Howie Schultz

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Howie Schultz

Postby rlee » Wed Jun 13, 2007 1:18 am

Howie Schultz
by Stew Thornley

Howie Schultz combined major-league careers in baseball and basketball during the 1940s. Nicknamed "Stretch," the 6-foot 61/2-inch Schultz had already started his professional baseball career while still a student and one of the stars of the basketball team at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Howard Henry Schultz, known as "Howie", was born July 3, 1922 and grew up in St. Paul. His parents, Leo and Minnie, were also St. Paul natives. Leo Schultz worked for the Montgomery Ward Company for 35 years, running the shipping-and-receiving dock through the Great Depression. "We had food on the table and clothes on our back," Schultz said of the Depression years. "We never suffered."

Schultz was the second of three children. His brother, Louis, was born two years before him, and his sister, Lorraine, two years after him.

When Schultz was born, the family lived on Blair Avenue, considered a part of the Frogtown section of St. Paul. In 1926, they moved to a house at 1130 Edmund Avenue, three blocks due north of Lexington Park, home of the St. Paul Saints of the American Association. "I always say we were straight through from second base at old Lexington ball park."

Leo Schultz was an avid baseball fan. A member of the St. Paul Municipal Baseball Board and the board for amateur baseball in the state, he spent a great deal of time with friends at Lexington Park, watching the Saints. Howie caught the baseball bug from his dad, and attended his first Saints game by the time he was six years old. In addition, Schultz recalls watching many outstanding St. Paul amateur teams in the 1920s and 1930s.

Schultz's early baseball experiences came on the playground at St. Stephen, a German-Lutheran Church that had its own day school. He began with basketball when he was in the eighth grade in a Saturday morning program at Concordia College in St. Paul. Dick Siebert, who oversaw the program, played professional baseball with the Brooklyn Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals, and Philadelphia Athletics, and coached the Concordia Academy (high school) basketball team in the off-season.

Schultz first played on organized baseball and basketball teams after he started at Wilson Junior High School when he was in ninth grade. From there he went to Central High School, playing both sports in his junior and senior seasons.

After graduating from Central in 1940, Schultz enrolled in Hamline University, which was only about a mile from his home. Despite being a small college, Hamline was establishing a national reputation for its basketball team under coach Joe Hutton. Schultz played basketball but not baseball for the Hamline Pipers. However, he was well known for his baseball skills.

In the summer of 1940, after finishing high school, Schultz played for the St. Bernard's baseball team. Lou McKenna, who was the general manager of the St. Paul Saints, remembered Schultz and asked him if he would be interested in playing in the Northern League following his first year at Hamline.

The Northern League was a Class C organization with teams in Minnesota and some of the surrounding states and provinces. Schultz and several other St. Paul players, including some of his St. Bernard's teammates, played for the Grand Forks Chiefs in 1941.

The Chiefs, managed by Larry Bettencourt, who also led the league in batting average and runs batted in, finished second to the Wausau Lumberjacks, who had the league's top pitcher in Hugh Orphan. "He was the toughest pitcher I ever faced in any league," said Schultz of Orphan. "He threw like Ewell Blackwell [known for his sidearm delivery] with exceptional control. His curve ball broke up, his fastball sunk." Schultz doesn't recall getting a hit off Orphan and most often striking out against him.

In Schultz's sophomore season at Hamline, the Pipers won the National Association of Intercollegiate Basketball (NAIB) title, the first of three small-college championships the team won under Hutton.

The United States had entered World War II by this time. Schultz had a late draft number and didn't get his call until the summer of 1942. However, Schultz was deferred from military service because of his height. He played again for Grand Forks, the only returning player from the 1941 team.

The Chiefs were horrendous in 1942. Managed by Bruno Haas, a former star for the St. Paul Saints who also played for the Chiefs at the age of 51, Grand Forks finished with a won-lost record of 31-84, 461/2 games out of first place. Fortunately, for Schultz, he did not have to spend the entire summer in Grand Forks. The St. Paul Saints purchased his contract in August, and he finished the 1942 season in the American Association.

