.”
* On July 7, 1912, a New Jersey batter was at the plate with a three-ball count, when the opposing pitcher started his delivery, the ball sticking to his fingers and “shooting at a right angle to the plate.” The umpire ruled it “an excusable error.” Schlafly claimed that there was no such rule, and that the New Jersey batter should have been awarded a walk. Schlafly lost the argument.
Schlafly batted and threw right-handed. His height was listed at various times as five feet ten and a half or five feet eleven inches, which was considered tall at that time. His weight was given as 182 lbs.
Schlafly played second base for most of his career. Early on he played in the outfield, and in later years, while managing Jersey City and Buffalo (1912-1914), he acted as a utility player, and filled in wherever needed. During his career, he usually batted in the top half of the batting order. For all of his games from 1901 through 1914, excluding his games with Evansville in the Three-I League in 1901, his fielding position and batting order position counts are as follows:
First base – 61
Second base – 1239
Shortstop – 80
Third base – 8
Left field – 49
Center field – 92
Right field – 10
Catcher – 3
Pitcher – 4
Pinch hitter – 44
Batting order position
1 – 145
2 – 304
3 – 413
4 – 332
5 – 134
6 – 123
7 – 54
8 – 21
9 – 4
Schlafly was a regular on all of the teams he played for between 1902 and 1911. During this ten-year period he played in 1402 games, missing only 191 games. He missed two or more consecutive games only 23 times. His longest absence from the starting lineup occurred between August 21 and September 11 in 1906, when he was hospitalized with what was suspected to be typhoid fever, causing him to miss 22 consecutive games.
Although Schlafly’s lifetime batting average was modest (.240 major league, .257 minor league), he displayed better than average ability in drawing free passes – walks and HBPs (hit-by-pitch). This knack is reflected in his lifetime major league on-base percentage of .349, which is .109 higher than his lifetime major league batting average. In comparison, American League batters in 1906 (Larry’s primary major league season) collectively had an on-base percentage that was only .054 higher than their batting average. In his three primary major league seasons, he drew a walk about once per 8.3 plate appearances. The major league average number of walks per plate appearance in those seasons was: 1906 – 14; 1907 – 14.2; 1914 – 11. Over a two-year period for which walk totals are available for the International League (1912 and 1913), he walked once per 6.3 plate appearances.
Schlafly was particularly adept at reaching first base as a result of being hit by pitches. The major league average during that era was about one HBP per 100 plate appearances. Larry’s major league average was one HBP per 38 plate appearances. Minor league stats for HBP are incomplete because the box scores during his career often showed the name of the pitcher issuing the HBP rather than the batter’s name. The number of HBP’s shown in Sporting Life box scores for Schlafly in some seasons where the batter was listed more often than the pitcher: 1902 – 8; 1903 – 16; 1904 – 17; 1908 – 8; 1911 – 7.
An indication of this particular skill may have been revealed in a note in the June 2, 1906 issue of Sporting Life: “Lave Cross has taken Schlafly in hand and is slowly teaching the youngster how to hit. ‘Schaf’s’ way of standing at the bat assured Lave that he had plenty of sand, and he is doing much better of late in the way of bingling the star twirlers.”
As a pinch hitter, Schlafly’s on-base percentage was outstanding. He made a total of 66 plate appearances as a pinch hitter in his career. 56 of these occurred in the 1912-1914 seasons, when he was a manager and a bench player. His lifetime totals as a pinch hitter: 66 plate appearances, 46 at bats, 10 hits including two doubles, 17 free passes (walk or HBP), and three sacrifices. His career pinch-hitting batting average was only .217, but his career pinch-hitting on-base percentage was .429.
Larry, an only child, was born September 20, 1878 in Port Washington, Tuscarawas County, Ohio. His father Frank was of Swiss descent; his mother Catherine (Schug) was of German descent. Tuscarawas County has no record of his birth. Sometime before 1885, his family moved to Beach City, Ohio. He remained a resident of Beach City for the rest of his life.
