Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Monday, December 29, 2008

'Action' photo of Schalk

I am one month and three days from my self-imposed (well, it's now on my publishing contract) deadline to submit the manuscript, photos, captions and release forms for my Ray Schalk biography. I think I will make it, but it will be a busy time.

The other day, while working up captions, I came across some additional photos on the Library of Congress web site. Either I missed them on my previous visit(s), or the LOC has added more images, many of which are copyright-free.

Here is one of the few game action shots of Ray Schalk I've seen. He is waiting at home plate to congratulate Johnny Mostil upon scoring a run in Washington. The year was 1925.
Mostil’s failed suicide attempt during spring training in 1927 added unexpected drama to Schalk’s first year as White Sox manager. Mostil recovered but played just one complete season afterward. He left the team in early 1929.

(Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division,
National Photo Company Collection, LC-F8- 36908.)

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Schalk in clip of vintage baseball video

Fellow members of the Society for American Baseball Research called my attention to a film montage posted on YouTube showing various scenes from the game's Deadball Era.

It included a short clip of the subject of my next biography, the Chicago White Sox' Ray Schalk, successfully executing a squeeze bunt during the 1919 World Series. (This, of course, was the Black Sox series, after which eight White Sox players were banned for life for conspiring to lose the series to the Cincinnati Reds. Schalk was probably the first honest player to suspect the fix was occurring.)

This is a video you might want to watch several times. Each time, you might note another little aspect of the game. Compare the condition of the fields, even in a World Series, to today's manicured diamonds. The uniforms. The attire and enthusiasm of the fans. The advertisements on the outfield walls. And on and on.

Thanks to InitialNoticeBlack for posting this and other rare baseball film clips.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Schalk contributed to clincher 91 years ago today

Boston Globe, Sept. 22, 1917

The blog White Sox Journal reminds us that 91 years ago today (Sept. 21), the Chicagoans wrapped up the American League pennant in dramatic fashion.

Key players for the victors were the subjects of my past and future books.

Ray Schalk, whose biography I am currently writing, hit a double and scored the go-ahead run in the 10th inning in Boston.

Red Faber, the subject of my first book, pitched all 10 innings and ended the game by inducing Babe Ruth to hit into a double play.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Schalk statue-worthy

Steve on CHICAGO SPORTS LIVE takes issue with the Chicago White Sox' selection of former players to honor with statues at Comiskey Park U.S. Cellular Field.

On his list of players more deserving -- topping it, in fact -- is Ray Schalk.

Schalk, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame on this date 53 years ago, receives short shrift because of his low .253 batting average. Some "experts" don't look past that to consider his other attributes, starting with his defense, his hustle and his handling of pitchers (and, some might say, umpires).

Schalk is in the Hall of Fame and he doesn't need me to make his case. But he caught more than 100 games a year (when the seasons were 140-154 games) for 11 straight years. While being a workhorse, he suffered numerous broken fingers, bruises, etc., and kept at it. Playing hurt that often can't help one's batting average.

Anyway, considering how Schalk is so often overlooked, it is nice to see that Steve remembers.

I would add to his list Ted Lyons and Red Faber, still No. 1 and No. 2 on the Sox' all-time victories list.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Ray receives a mention

With another no-hitter by a Boston Red Sox pitcher, Jason Varitek on Monday entered the record books for catching the most no-nos -- four.

For a long time, the subject of my next book, Ray Schalk (pictured), was considered to have caught four no-hitters (including a perfect game) as well. However, Major League Baseball in 1991 ruled that a no-hitter must be just that -- allowing no hits -- and it must be in a game of at least nine innings. As a result a New York Times article mentions Schalk's "old" mark.

That knocked one no-hitter off Schalk's list. On May 14, 1914, Jim Scott of the Chicago White Sox pitched nine no-hitter innings in Washington. In the 10th, the Nationals (also called the Senators) recorded a lead-off single. Scott gave up another hit in the frame, and wound up losing, 1-0. Less than three weeks later, Schalk caught another no-hitter, and this one counted.

Schalk made it his practice to phone or write to the catcher of every major league no-hitter. He knew that the pitcher got the glory of the achievement (as is his due), but the catcher, calling pitches and positioning defenders, usually played a big part in the event.

Schalk's 'official' no-hitters as a catcher:
May 31, 1914 -- Joe Benz, vs. Cleveland, in Chicago.
April 14, 1917 -- Eddie Cicotte, at. St. Louis Browns.
April 30, 1922 -- Charlie Robertson, at Detroit. (Perfect game)

Monday, May 19, 2008

38 years ago ...

It was on this date 38 years ago -- May 19, 1970 -- that Ray Schalk died.

Schalk, the National Baseball Hall of Fame catcher and subject of my next book, had battled throat cancer for nine months, and he caught pneumonia 10 days before his death in Wesley Memorial Hospital, Chicago.

The former Chicago White Sox catcher and manager was 77 years old.

