This article was written by Harold Esch
This article was published in the 1980 Baseball Research Journal
Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida and Stetson University at nearby De Land, Florida had for years carried on a keen rivalry in sports – particularly baseball. Things heated up in 1903. Stetson, in an attempt to beef up its team, brought in some University of Illinois players and inserted them in the lineup. The Rollins College counterattack involved major league star Rube Waddell and his Philadelphia Athletics battery mate Ossee Schreckengost.
Rollins trustee and avid baseball fan William C. Temple was instrumental in bringing Waddell to Florida in January 1903 where he enrolled as a student and signed up for a business course. The Rollins catcher was unable to handle Waddell’s fast ball (it was reported that Waddell’s speed would frequently flatten his battery mate). Rube insisted if he was going to pitch for Rollins it would require professional catching and that’s how Schreckengost entered the picture.
Schreck (and he went by that name in the majors on occasion) also enrolled at Rollins and it was understood he attended classes more regularly than did the fun-loving Waddell.
Waddell had just come off an exceptionally successful season for the Athletics winning 25 of 32 decisions and striking out 210 in 276 innings. His ERA was a smart 2.05 in 1902.
Just what kind of a baseball schedule Rollins was involved in back in 1903 is uncertain but one thing for sure it was “BEAT STETSON.” Waddell’s arrival at Rollins was low key and kept pretty quiet – especially for the benefit of the Stetson nine. The day of the big game rolled around and Stetson came down to Winter Park by train. Whether they had their big University of Illinois players with them or not, the sight of the powerful and overwhelming Rube Waddell was too much for them. The Stetson team refused to play and waited for the next train to take them back to De Land.
Waddell was given the duties of coaching the baseball team in addition to being its star hurler. After living on campus for a week or so he soon moved to an upstairs room over a downtown store where he felt he had more freedom. It is reported that he used to warm up behind the store and would attract quite a following of schoolboys and grownups to watch this professional athlete go through his act.
There have been many stories of pitchers calling in the fielders and then proceeding to throw strikes past blinking-eyed batters. Waddell was supposed to have done that while at Rollins, and with Schreck sitting on the ground behind the plate.
The Rollins College “Sandspur” newspaper published an interview with Rube Waddell in its January 1903 issue. Excerpts from that interview which we thought interesting were as follows:
“In 1901 I was sold to Chicago. In the fall of 1901 I went to California with the All-American Baseball Club as one of their star pitchers. From California I went to the Philadelphia Athletics whose club under my pitching became the champion club of the American League. I had thus the honor of being the champion pitcher of the American League. I hold all the records of both leagues. . . In 1900 when Pittsburg loaned me to Milwaukee, I pitched 22 innings one afternoon . . . I will play the season of 1903 with the Athletics. I am now ready to face any pitcher in the United States and I am at present attending school at Rollins College and coaching the base-ball club.”
(signed) G. E. Waddell
The article, which hardly portrayed Waddell as a model of modesty, was accompanied by a picture of the Rollins baseball team. Waddell, clad in his A’s uniform, is shown along with Schreck.
Other details of the college baseball exploits of Waddell and Schreck are not available. Obviously the two did get a jump on their Philadelphia teammates, who, in 1903, held their spring training in nearby Jacksonville. It was the club’s first venture into Florida.
Schreck played in the majors through the 1908 season while Waddell would up his pitching career in 1910. Both men passed away in 1914, just four months apart. Schreck was 39 and Waddell 37.