Schultz played his junior season of basketball during the winter of 1942-43 and then left school to go to spring training with the Saints. "My dad said, 'I hate to see you leave school, but if you're going to have an opportunity, you might really have it now because of the elimination of so many guys going into the service.' Obviously, he was right."

Schultz did well with the Saints in 1943 and was seen by Brooklyn Dodgers president-general manager Branch Rickey during a game in Louisville in August. A few days later, as the Saints were completing a series in Toledo, the Dodgers acquired Schultz from St. Paul for $40,000 and four players-pitchers Rube Melton and Ed Spaulding and infielders Joe Orengo and Jack Bolling. (The following season, the Dodgers developed a working agreement with St. Paul and eventually purchased the team, but the Schultz deal occurred when the Saints were still an independent team.)

"This is not an ordinary deal," said Rickey at the time. "It is a big deal involving a lot of money. Schultz is a fast runner and has power at the plate. He is also a strong thrower."

Schultz became the regular first baseman for the Dodgers, who were managed by Leo Durocher. He was placed in the starting lineup upon his arrival and made his debut at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn in a twilight game against the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday, August 16. Facing Mort Cooper, Schultz lined out to third-baseman Whitey Kurowski his first time up. When he came up in the fifth, with the Dodgers trailing, 1-0, Gene Hermanski was on first with a one-out walk. Schultz singled to left-center, and Bobby Bragan, Whit Wyatt, Frenchy Bordagaray, and Arky Vaughan followed with hits to put the Dodgers ahead, 4-1. The next inning, Schultz capped a two-run rally with a run scoring double off the left-field fence. "First Sacker Wins Fans" was one of the sub-headlines in the New York Times the next morning. In the game story, Roscoe McGowen wrote, "Howard Schultz, 21 years old and tallest first baseman in captivity, who was bought from the St. Paul club Sunday morning and arrived in Brooklyn from Toledo, was almost a one-man riot in his Ebbets Field debut. . . . The crowd of 8,307 took to Schultz, 6 feet 61/2 inches tall, while Rickey, who watched from the old press box, smiled expansively."

In 45 games with Brooklyn in 1943, Schultz had a .269 batting average with 34 runs batted in. His only home run with the Dodgers during the season came on August 22, at Ebbets Field off Xavier Rescigno of Pittsburgh.

Schultz returned to Hamline in the fall of 1943 and continued with his studies. He originally majored in business and economics but switched to social studies when he decided to go into teaching. He did not play basketball for Hamline that winter and went to the Dodgers' spring-training camp in Bear Mountain, New York, in mid-March of 1944.

After playing in 138 games for Brooklyn and hitting 11 home runs in 1944, Schultz was back at Hamline for his fifth year of college and his fourth and final season of basketball. His amateur eligibility became an issue as the Pipers prepared to play City College of New York (CCNY) at Madison Square Garden in New York as part of a college doubleheader. The rules of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, in which Hamline played, allowed a player to compete in a sport while playing another sport professionally. However, CCNY coach Nat Holman expressed concerns about the situation along with fears that his players could be "contaminated" by playing in a game featuring an ineligible player.

Schultz thinks Holman's concerns may have been a ploy to keep Schultz out of the Hamline lineup. "He had no idea what kind of team we had-a small college from Minnesota." On Thursday, December 21, a week before the CCNY game, the Hamline Pipers defeated the Harlem Globetrotters in a game in Rochester, Minnesota. Although missing some of their players, the Globetrotters were one of the top teams in the country in the 1940s and often competed in the World Professional Basketball Championships, an invitational tournament sponsored annually by the Chicago Herald-American newspaper. Schultz had 12 points in the 46-31 win over the Globetrotters. Schultz said Holman then realized "he had bit more than he had anticipated. So he made a big issue of it."