One of his grandsons last week told me that so many people showed up to pay their respects, the funeral home had to devote all four of its viewing rooms to Ray's wake. The grandson and his sister counted 168 cars in the funeral procession to Evergreen Cemetery in suburban Evergreen Park.

Widely regarded in the first two decades of the 20th century as the game's best catcher, Schalk is not well-known today. It doesn't help that the team for which he labored and showed devotion does not even honor the Hall of Famer with other White Sox greats on its outfield wall. Some on the outfield wall are not even in the Hall. (Red Faber has suffered the same fate.)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Mini-bio of Schalk online

A chapter-length biography of Ray Schalk, the subject of my next book, has been posted on the Society for American Baseball Research's Baseball Biography Project site.

Here is the link to the article.

The author, Brian Stevens, originally wrote the piece a few years ago for the SABR book, Deadball Stars of the American League. I proceeded with my idea for a full-length Schalk book only after confirming that Stevens did not have similar plans. (No need for two books on the subject!) In fact, he was kind enough to send me all his notes and newspaper clips used in his research. A resident of the Northeast, Stevens visits the National Baseball Hall of Fame annually and before each trip has asked me if there is additional information he can look up on my behalf. That has been a nice assist in my efforts.

Stevens did a solid job with his article.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Under contract

Ray Schalk, 1914
Bain Collection, Library of Congress

It was no surprise -- we've communicated off and on over the past year -- but today I received a publishing contract for my next book, the biography of Ray Schalk.

The book about Schalk, the Hall of Fame catcher for the Chicago White Sox (1912-28), will be published by McFarland & Co., Inc., of Jefferson, N.C.

McFarland also published my Red Faber biography.

Even knowing that a contract was likely, I felt some relief when it arrived. It represents an important step in the process. Having an "outside publisher" lends credibility to the effort.

My self-selected deadline is January 31, 2009. That seems a long ways off, but there is much to be done!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Who are these guys?

A distant relative of Red Faber recently reconnected with some snapshots that Red apparently took when he was on the World Tour of 1913-14.

He sent me this photo, looking for help with identifications. Aside from the fact that Red is not in the photo (I'd assume he was taking the photo), and it appears that we have two Chicago White Sox players and one member of the New York Giants, I'm not any help.

(By the way, Ray Schalk started on the domestic leg of the tour but left the entourage before it embarked across the Pacific.)

Anyone who can assist? (Click on the photo to enlarge the image.)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

More Schalk photos in lineup

Thanks to a heads-up from the publisher of my Red Faber biography, I have located a few more photos for my Ray Schalk biography. And, best of all, they are in the public domain -- free and copyright-free. After paying -- well, more than nothing -- for 20 images from the Chicago History Museum, this was an economical find!

The images are part of the George Grantham Bain Collection recently digitized by the Library of Congress.

The photo above is the best of the half-dozen of Schalk I downloaded. It shows the White Sox catcher in 1914, his second full season in the majors.

Here is an image I found of particular interest. It shows Clarence "Pants" Rowland, whose hometown was Dubuque, when he managed the Chicago White Sox (1915-18). He is shown with his daughter Buelah. This photo was taken during the 1917 World Series, which Rowland's White Sox won.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Montgomery County research trip

I used a vacation day Friday to conduct further research on the subject of my next biography, baseball Hall of Famer Ray Schalk, in his native Montgomery County, Illinois.

The day opened with a breakfast meeting with Bill Dees and Bill Cornman, two community leaders of Litchfield, Ill., Schalk's hometown. (He was born in the tiny town of Harvel, but the family moved to Litchfield about the time Ray started school.) Litchfield sits along I-55 (and on the former famed Route 66), roughly midway between Springfield, Ill., and St. Louis.

The two Bills answered my questions about the geography and history of the community, and they offered contact information for further information. They also provided directions to the former Elks Club building (current photo above), where Ray's father was the long-time janitor.

Litchfield became Litchfield largely because of its connections to 4-5 railroads, and it remains on a key rail route. That point hit home when Bill and I, on our way to the site where Ray Schalk played his first semi-pro game, sat in our cars for more than 15 minutes while a couple of freight trains did their thing.

My next stop was Hillsboro, the county seat, where I spent a couple of hours in the clerk's vault searching for birth, marriage and death information on the Schalk family. The result was not as complete as I had hoped. Curiously, a few of the Schalk children's birth certificates were not filed until 1941 -- nearly six decades after the fact -- and some couldn't be found at all. That stumped even the county clerk's aide Tricia (sp?), who so graciously stepped up to help me. I also checked in with Mike Plunkett, editor of the local paper, The Journal-News.

Finally, I drove over to Nokomis, home of the Bottomley-Ruffing-Schalk Baseball Museum -- dedicated to Montgomery County's three members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. There, Jim Eisenbarth allowed me to computer-scan several photos for use in my book. The prize was an image of Schalk, as a scrawny 16-year-old, barely filling out his first semi-pro uniform (representing the Litchfield Arcos).

All in all, it was a most productive day!