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.)