Descendant of a Historic Catcher

February 20, 2013 in Blog, Home

 

 

I found this great story about my 2nd Great Grandfather, baseball and hatchet-man extraordinaire Ossie Schreckengost. As a catcher in the majors in the early 1900’s he started for two of the greatest pitchers of all time, Cy Young and Rube Waddell. He played in Boston in 1901 with Cy Young, then got traded to Philly in 1902 where he caught for the Athletics. This is where he caught for Rube Waddell, against Cy Young, during two of the most historic moments in Baseball.

May 1904, the Philadelphia Athletics played the Boston Americans and the two greatest pitchers of the era faced off, Rube Waddell earned the win against Cy Young. Rube then pitched a one-hitter in his next start, while Cy sat in the bullpen. After the game Rube taunted Cy, daring Cy to start against him again, so that he could beat him again. He got his chance three days later, but Cy Young pitched a perfect game. Cy Young’s perfect game was the first in the modern era and in American League history. Boston went on to win the American League Pennant over the A’s that year.

July 4, 1905, the Athletics and the Americans played a doubleheader in Boston. Cy Young and Rube Waddell got the start in the second game of the day; it lasted for 20 innings! Waddell shut out all of Boston batters over the last 19 innings. He also drove in the winning run, which was Shreck, in the Athletics’ 4-2 victory. Waddell celebrated with a few cartwheels across the diamond. “It didn’t take a feather out of me,” claimed Waddell. “I felt just as good after the game was over as I did during the game.” Schreck was less energetic; he not only caught every inning of the 20-inning afternoon tilt, he caught the entire morning game as well. Schreck’s record for 29 innings caught in a single day remains unequaled. The Philadelphia A’s and my 2nd great grandfather went on to win the AL Pennant that year.

In MLB history Ossie Schreckengost was better known for his one-handed catching style, which didn’t become a common technique until fifty years later. It is admitted that no catcher ever handled a glove more skillfully. He could perform marvels with the big mitt and his exhibition before the game used to be an applauded feature. Ossie used to soak his catching mitt in a pail of water before the game and when one of Rube’s fast balls smacked into that water soaked mitt there was a loud crack that could be heard all over the ball park. The harder Waddell threw the sharper the crack and the louder Schreck’s laugh. They put on quite a show! He was half of the most sensational battery of a decade and almost became as big as attraction as the Rube himself. No-body could catch the swift shoots of Waddell like Ossie, and his hard and timely hitting was a feature of his work that contributed many a victory. Not many a player could chop a high ball harder to the right field than he could. To use his own phrase, he liked to hit them “off his ear.” He was also known across the league for his humor and was part of the funniest contract request of the era; Rube Waddell required that Connie Mack put into Schreck’s contract that he could not eat animal crackers in bed. Back then there was no money in Baseball and traveling players had to share a bed. The two of them were famous for their hi-jinks and camaraderie; over time they became like family. Waddell was known to be a bit untamed and had a few screws loose…. you wouldn’t believe some of the stories. In the end Waddell’s bad boy lifestyle caught up to him; he died only 4 years after leaving the league. Schreck provided the epitaph for his headstone, “Rube Waddell had only one priority, to have a good time.” Apparently so did my 2nd Great Grandfather Schreck, he died just three months later at age 39. After Rube’s death he said, “The Rube is gone and I am all in. I might as well join him.” After their deaths Sporting Life wrote this, “Waddell and Schreck, when they were working right were almost unbeatable. Shreck’s most notable trait was that he was the only catcher who could make Waddell pitch his best. If their habits had been on a par with their professional skill, Rube and Shreck would probably be alive and playing ball today.”

Ossie was over looked for the Hall of Fame, only getting a couple of votes when the Hall of Fame began in the 30′s.

Here are Ossie’s leading figures.

  • #1 in AL Put Outs, 6 years in a row, 1902-1907.
  • #1 in AL Range Factor per game, 6 years in a row, 1902-1907
  • #7 in AL Batting Average (.327) in 1902 – #10 in 1906, #19 in 1901 – Great for a catcher!
  • #1 in NL Plate Appearances (738) in 1899.
  • #1 in Innings Caught in a day (29) Current record holder
  • #32 All Time Caught Stealing (681)
  • #17 All Time Range Factor per game (7.044)
  • Perfected the one handed catching style now used today, no one else tried until a new mitt was developed in the 1960′s.
  • Caught for both Cy Young and Rube Wadell.
  • Connie Mack’s “most colorful player” on a team of comedians.
  • He entertained and bread new baseball fans during the birth of the World Series. For most of his career he was the best at his position and played a large part in many of the greatest games in history. Baseball wouldn’t have been the same without him.

You can view all his stats here: http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/s/schreos01.shtml

Photos:

Here are some photos from when he played for Boston in 1901, catching for Cy Young:

Boston Americans Baseball Team

Boston Americans catcher Ossie Schreckengost

Boston Americans catcher Ossie Schreckengost

Boston Americans catchers Schreckengost, McLean and Criger

One A’s photo of the team on the field:

Connie Mack and the Philadelphia Athletics, 1905 World Series

Some articles:

http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/4acca827

http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1499&dat=19481219&id=a04aAAAAIBAJ&sjid=xiMEAAAAIBAJ&pg=4337,5989049

http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1144&dat=19140711&id=iQIbAAAAIBAJ&sjid=MEkEAAAAIBAJ&pg=4007,2465764

 

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