Schlafly’s baseball nickname was “Larry,” this moniker first appearing in periodicals during the 1907 season. Later in his career, he was sometimes referred to as “Harry Lawrence Schlafly.” The baseball encyclopedias listed his name as “Harry Lawrence” up until the late 1980s, after which time The Baseball Encyclopedia (Macmillan) and Total Baseball began showing him as “Harry Linton.” Although his tombstone says “Harry L,” a note recently found in family records states that Fenton was his middle name, and that Lawrence was just a baseball name. The middle name on the handwritten death certificate could easily be interpreted as “Linton,” and probably explains the appearance of “Linton” in the 1980s encyclopedias. The Ohio Historical Society death certificate index shows “Harry F. Schlafly.” It now appears that the middle name Lawrence was derived from the nickname “Larry,” not the opposite as one might expect.
Schlafly married Leda Johanna Mullen in 1898 in Ashtabula, Ohio. Larry and Leda had two children, a daughter Helen born in 1899, and a son Robert born in 1901.
Schlafly owned an automobile as early as 1910. At the end of the 1910 season he toured the New England states in his automobile, going through Buffalo on his way back home to Beach City.
Schlafly’s obituary in the Canton Daily News on June 30, 1919 states that he began his career at age eighteen. A 1914 Buffalo roster in Sporting Life listed his first professional team as Youngstown, Ohio.
Schlafly played semi-pro baseball in Ashtabula, Ohio from 1898 through 1900. His time there was divided between second base and left field. His nine home runs in 1900 was the best single-season mark in that league for those three years. In 1899, the Ashtabula team played two games against the Nebraska Indians, and won both. The Indians compiled a 108-35 won-lost record that year. On July 22, 1900, Schlafly began playing for a Canton, Ohio semi-pro team. Both played teams from other northern Ohio cities. The Canton team also played and won exhibition games against the Nebraska Indians and the Chicago Bloomer Girls in 1900.
In 1901, Schlafly played for the Columbus Senators and the Toledo Mudhens in the Western Association. After playing in only 13 games for Columbus, the Senators played a series in Toledo, and when they left town, Larry stayed in Toledo for a tryout as the Mudhens’ left fielder. In exchange, Toledo temporarily loaned two players to the last-place Senators. Schlafly’s tryout lasted only three games, after which he joined up with the Evansville River Rats in the Three-I league. At Evansville, he attained a slugging percentage of .517, and hit 11 home runs in only 87 games. Projected to a full season, that would have been about 17 home runs, a healthy total for that era.
In 1902, Schlafly again played for Evansville, and for the Terre Haute Hottentots, in the Three-I league. At the conclusion of the Three-I league season, he went up to the Chicago Cubs. He played in ten games for the Cubs, making five appearances in right field, three at second base, and two at third base. In the games he played in the infield, Schlafly joined the infield of Tinker, Evers and Frank Chance. When he played second base, Johnny Evers was shifted to shortstop and Joe Tinker moved to third base. Although Schlafly batted .323 with three triples in this brief tryout, the Cubs had an abundance of infielders (12) and released him after the season. The Chicago bleacherites had adopted him as a favorite, dubbing him “Shoo-fly”. Cubs fans questioned why the Chicago management released Schlafly without giving him the opportunity to go to spring training in 1903.
In 1903, Schlafly played for the Milwaukee Brewers in the American Association under Joe Cantillon. He was named team captain that season. Larry played every inning of every game until he was ejected for disputing the umpire in the second inning of a game on August 29. In a reversal of roles, on September 13, when the scheduled umpires didn’t show up for a game with St. Paul, Schlafly was one of three players who acted as volunteer umpires.
In 1904, he began a two-year stint in the Pacific Coast League. He played for the Oakland Oaks in 1904, and for the Portland Giants in 1905. On June 21, 1905, Schlafly made the first unassisted triple play in Pacific Coast League history, and the fifth recorded in baseball history. With runners on first and second and no outs, Schlafly ran back into short center field from the second base position and pulled in a floating liner. He stepped on second base for the second out, and then tagged the oncoming runner from first to complete the triple play.
Sporting Life referred to Schlafly as one of the best baserunners, and, along with Portland shortstop Jake Atz, one of the two best infielders in the PCL in 1905. Schlafly led the PCL in stolen bases in 1905 with a total of 77. Sporting Life on November 18: “Schlafly, Portland’s second baseman, is a rising player, and although he may need a little more minor league experience, is slated for the big leagues in the next season or two.”
