Raymond William Schalk
Born: August 12, 1892 - Harvel, IL
Died: May 19, 1970 - Chicago, IL
Career BA: .253
Managerial Record: 102–125
Chicago White Sox AL (1912–1926; player-manager: 1927–1928)
New York Giants NL (1929)
If you were to list the essential qualities of a catcher, you might just need to write two words: Ray Schalk. Slightly built, Schalk was a 5-foot, 9-inch, 165 pound package of strength. In his 18-year Major League career, he was a catcher, period. Unlike other backstops, Schalk did not venture into the outfield or to first base as he aged. He knew just one home, and it was behind home plate.
For 17 years, he called pitches for the Chicago White Sox, and although his career ended in 1929 with the Giants, Schalk will forever be remembered as a South Sider. He never hit .300, never hit more than four home runs in a season, and never led the league in any major offensive category, yet he finished in the top 10 in MVP voting twice (1914 and 1922). This tells the story of Schalk’s value.
If you want to talk stats, strap on the catcher’s gear. Schalk led the American League in putouts every season between 1913 and 1920, and again in 1922. He didn’t just block the plate, he guarded it like a sentinel. He was consistently among the best in assists and fielding percentage, and led the AL in games played for a catcher seven times. Schalk’s 30 steals in 1916 stood as the record for catchers until John Wathan swiped 36 in 1982. As a publicity stunt, he once caught a ball dropped from Chicago’s 463-foot Tribune Tower.
Schalk, who was player-manager of the ChiSox in 1927 and 1928, got his nickname Cracker from his relentless cracking of the whip with pitchers. He caught four no-hitters, popularized the art of backing up bases, and boasted of scoring a putout at every base. He was also a leader in double plays for a catcher. Perhaps most importantly, Schalk was not involved in the 1919 Black Sox World Series scandal. This integrity extended into retirement as he founded Baseball Anonymous, a program that aided impoverished players; coached and scouted for the Cubs; managed in the minors; and coached at Purdue University. Schalk was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1955. His plaque is filled with numerous factoids, but could simply read: Ray Schalk, a catcher’s catcher.
– Tom and Ellen Zappala, The Cracker Jack Collection: Baseball's Prized Players. For more information on their book and/or to order a copy at a special PSA discount, visit http://crackerjackplayers.com/PSA_order.html