Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Four generations of Schofields

Most baseball fans know of three generational baseball families. There is the Boone family and the Hairston family, for example. Perhaps fewer know that Jayson Werth is a third generation baseball player. His grandfather is John Richard (Dick) "Ducky" Schofield who played nineteen years in the majors from 1953 to 1971. Schofield's son, Dick Schofield, was a very good shortstop whose career spanned fourteen seasons from 1983 to 1996. Werth has now logged ten seasons of his own bringing the trio's big league experience to a total of an amazing 43 seasons.

But there is something unique about this story. If you look at the origins of the Hairston, Boone and Bell families, as far as this research could tell, the fathers of the original generations did not play professional ball. But in the Schofield's case, there is a fourth generation. It started with John Schofield who played eleven years or more of minor league ball from 1924 to 1938. Further research is needed, of course, but for now, four generations of professional baseball players seems rather unique.

A great big thank you has to go to the elder Dick Schofield who was gracious enough to talk on the phone about his family for over an hour. The original call occurred on the same day as the wake of Schofield's wife who just passed away. Despite the horrible timing of that call, the 77 year old former player was gracious and invited the caller to try again this week. His interview added much to the research already compiled for this piece.

The conversation started with a discussion of his father. The original John Schofield was also the originator of the nickname, "Ducky." That was his nickname and what his son would call him his whole life. When the second John Schofield or Dick Schofield broke into the majors, he introduced his father to some of his teammates and somehow the nickname was transferred to the son even though nobody had ever called him that before.

The original John Schofield was born December 20, 1904 in the Linwood neighborhood of Lower Chichester, Pennsylvania, a small town in Delaware County. He was the son of Richard Gray and Hannah (Ball) Schofield. Hannah was born in England. Richard was the son of John W. Schofield who was born in England in 1826 and came to the Delaware County area as a young man and is the American ancestor of the family. John W. Schofield was a butcher and Richard worked in the mills.

Richard Schofield and one of his son's died when John was ten years old. Richard was in a pickup truck on an errand and the truck was struck by a train killing both instantly. His son recalled on the phone that his father heard the news from a boy on a bicycle who told him his dad just died down the street.

John, a shortstop, played his first three professional seasons for the Crisfield Crabbers in Crisfield, Maryland in the Eastern Shore League, a D-level league. He then played for the Hagerstown Hubs, another Maryland team, this time in the Blue Ridge League. Two seasons followed in the Carolina League for the Wilmington Pirates.

Baseball-reference.com lost him for two years, but he played at least in 1930 for the Joplin Minors in the Western Association. His son has a picture in his living room of his father in a Joplin Minors' uniform.

Somewhere along the line, the elder John Schofield seriously broke his leg. Not only did the broken leg limit how far his baseball career would go, the injury would affect him the rest of his life.

John married Florence Campbell in San Antonio during 1932 when he played for the Indians in the Texas League. Two years followed in the New York - Pennsylvania League and perhaps this is where he broke his leg as there is a four year gap in his record. What is known is that Florence was from Springfield, Illinois and John's last season was in 1938 playing for the Springfield Browns in the Triple-I League. Springfield would be the family home and where the Dick Schofield lives today.

The elder John Schofield died February 14, 1991 at the age of 87.

By 1940, the elder John Schofield had retired from baseball and he and his wife lived with their son on a farm with Florence's parents. Father and grandfather worked the farm and both had jobs besides. John was a clothing salesman in 1940. During the phone call, Dick believes that his grandfather, Sherman Campbell, died around 1942 and since John did not grow up a farmer, he moved his family closer to town.

Though the son never got to see his father play in the minor leagues, the elder John did play for the House of David baseball team from time to time and would take his son along. So the son did get some hint at how good a player his father was and was also entertained by the real and fake beards the team sported.

Dick, while on the farm, did not have friends close by to play ball with so he played with his father. His father was a tough coach and worked hard with his son to teach the son how to play properly. The tough love worked as the son became one of the best players in the area.

As mentioned, the second Schofield became a terrific young baseball player and was highly sought after. His entry into professional baseball came during the Bonus Baby era. Prior to 1949, wealthy teams could sign the best talent and hide that talent in the minors. Concerned about the balance of power, Major League Baseball came up with the Bonus Baby rules. The rules basically stated that if a prospect was signed for over a certain amount of money, that player had to remain on the major league roster for two seasons or be lost to the other teams.

Dick had several teams interested in him. But several of the teams "wanted to do funny things with the money" as Dick put it. What he really wanted to do was sign for the Boston Red Sox. But they had already given a huge amount of money to Billy Consolo and had other high price players. The St. Louis Cardinals offered him $40,000 and he took it.

The obvious failure of the Bonus Baby system was that eighteen an nineteen year old kids were forced to ride the bench for two years tying up a roster spot. It is hard to develop as a player without regular playing time. Dick, desperate for some experience, played in Cuba after his second season. Many of the Bonus Babies never amounted to anything because of this terrible way to break into baseball. Al Kaline and Sandy Koufax were notable exceptions even though Koufax did take time to develop into the Hall of Fame pitcher that he became.

Not only did such players get stunted in their development, many were resented because of the bonus and for the special treatment. Dick Schofield felt he was lucky in that he was treated really well by his teammates and he really enjoyed his manager, Eddie Stanky. But even if he was treated well, he was eighteen years old when the rest of the team was made up of men 25 years of age or older. And it did not help when he received 48 plate appearances in two years and would go months between walking up to the plate.

Once the mandatory two years were over, Dick played most of the next two seasons for Omaha in Triple A and a few games for the big league club each season. He spent the entire 1957 season in the big leagues, but again saw little playing time. The Cardinals traded for Al Dark and the original plan was to play Schofield at short and Dark at third. But Dark said that he did not play third and that was the end of that.