At the close of the 1905 regular season, Schlafly, along with Atz, was traded to the Los Angeles Angels. The trade was a move by Los Angeles to strengthen their team for the upcoming playoff series with Tacoma. The Tacoma management objected to the trade, but to no avail. The Angels won the series five games to one.
On November 30, 1905, Schlafly was drafted by the Washington Nationals of the American League.
Schlafly joined the Nationals as their regular second baseman in 1906. Due to injuries, he played in only 123 of the team’s 155 games. He put up good defensive numbers, stole 29 bases, drew 50 walks (eighth in the league), led the league in HBP’s with 14, and recorded a respectable .246 batting average for the seventh-place Nationals.
As a result of his successful 1906 season, Schlafly is now rated by Total Baseball as the fifth best position player in the American League in 1906. His TPR (total player rating) in Total Baseball (7th ed.) is 2.9. He was one of only three Washington players and one of only four rookies to be rated this highly during the deadball era (1901-1919). Also, he is credited with 16.2 fielding runs for 1906 in The Baseball Encyclopedia (Barnes and Noble), fourth highest for American League infielders in 1906. (See Appendix A for references to Schlafly that appeared in the Washington Post and Sporting Life during the 1906 season.)
Had a Rookie of the Year award existed at that time, Larry Schlafly certainly would have been a candidate for that honor in the American League. Total Baseball (7th ed.) shows Claude Rossman of Cleveland as the Hypothetical Rookie of the Year for 1906. Schlafly had a higher TPR than Rossman that year.
For the 1907 season, Washington hired Joe Cantillon, who owned the Minneapolis Millers in the American Association, to replace Jake Stahl as manager. A January 26 Washington Post article said that one of three Nats’ (as the Nationals were called) second basemen would be sent to Minneapolis – Schlafly, Rabbit Nill, or Nig Perrine. Earlier, a January 7 article in the Post stated that he had no intention of sending Schlafly to Minneapolis. Sporting Life on February 16 indicated that Schlafly and Perrine would compete for the second base position, and the loser would go to Minneapolis. On February 23, a Sporting Life article contained some evaluation of Schlafly and Perrine, stating “Pres. [Thomas] Noyes’ newspaper speaks of Perrine as ‘assured of an infield position’ and mentions Schlafly as being destined for infield utility roles.” (Noyes owned both the Nationals and the Washington Star.)
A Post write-up of an exhibition game on March 9 said: “Any doubt which existed of Schlafly getting a permanent position seemed to be removed after the class shown by this player. It would not be a bad guess to name Schlafly for the captain’s position.”
On March 13, the Post carried an article headlined “SCHLAFLY FOR CAPTAIN,” subtitled “Second Baseman’s Fighting Qualities May Win.” The article mentioned several candidates for captain and recommended Schlafly for the position, noting that he was team captain under Cantillon at Milwaukee in 1903. The article went on to say, “When in humor, Schlafly’s vim and aggressiveness reach such a point as to be infectious, and the entire team seemed to ginger up under its influence. Ignoring [1906 manager Jake] Stahl at first, Schlafly was often heard to shout warnings to young [Washington catcher Howard Wakefield and, in short, hand out orders and raps from second which should have come from the captain-manager. For a Tabasco ringleader, give it to Schlafly.” In this same article, there was a quote from St. Louis Browns manager Jimmy McAleer: “He’s a great player – when he wants to be. I wish I had him. He’s got a better baseball noodle than any fellow on the Washington team. Schlafly knows baseball, he is full of pepper, few tricks are unknown to him, and his fast work at second and on the bases, with a bit of improvement in batting, will make him qualified.”
On March 14, a Post article was headlined “Schlafly’s selection as Captain favored in Local Sporting Centers.” The article said: “The probable selection of Harry Schlafly as captain of the new Nationals was generally commented on in local sporting centers yesterday. Schlafly’s well-known scrappy game, with the amount of vim and ginger which he shows in action, is applauded on all sides. The older fans see in the appointment of Schlafly a fast fielding, aggressive, and stubborn team. With Cantillon coaching on one end of the diamond and Schlafly on the other, the enemy’s pitcher is bound to get a run for his money. Both of them are fire-eaters.”