The day before the game, Holman received permission from the Amateur Athletic Union for his team to play against Hamline. Schultz scored 11 points and the Pipers beat CCNY, 47-42. A few weeks later, Hamline twice played DePaul, which had George Mikan as its center. The first game was played before a crowd of 15,752 at Chicago Stadium on Saturday, January 20. Schultz had 13 points for Hamline and was the focus of a key goaltending call in the second half, giving DePaul a field goal that put the Blue Demons ahead, 30-29. Coach Joe Hutton received a technical foul for protesting the call, and Mikan made the free throw he was awarded as a result. Hamline then did not score for the next eight-and-a-half minutes as DePaul opened up a 10-point lead. Schultz and teammates Rollie Seltz, Ken Merritt, and Pat Geraghty sank free throws and field goals to get the Pipers within three points, but the Blue Demons held on for a 45-41 win. Mikan fouled out with 26 points, one point short of the Chicago Stadium record at that time.

Schultz says because of the large crowd in Chicago, Hutton and DePaul coach Ray Meyer got together after the game and scheduled a rematch. Four days later, before nearly 7,500 fans at the St. Paul Auditorium, DePaul won again, 49-40. Schultz was the game's high scorer with 21 points. Mikan had 17 points for DePaul.

During his final year at Hamline, Schultz's draft status changed. He recalls the mood of the country during the Battle of the Bulge in December of 1944 and resentment toward professional athletes not being in the service. "Virtually all of us were reclassified 1-A," he said. "I got my notice of reclassification right at the end of my first semester [late January of 1945]. I went to the draft board and asked when I would be called."

Schultz was informed that he probably wouldn't be called until at least April but that he wasn't to leave town. Unable to go to spring training with the Dodgers, Schultz called Rickey and informed him of the situation. Rickey optioned Schultz to St. Paul, and Schultz played home games with the Saints (as well as games the team played at Minneapolis). He graduated from Hamline and following his commencement in early June, Schultz went back to the draft board to inquire about his status and was told that his papers had been recalled and that he was free to do whatever he wanted.

Schultz was called back up by the Dodgers, but after two weeks with Brooklyn, he got a telegram to report to Fort Snelling in Minneapolis for a pre-induction physical. When he was measured at more than 78 inches at his physical, he was classified as 4-F (ineligible) again. "I went back to Brooklyn, didn't do very much, and around the middle of August, Rickey optioned me to Montreal [the Dodgers' other top farm team, in the International League]."

With the war over, Schultz was able to go to spring training with the Dodgers in 1946 and spent the entire season with Brooklyn. A right-handed hitter, Schultz played primarily against left-handed pitching with Ed Stevens playing against right-handers.

The Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals finished the regular season in a first-place tie, necessitating the first tiebreaker playoff series in major league history. The first game of the playoff was in St. Louis, and the Cardinals had lefthander Howie Pollet on the mound. Schultz came up in the third inning with the Dodgers trailing, 1-0, and hit a home run to tie the game, the first home run hit in a tie-breaker playoff game. St. Louis retook the lead, but Schultz cut the gap to one run with a run-scoring single in the seventh. The Cardinals held on, however, for a 4-2 win.

The playoff series shifted to Brooklyn, and Schultz was on the bench as right-hander Murry Dickson pitched for St. Louis. The Cardinals took a 7-1 lead into the last of the ninth, but Brooklyn rallied. The Dodgers had two runs in and two on with one out when lefthander Harry Brecheen relieved Dickson. Brecheen gave up a run-scoring single to Bruce Edwards to make the score 7-4 and walked pinch-hitter Cookie Lavagetto to load the bases and bring the go-ahead run to the plate. Brecheen then struck out Eddie Stanky on a full count for the second out. Durocher sent up Schultz to hit for left-fielder Dick Whitman and once again the count went to 3-and-2. Brecheen then threw a change up, and Schultz swung and missed to end the game and the season for the Dodgers.

The 1946 season also marked the end of the color barrier that had been in effect in organized baseball for nearly 60 years. One of the Dodgers' AAA farm clubs, the Montreal Royals, had three black players during the season. Two were pitchers, John Wright and Roy Partlow, who were sent down to Trois Rivieres in the Class C Canadian-American League during the season. The other, second baseman Jackie Robinson, would be heading in the other direction on the organizational ladder, as he was the man designated by Rickey to integrate major league baseball. Schultz recalls playing in a couple of exhibition games against Robinson and Montreal in Daytona Beach that spring.

