July 11, 2011
Perhaps the greatest catcher you’ve never heard of, Wally Schang was the backstop on 4 different World Series champions, which was probably a combination of luck and his remarkable skill behind the plate. He began his career in Philadelphia with the Athletics in 1913. He started about half the team’s games, then started 4 out of the 5 World Series games that year, as the A’s crushed the Giants, 4 games to 1. Schang had an excellent World Series, knocking in 7 runs, hitting a Home Run and a Triple. The New York Times wrote, “Wally Schang, the kid catcher of the Athletics, will go down into history as the sensation of the 1913 World Series.”
Connie Mack blew up the squad after losing the 1914 World Series, and Schang would have to play for a 1915 team that was similar to the 1998 Marlins; they went from the World Series to the depths of the basement, going 43-109, 58 games out of first. Scahng had to suffer through two more terrible seasons before Mack did him a favor and sent him to the Red Sox.
But before he was shipped off, he made baseball history. On September 8th, 1916, the switch hitting Shang became the first player in MLB history to homer from both sides of the plate, hitting homers off Yankee pitchers Allan Russell and Slim Love. Yes, Slim Love. (If there are any rappers reading this, do yourself a favor and change your name to Slim Love. Immediately.) No player would do it again until Augie Galan of the Cubs did it in 1937.
In an effort to further reduce payroll, the penny pinching Mack sent Shang to the Red Sox in 1917. In his first year on the Sox, he caught for Red Sox legends Carl Mays and Dutch Leonard, as well as a young lefty named Babe Ruth, on a team that would win their 4th World Series in 7 years. No-one could have possibly imagined then that he would be the last catcher to guide the Red Sox to a World Series title until Jason Varitek.
Schang was traded to the Yankees in 1920, and won a Series with them in 1923. After a few years with the woeful Brown, he was signed by Mack in 1930. The 40 year old catcher would play only sparingly, and not hit very well. He would not make an appearance in the 1930 World Series, but he earned a World Series ring nonetheless, his 4th. He would play one more season, with Detroit, and then call it a career.
The speedy Shang is still 7th all-time among catchers for steals, with 121, holds the AL record by throwing out 6 base stealers in one game in 1915, and he is one of only 6 players to play on 3 different World Series winning teams. Incredibly, four of those six played for the 1913 A’s (Shang, Herb Pennock, Stuffy McInnis, and Bullet Joe Bush.)
He certainly wasn’t on the cutting edge of style. The moustache had gone out of fashion in the early 20th century, but Schang had one when he first came to the majors. Though he would soon shave it of, he would go down in history as the last MLB player to sport one until the Phils Dick Allen started growing one in 1970.
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