A March 15 Post article said, “Sir Joseph [Cantillon] announced to the players to-day that it was Second Baseman Schlafly for captain. An effort was made to persuade [40-year-old Lave] Cross to take the job, but the sturdy third-sacker steadfastly maintained he would have none of it. The boys are well satisfied with Schlafly’s selection.”
Another March 15 Post article was titled “WHY SCHLAFLY IS CAPTAIN.” It stated that there were varying opinions about Schlafly’s selection as team captain. The article again stressed his relationship with Cantillon in the past. It went on to say, “One thing is certain, and that is that Schlafly can give last season’s captain cards and spades and then show him up as far as knowledge of inside baseball goes.”
On April 2, Schlafly had his first experience as a major league manager when Cantillon went on a trip and left Schlafly in charge of the team in an exhibition game with Springfield, Ill.
Schlafly got off to a slow start with his hitting in 1907. On May 3, he had an unusually bad day in the field, making three errors on easy plays, and was booed by the Washington fans. The next day, he was replaced by Rabbit Nill in the late innings. The Washington Post on May 5 reported Schlafly was being benched due to a batting slump (at that point he was 2 for his last 17, and was batting .144). On May 7, the Post announced that Perrine was replacing Schlafly at second base. The Nats didn’t play between May 5 and May 9, and by the 9th Cantillon changed his mind about playing Perrine, and started Larry at second base in a game in St. Louis. He hit a three-run homer into the left field bleachers in a 9-4 win that day. He remained a starter through May 16.
On May 12, an article in the Post was headlined “Schlafly Helps His Team by Working Trick on Niles.” In the fourth inning, with Washington at bat, Schlafly was coaching third base. On a grounder to rookie St. Louis second baseman Harry Niles, Larry shouted, “Throw to second,” causing Niles to throw to the wrong base, thus setting up the only runs that were scored in a 2-0 win for the Nats.
On May 16, a very unusual event occurred in a game in Chicago. An article written by Harry J. Casey in the January 1914 issue of Baseball Magazine related the following anecdote: While the Nats were batting in the fifth, Schlafly went to the clubhouse to change his trousers, which he had torn sliding into a base. When Washington took the field after being retired, he was not in his position. Nobody noticed his absence, and the first Chicago batter, manager Fielder Jones, knocked a hit through Schlafly’s spot at second base. Larry then ran onto the field. After some deliberation, the umpires decided to make Jones bat again, and this time he walked. Whether or not Schlafly was blamed for his failure to appear on the field on time, he did not start the next game, and did not appear in another game until June 10.
By the end of May, Washington had begun to rebuild, and as a result asked for waivers on Schlafly among others. Both Cleveland and New York refused to waive on Schlafly. Manager Joe Cantillon felt that both teams wanted to send Schlafly to the minors, so he did not let him go. Cantillon wanted Larry to have some control over his destiny, even if he was going to end up back in the minors. On June 1, the Nats decided to send Schlafly on a scouting mission. He was given carte blanche to decide where to go and what players to scout.
When he returned from his scouting trip, Schlafly played in two more games with the Nats (June 10 and 12). The Baltimore Orioles of the Eastern League wanted Schlafly, but Boston refused to waive, and Larry was sold to the Boston Americans. Cantillon announced that he would not waive on Schlafly if Boston attempted to send him to the minors. Boston then traded Larry, along with first baseman Myron Grimshaw, to the Toronto Maple Leafs of the Eastern League in exchange for the speedy Jack Thoney.
In spite of his .135 batting average during the brief time he played with Washington in 1907, Schlafly still had an on-base percentage of .354, which was slightly higher than his 1906 on-base percentage of .345.
Schlafly began playing with Toronto on June 22. At some point after that, he was appointed team captain. He batted .279 in 94 games to help the Maple Leafs win the Eastern League pennant by a margin of nine games.
He was again team captain of the Toronto team in 1908. On June 22, he was seriously injured in a game at Newark when he collided with Newark catcher Tom Philbin while he was attempting to score a run. Both players fell unconscious. Schlafly was taken to his hotel with a concussion. He didn’t return to the lineup until July 4.
On July 22, with the Maple Leafs struggling, Schlafly replaced Mike Kelley as manager.
On July 28, Schlafly was injured and missed the next 23 games, except for three brief appearances as a substitute. He visited Bonesetter Reese, the renowned sports chiropractor, in Youngstown, Ohio for treatment of the injury.