Schultz got to know Robinson better in 1947 as the Dodgers moved their training camp to Havana, Cuba. Robinson was still on the Montreal roster, but it was clear what the Dodgers had in mind for him.

Schultz arrived late for spring training because he was playing professional basketball, for the Anderson (Indiana) Packers of the National Basketball League in the off-season. On the plane from Miami to Havana with Schultz was Brooklyn scout Clyde Sukeforth, who had scouted Robinson with the Kansas City Royals of the Negro American League and was now handling the negotiations regarding Robinson. Sukeforth told Schultz that Robinson would be brought up by the Dodgers and that, because the team had Stanky at second, would be playing first base.

It wasn't until Thursday, April 10, after the teams had come north, that Brooklyn purchased Robinson from Montreal. Five days later, in the Dodgers' regular-season opener, Robinson was in the starting lineup as Brooklyn's first baseman. Schultz entered the game as a defensive replacement and didn't play again for nearly a month. He pinch hit in a May 9 game in Philadelphia and after the game was sold for the Phillies for a reported price of $50,000.

The team Schultz joined is remembered for its abusiveness toward Robinson. "It was embarrassing," said Schultz. Of Philadelphia Phillies manager Ben Chapman, possibly the worst of the bunch, Schultz shook his head and said sadly, "He was still fighting the Civil War. He was just very unhappy with the situation. He just didn't feel that blacks should be there. There were enough guys on that team from the south who jumped on the bandwagon."

"I was playing first [for the Phillies in a game against the Dodgers] and Jack got on. The abuse was almost continuous. And I said, 'Jack, how can you handle this crap?' And he said, 'Oh, I'll have my day.' That's all he said. And, of course, he did."

Schultz played in 114 games for the Phillies in 1947 and decided not to play in 1948. However, the Phillies lured him back. Because he was playing basketball again, Schultz missed spring training. As a result, Shultz says, "I couldn't hit a balloon." Philadelphia put Schultz on waivers, and the Cincinnati Reds claimed him.

Ted Kluszewski, a muscular left-handed-hitting first baseman, was in his first full year with the Reds, and initially Schultz and Kluszewski were platooned at that position. After Schultz got hurt, having his wrist sliced open when he was spiked at first, Kluszewski began playing regularly. Schultz played his final major league game on September 8, 1948. He then refused an assignment to the minor leagues, ending his professional baseball career. (His final home run had come on June 13 of that season, off Boston's Warren Spahn.)

Schultz continued to play pro basketball in the winter, earning more money than he had in baseball. However, the wear of two sports took its toll on him. "I was not built to sustain a long [baseball] season," Schultz said. "I got weak. I always felt that if I hadn't played basketball the year before and just stuck to baseball, I could have hit my .250, .260. I had too big a strike zone, and I didn't have the quick wrists."

"I was probably at the top level a better basketball player than I was a baseball player. I could compete with anybody at that time, including Mikan [who joined the Minneapolis Lakers in 1947], Arnie Risen [center for the Rochester Royals, now in the Basketball Hall of Fame], any of the top centers that were playing in the league at that time. I couldn't compete with Mikan every day, but we went up there and beat Minneapolis." The game Schultz was referring to was on December 17, 1947, when Anderson beat the Lakers in the Minneapolis Auditorium, 57-54. Schultz points out that many of the Anderson players were from small colleges, including Rollie Seltz, a teammate of Schultz's at Hamline. The Packers also had Price Brookfield from West Texas State, David "Boag" Johnson from Huntington College, and Charley Shipp from Catholic College. The Lakers were stocked with players from larger colleges; in addition to Mikan from DePaul, they had Jim Pollard from Stanford University, Herm Schaefer from Indiana, and several players from the University of Minnesota, including Tony Jaros and Don "Swede" Carlson.