Just as he started to receive a little more playing time in St. Louis in 1958, the Cardinals traded him away to the Pirates on June 15. Schofield wiled away on the bench for the next year and a half. By the time the 1960 season started, Schofield, now 25 years old was a veteran of seven seasons and had only compiled 707 plate appearances.

The Pirates had a great shortstop in Dick Groat and Groat had his best season in 1960. So Schofield spent much of the season again on the bench. Groat was the MVP that season and won the batting crown. But Groat broke his wrist on September 6 and the Pirates lost their star shortstop. Schofield took over and hit over .400 down the stretch and did much to help the Pirates win the pennant.

That was the great World Series where the Pirates beat the Yankees despite being heavily outscored. Groat had returned for the last four games of the season and was again the regular during the World Series. Schofield only received four plate appearances and singled and walked. During this part of the phone conversation, that series, while the biggest thrill of his life, was also the only time during the conversation where his voice betrayed a little bitterness. He wanted to play and who could blame him.

Schofield would finally become a starting shortstop for the Pirates during the 1963 and 1964 seasons. But on May 22, 1965, he was traded to the Giants for Angel Pagan. He finished out the season as the Giants' starting shortstop.

He developed a sore arm in 1966 and there was not the kind of sports medicine there is today. Even today, he has no idea what happened. But it prevented him from playing like he could and he ended up struggling through the season and was shipped to the Yankees and then to the Dodgers. He would never again be a starter.

He played one more year in Los Angeles and then a season back in St. Louis, two years in Boston, another half season in St. Louis and the last half of the 1971 season with the Milwaukee Brewers. He was promised a spot on the Brewers in 1972 but the season was delayed due to the strike and that promised was not lived up to. When the Brewers released him, he retired.

The pride in his voice really picked up when talking about his son, Richard Craig "Dick" Schofield. When asked when he thought his son was going to be a good baseball player, he quickly mentioned when young Dick was twelve. "He was twice as good as others his age and I thought he had a shot at it."

Schofield mentioned that he was just as tough on his son as his father had been with him. And again, that tough love made another Schofield one of the hottest high school prospects in the country. He was the third overall pick by the then California Angels in the first round of the 1981 draft and by 1983 was already playing in Triple-A.

After a cup of coffee in the majors in 1983, Dick Schofield became the Angels' starting shortstop and would remain so from 1984 through 1988. 1986 was his best season and the only season with the Angels that the Angels made it to the playoffs. That was the year that Donnie Moore served up a change up to Dave Henderson and broke the hearts of Angels fans everywhere. Schofield had a great series too which no one will remember.

Schofield was always terrific in the field and had a case for the Gold Glove in both 1986 and 1988 but was beat out both times.

Starting in 1989 and into 1990, Schofield started to share his playing time with Kent Anderson despite Anderson not being as good in the field and not much better at the plate. Early in the 1992 season, the Angels traded Schofield to the Mets where he finished out a miserable season on a miserable team.

A free agent after the 1992 season, Schofield signed with the Toronto Blue Jays and 1993 was the second season of their back to back World Series titles. Unfortunately, Schofield did not get to enjoy it. The shortstop was badly injured on a relay at second on an attempted double play and would miss 108 games. During his absence, Tony Fernandez would take over and had a sensational stretch of games and though Schofield made it back for the last few games of the season, he would not play in that post season. He did get a World Series ring though.

Dick Schofield would play one more season with the Blue Jays and finish his career with short stints in Los Angeles and again with the Angels.

Dick Schofield's sister, Kim, was an athlete in her own right. She was a track star and would compete in the Olympic trials as a long jumper and sprinter. She had a relationship with Jeff Gowan, the Division 1 leader in pass receptions for Illinois State University. Jayson was a result of that relationship.  Kim would later marry Dennis Werth, another former Major League player.

But before that, Kim and Jayson lived for a time with the elder Schofield and his wife. The elder Schofield credits Dennis Werth and gave him an "A+" for helping Jayson become a terrific baseball player. Schofield mentioned that he saw every one of Jayson's high school baseball games.

When it was mentioned that Jayson did not become a shortstop like the first three generations, Schofield laughed and said he had become too big!

Werth, of course, would win a World Series with the Phillies and thus all three generations have a World Series Ring. Schofield credited a bigger right-center field in Washington along with a wrist problem for Werth's struggles his first season with the Nationals.

Werth also makes much more money than the previous two generations and certainly much more than the the nineteen years that the elder Schofield played. Schofield does not begrudge the money the players are making now though he thinks the numbers are outrageous. What bothers him the most, he says, is that lousy players are even making a couple of million a year.

A few other notes from the conversation:

- Ducky Schofield was the first official batter in a new Shea Stadium in 1964. He went back as a part of the ceremony in 1984.

- Schofield thinks the field conditions are vastly improved since when he played. He marvels at how manicured the fields are now. He hated the infields in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh when he played in those parks.

- Schofield played with over thirty Hall of Fame players during his career from Musial to Mays to Mantle to Clemente to Koufax and many, many more.

- He was far from impressed with Frank Lane as a general manager.

All in all, it was a wonderful conversation covering a remarkable story. Imagine. Four generations of professional baseball players including three straight in the majors. The first of those was a Bonus Baby and the other two were first round draft picks. The time on the phone was pleasant and Mr. Schofield spoke like a regular guy with no airs. The time was a treat and the story here probably does not do him or his remarkable family justice.

1 comment:

bluebattinghelmet said...

Great story. Dick Schofield also broke up a no-hit bid by Ken Holtzman in 1966. Here's nore on the game if you're interested. http://bluebattinghelmet.wordpress.com/2011/10/07/no-hit-vs-the-no-hit-king/

All the best to you.