1909 found Schlafly still in the Eastern League, this time playing for the Newark Indians. The Indians were in the pennant race all the way that year, but finished in second place, five games behind Rochester. This was not a good weather year in the east. 24 of Newark’s games were canceled due to rain in 1909, and as a result the team had to play 31 doubleheaders. Schlafly played both games in all 31 doubleheaders.
In 1910, Schlafly was designated team captain of the Newark team that again finished second, 4½ games behind Rochester. In late May, Schlafly acted as manager during the absence of Iron Man McGinnity. On May 28, Sporting Life reported: “In his [Mgr. Joe McGinnity’s] absence, Captain Schlafly has won a game or two by good use of his gray matter.” On June 18, Newark was leading Buffalo 3-0, and was trying to hurry the game along with rain coming. Sporting Life reported: “In Newark’s [home] half of the fourth Schlafly had a strike called on him and looked around as if in mute protest at the umpire, when Rip Vowinkel hastened to put another good one over before Schlafly was ready – which was just what Schlafly wanted. In fact, he did strike out on purpose a moment later.” Newark won 3-0 in five innings, the game being called on account of rain in the sixth inning.
During this season, Schlafly expressed an interest in buying the Montreal Eastern League club. Sporting Life on June 25: “Larry Schlafly, captain and second baseman of the Newark club, together with other interests, is trying to buy the Montreal franchise from Sol Lichtenstein, the owner, and transfer it to Paterson, New Jersey, the only city in the country with a population of over 100,000 which is not represented by a league base ball team.” [He was unsuccessful in buying the Montreal team.]
In 1911, Schlafly partnered with Charles Dooley to buy the Troy franchise in the class B New York State League. Larry was the team treasurer. The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball lists Dooley as the Troy manager in 1911, but during the season Sporting Life had seven separate references to Schlafly as manager, none to Dooley. There was a mention of Dooley as manager at the end of the season, but Larry Schlafly was apparently the true manager of the Troy Trojans in 1911. On September 30, Sporting Life reported: “Troy was the money-maker this year and Dooley and Schlafly cleaned up more money than any [New York] State League team ever did, as Troy had been in the cellar so long that the fans went almost crazy over a first division team.”
Schlafly won the New York State League batting title that year with an average of .344. During this season he had a consecutive game hitting streak of 17 games, a career high. After the 1911 season, Schlafly was drafted by the New York Highlanders (Yankees).
Sporting Life reported on September 30: “Larry Schlafly has been drafted by the Highlanders, but it is almost evident that this is a cover-up deal.” (The meaning of “cover-up deal” was never discussed in further publications.)
On January 15, 1912, the lowly Jersey City Skeeters in the International League purchased Schlafly’s contract and immediately appointed him manager. In each of the three preceding seasons, the Skeeters had finished at least 26½ games out of first place. With the 1912 season, Schlafly decided to cast himself in a backup role for the first time. Although he appeared in the field in 45 games, the most games he played at any one position was 13. He played every position except third base. This pattern would continue for the next two years.
The Skeeters spring trained in Bermuda in 1912, and as a result of the ideal weather, were more prepared for the opening of the season than most of their opponents, who held their spring training in the southern part of the U.S. On June 2 the Skeeters had a record of 24-13, but the opposition eventually caught up with them and they finished in seventh place with a 70-84 won-lost record, 21½ games out of first place. On September 22, the Jersey City players presented Larry with a gold-mounted automobile clock.
In 1913 the Skeeters again trained in Bermuda. The New York Yankees also trained in Bermuda that year, and the two teams played a series of ten games under a variety of formats. The Skeeters sometimes played the Yankees’ second team, and in some games New Jersey used New York pitchers. Once again, this spring training site helped the Skeeters get off to a fast start.
Twice during the 1913 season Schlafly inserted himself into the lineup and made game-winning hits. On June 15, he pinch hit and singled in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth to break a 5-5 tie with Buffalo. On July 16, he subbed at second base, and hit a two-out ninth inning walk-off home run to break a 1-1 tie with Providence. On July 10 the team was 38-42, but soon after that management decided to sell off some of the better players, and the Skeeters began to disintegrate. When the owners started to interfere with Schlafly’s management of the team, he became disgusted and resigned during an August 21-23 series in Buffalo.