The Anderson Packers, sponsored by the Duffey Packing Company, were members of the National Basketball League until this league merged with the Basketball Association of American to create the National Basketball Association (NBA) for the 1949-50 season. This was Schultz's fourth year with the Packers. Murray Mendenhall, who had coached Anderson, left to become coach of the Fort Wayne Pistons, and Packers owner Ike Duffey named Schultz to succeed Mendenhall as coach, a job he held while continuing to play. He found the dual roles of player and coach to be a difficult situation. At mid-season, Schultz was traded to Fort Wayne, where he was reunited with Mendenhall and went back to playing only. (His NBA coaching record was 21-14 for a winning percentage of .600.)

During this season, Schultz and his wife, Gloria, had Becky, their second child. With a growing family, Schultz wanted to get settled in St. Paul, so he decided not to return to Fort Wayne in the fall of 1950. Instead, he got a chance to play and coach closer to home. A new league, the National Professional Basketball League, was formed and included four teams-Sheboygan, Waterloo, Denver, and Anderson - teams that had been dropped by the NBA. Schultz was chosen to coach and play for the St. Paul Lights, another team in the league. However, the Lights folded on December 20 less than two months into the season.

The next year, Schultz found another local team to play for, the Minneapolis Lakers. In their first three years of existence, the Lakers had won titles in the National Basketball League, Basketball Association of America, and National Basketball Association. After being knocked out of the playoffs in 1951, the Lakers came back to win three more NBA titles in a row. Schultz spent the entire season with the Lakers in 1951-52 and played during the 1952-53 season before being released on February 8.

While this ended his career in professional sports, Shultz was still playing semi-professional baseball in Minnesota. In 1949, he worked out with a team in Excelsior that was coached by Rollie Seltz. State rules prohibited him from playing for at least one season after his major-league career had ended, so in 1950 he joined the Willmar Rails, a town team located approximately 100 miles west of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Schultz played for several town teams during the 1950's. He was drafted by a team in Litchfield for the 1951 state tournament. Dick Siebert, by this time the head coach of the Minnesota Gophers, was Litchfield's player-coach. Helped by Schultz, the team won the state championship.

Schultz played on another state championship team with Willmar in 1952. Two years later, he joined Faribault, which is approximately 50 miles south of the Twin Cities, in the Southern Minnesota League. The Southern "Minny" had been one of the top leagues in the state for many years, notable for the number of former major leaguers in its ranks. By the mid 1950s, however, it was going into a period of decline, along with most of the other amateur/semi-pro leagues. "My third year in the Southern Minny [1957], it kind of fell apart," said Schultz. "In the last two weeks of the season, we were told that the team was out of money."

Schultz didn't plan on playing baseball again, but he got recruited to play on teams in 1958 and 1959 in LeSueur and St. Paul Park, respectively. LeSueur, 60 miles southwest of St. Paul, was the home of Schultz's in-laws, whom the family visited almost every week, making it convenient to also play baseball for the team once a week. St. Paul Park is a St. Paul suburb, a short jaunt from the Schultz home on Lexington Parkway in St. Paul, not far from where Schultz had grown up on Edmund Avenue.

Schultz had begun teaching in the fall of 1954, first at St. Paul's Mechanic Arts High School, where he also coached baseball and basketball. In 1965, he succeeded Joe Hutton as Hamline's basketball coach. He also coached baseball and taught physical education and coaching theory at Hamline. The Pipers, who had been struggling under Hutton, continued to struggle with Schultz. In 1972, after a 71-128 record with the Hamline Pipers, Schultz went back to the St. Paul school system, coaching basketball at Murray High School and, after Murray became a junior high school, at Como High School

In 1988, he and Gloria, married in 1945, moved to a townhome overlooking a golf course in Stillwater, Minnesota, a river town about 20 miles from St. Paul. The Schultz's spend their winters on a golf course in Naples, Florida.

Howie and Gloria Schultz have two children: Howard, Jr., also known as Skip, born January 10, 1949, and Becky, born January 12, 1950.
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