Perhaps 1914 is the year for which Larry Schlafly is best remembered. His memorable year began on November 2, 1913, when the Buffalo Express proclaimed that Buffalo would have a Federal League team. In the same article, it stated that Schlafly had been selected as (playing) manager.
This was a season of great excitement and uncertainty in baseball. With the Federal League trying to convince major league players to sign up with their new enterprise, many players joined the fledgling league at much higher salaries than they received in 1913, while others used Federal League contract offers as leverage to obtain higher salaries from their American or National league teams. Major league salaries increased significantly in 1914 and 1915. The average major league salary went from $3000 in 1913 to $5000 in 1915, then back down to $3500 by 1918.
During the 1914 preseason, Schlafly traveled far and wide to talk to prospective players. Among the cities Larry was known to have visited were Columbus, Ohio, Rochester, N. Y., Chicago, Cleveland, New York, and Washington.
Schlafly persuaded many players to join the Federal League, enabling them to escape the clutches of the penurious major league owners of that time. In addition to acquiring players for Buffalo, he convinced other players to leave their existing teams in order to play for Federal League teams.
During the spring of 1914, rumors about the possible collapse of the Federal League were numerous. There were also reports that the Buffalo franchise would be moved to another city. Organized Baseball considered various strategies to combat the Federal League threat. One plan was to create a third major league within Organized Baseball, to go head-to-head with the Federal League in each city where the Federal League placed a team. Another plan was to expand the International League to 12 teams. Neither plan developed, but minor league teams in four cities where the Federal League placed a team suffered greatly at the box office.
Buffalo appeared to have the most talented team in the league in 1914. However, during the season, the Buffeds suffered a number of serious injuries. One notable injury was ace pitcher Russ Ford who, on August 24, was discovered to have spinal damage, the result of a dive into a shallow swimming pool in California a year earlier. Ford was never again an effective pitcher.
It was during the 1914 season that the infamous Hal Chase was lured away from the Chicago White Sox to play for Buffalo. Despite the boost that Chase gave the team, with all the injuries, the Buffeds finished in fourth place, seven games out of first.
A memorable event in Schlafly’s career occurred on July 11. Schlafly put himself in as a pinch hitter in the bottom of the thirteenth inning, with the bases empty in a tie game against Baltimore. Before he stepped into the batter’s box, he held his bat as if aiming a gun at a bird and pointed it toward left field. Baltimore manager Otto Knabe asked, “Where are you going to hit it?” Schlafly again pointed his bat in the same direction. On the next pitch, he drove the ball deep to left field, the ball hitting high on the outfield fence for a two-base hit. (Schlafly’s called hit never received the notoriety that Babe Ruth‘s called home run did.) As it turned out, the Buffeds were unable to bring him home, and the game ended in a thirteen inning 3-3 tie, called on account of darkness.
On September 26, 1914, the team and the fans staged “Larry Schlafly Day.” Larry was the guest of honor at a pregame luncheon sponsored by the Ad club. Before the game, he was presented with a silver loving cup, and was brought to the microphone to say a few words. Even though it was his day, since Buffalo still had a mathematical chance to win the pennant, Schlafly did not insert himself into the regular lineup. The October 3 issue of Sporting Life described the event: “Several thousand fans braved a raw day to pay homage to a popular manager. Larry was presented with a silver loving cup by the club officials, while many friends sent in a number of floral remembrances. Larry blushed like a schoolboy when he was called to the plate.”
Buffalo finished in fourth place, seven games out of first. Schlafly’s manager rating for 1914 in Total Baseball is 2.6. This is a measure of actual team wins over expected wins, based on individual player performances.
Nineteen fifteen was the second, and last year, of the Federal League as a major league. Schlafly again managed Buffalo, but did not play.
An incident involving Schlafly showed the continuing tension between the Federal League and the American and National leagues. While on their way to spring training in Athens, Georgia, the Buffalo team stopped over in Washington on Saturday. March 6. Larry decided to visit his old team, the Washington Nationals. The Nationals were about to depart for spring training in Charlottesville, Virginia, and Walter Johnson had not yet arrived. Schlafly kidded the Nationals about the possibility of Johnson joining the Buffalo team and going south with them. The Nationals weren’t sure he was joking, and as the Buffeds’ train pulled out of Union Station, the Buffalo players saw Washington players stationed around the train boarding area, checking to make sure that Johnson didn’t get on the train.
During the spring of 1915 there were signs that Larry’s health was deteriorating. On March 14, the Buffalo Express reported that Schlafly had contracted a severe cold. On May 19, the Express quoted Schlafly: “I’ve been on the sick list the last two days and I’m feeling miserable. I’m not sick enough to be in bed, but I’m keeping to my room. I have a pretty bad cold and a little touch of grippe.” On May 20, the Express said: “Cold prevented the St. Louis game, but Buffalo practiced on the St. Louis field.” Schlafly participated in that practice.
Things did not begin well for the 1915 Buffalo team, which by this time Schlafly had rechristened the “Blues.” The weather at their spring training site in Athens was the coldest in 50 years for that region, making training difficult.
During the winter following the 1914 season, Schlafly conceived a second base trap play that the Blues practiced in spring training. With a runner on second, the catcher would give a signal to the pitcher and shortstop. The shortstop would begin to move toward second, and the pitcher would pivot and make a throw to the base to try to trap the runner off second. (This was the same play that the 1948 Cleveland Indians used with great success.)
While in Georgia, Schlafly displayed some skill as a golfer. The Buffalo Express reported on March 20: “Manager Schlafly is quite elated over his showing on the Cloverhurst Country Club golf links. Today he made the nine-hole course in 51, beating a standing four-year record of 55.”
On March 25, Sporting Life quoted from the Atlanta Banner: “Those who have met Manager Schlafly have been struck by his quiet, gentlemanly bearing. He has the respect of the players and seems able to get the most out of them without the noise and braggadocio so often the chief managerial characteristics.”
A near disaster occurred on April 9, while the team was heading north for their opening day game in Brooklyn. A driving rod on their train split in two. Fortunately, the train was going slowly at the time, and nobody was injured.
Because of their abbreviated training season, the older pitchers were not ready early in the season, and the young arms did not produce. Among the players who did not do well in the early part of the 1915 season was Hal Chase, who was hitting only .198 on June 2.
On June 4, Schlafly was fired as manager and replaced by Harry Lord, who had joined the Blues only eight days before. Chase and Lord were business associates and close friends. Once the managerial change was made, Chase suddenly came to life. He batted .328 for the remainder of the 1915 season and led the Federal League in home runs with 17.
Sporting Life on June 5 said: “Larry Schlafly has a contract with the Buffalo Federal League club which runs for another year. Just what re-adjustment of this situation will be made is not to be announced as yet. He might be shifted to some other club in a different position, or he might settle everything with his club and quit the field entirely. He has some business interests in his home town at Beach City, O., but he might remain in Buffalo indefinitely. Certainly when historians come to write about the existence of the Federal League, whether or not it survives the crucial test, they will have to identify the name of Schlafly with the creation of the independent institution. And if the league eventually should flourish and prosper, as have the National and American leagues, the historian must praise Larry Schlafly. It was he who induced many organized base ball players to make the long and uncertain jump, and if their institution does keep on going ahead and they profit in better salaries probably they will not forget the man who worked indefatigably to make the independent organization a success.”
In 1916, Schlafly served as playing manager of the Bradford, Pennsylvania, Drillers in the class D Interstate League. This was to be his last season as a professional player or manager.
On July 6, The Sporting News reported that the league had “near major league managers and were paying class B salaries.” But financial difficulties set in, and in August three teams dropped out. The league finished the season with five teams.
Early in 1917, Schlafly was diagnosed with pulmonary tuberculosis. That season he played semipro ball in Canton, Ohio, only twenty miles from his Beach City home. Schlafly played on two different teams, one in a Saturday league with his 16-year-old son Robert, and one in a Sunday league. He also umpired on occasion. Schlafly was permitted to play because league rules stated that a player could be considered eligible as long as he was not under a professional contract.
In 1918, Schlafly acted as a scout in the Western League, and on the Pacific coast for the St. Louis Cardinals.
In 1919, Schlafly umpired in the Western League. In early June, he took a leave of absence and went home to Beach City for a rest. On June 19, he was diagnosed with tubercular spinal meningitis. He passed away at his home in Beach City on June 27, 1919, at the age of forty. He was laid to rest in a cemetery in Strasburg, in his native Tuscarawas County. In November 1921, his remains were moved to the new South Lawn Cemetery in Beach City. Larry’s parents, his wife, and his son are also buried in the family plot in Beach City.
Appendix A: References to Schlafly in the Washington Post and
Sporting Life during the 1906 Season
April 18 (Philadelphia 4 Washington 2) Post: “The Quaker City fans formed a fine impression of Schlafly, who handled some hard chances.”
April 19 (Washington 11 Philadelphia 10) Post: “Seybold lined to the fence, but Hickman threw him out at second, Schlafly making a sensational play on a wide throw.”
May 4 (Washington 4 Boston 2) Post: Schlafly was involved in every Washington run. A solo homer in the first; a triple, RBI, and run in the third; and a sacrifice fly in the eighth.
May 17 Post: “‘Schaf’ has a great admirer in Ban Johnson [American League president], and Byron B. seems to have reason for his liking.”
June 11 Post: “Schlafly is the first man to catch a bit of pugnacity, for the coast man is naturally inclined to put up an argument on a decision, anyway. The Nationals’ playing atmosphere of taking what you get and keep quiet, however, soon downed the good quality of the recruit.”
June 30 (Philadelphia 6 Washington 5) Post: “[In the sixth inning] Rube Waddell smashed a liner toward right-center that looked good for a double. Just as the ball was about to go over his head, Schlafly leaped into the air, and stopping the sphere with his gloved hand, whipped the ball to Jake Stahl in time to complete a double play. Loud cheers from all sides.”
July 14 (Cleveland 6 Washington 4) Sporting Life: “Saturday’s doubleheader was crowded with more brilliant plays than were ever seen on one day in Washington. Schlafly’s one-handed, backward, high jumping catch of Elmer Flick‘s liner was, perhaps, the best of many brilliant feats.”
July 29 (Chicago 5 Washington 3) Post: “The playing of Schlafly surprised the local [Chicago] fans. Schlafly proved himself to be one of the best second basemen seen on the local diamond.”
August 5 Sporting Life: “Schlafly and Dave Altizer have proved themselves excellent run getters. The former leads the team in percentage of runs to times at bat with .152, though he has only hit for .232.”
August 6 (Washington 5 Detroit 4) Sporting Life: In the tenth Washington made the winning run, a two-bagger by Schlafly being an important factor.”
August 21 Post: Larry wasn’t feeling well this day and didn’t play. It was feared for a while that he had typhoid fever. [He missed the next 22 games before returning to the lineup on September 12.]
September 21 (Detroit 5 Washington 4) Sporting Life: “Herr Schlafly, who tore off four bingles in the second Detroit game, threw a scare into the foreigners by hitting the score-board for a home run in the ninth inning, with a cluster of [two] runners on bases.”
The Baseball Encyclopedia (Macmillan), 8th edition
The Baseball Encyclopedia (Barnes and Noble), 2004
Total Baseball, 7th edition
The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, 2nd edition
Sporting Life, all issues 1901-1903, 1905-1914, January-June 1915
The Sporting News, many 1901 issues, all issues March-November 1904, all issues May-September 1911, many 1916 issues
Washington Post, many 1906 and 1907 issues
Buffalo Express, all issues November 1913 – June 1915
New York Times, several March and April 1913 issues
Canton, Ohio Daily News, many 1900 issues, many 1917 issues, and June 27 and June 30 1919 issues.
Ashtabula, Ohio unidentified 1900 newspaper
Toledo Blade, many 1901 issues
Green, Guy W. Fun and Frolic with an Indian Ball Team. Mattituck, NY: Amereon Ltd., 1992 (originally published in Lincoln, NE by Woodruff-Collins Press in 1907)
Baseball Magazine, January 1914 issue
Burk, Robert F. Never Just a Game. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1994.
Art Cantu, Society for American Baseball Research member
Elizabeth Weimer Bishop, Schlafly’s granddaughter
Debra Rentsch, Clerk-Treasurer, Village of Beach City, Ohio
Debra Jean Pfendler, Stark County, Ohio District Library
Nancy Boothe Schaar, Professional Genealogist, Tuscarawas County, Ohio Genealogical Society