On this day in 1916, Wally Schang became the first switch hitter to hit two home runs from each side of the plate: a left sided home run in the first, and then a right sided home run in the second. His two home runs propelled the Philadelphia A’s to an extraordinary occurrence in the season of 1916 – a win.
In the bottom of the first inning batting left-handed against Yankee starter, righty Allen Russell, Schang hit a grand slam. In the bottom of the second, after a home run by center fielder Jim Brown, that was it for Russell. Russell managed just 4 outs while giving up six earned runs. The call to the bullpen was made, unusual for 1916. Entering the game was lefty pitcher Slim Love from Love Mississippi. Stepping up to the plate was now left-handed batting Wally Schang. The Love dealing was turned into home run number two of the day for Schang. Interestingly, the A’s hit two consecutive home runs in that fateful second inning (Brown and Schang).
For the record, Schang was 3 for 5 with 5 RBI’s which propelled the A’s in beating the Yankees 8-2. It was the 30th victory of the A’s that season; which brought their record to an ignominious 30 – 80. These A’s finished the season as one of the worst teams in modern baseball history, with a stellar cellar record of 36-117. It’s debatable if this A’s team was major league caliber, because, two days later A’s played minor league Ridgway, the Interstate League Champions, which the A’s lost 4-5.
This was the season’s highlight- an unfortunately few, very few, witnessed it. More people were in the dugouts than in the stands. Paid attendance was noted as being no more than 25 paying fans. A significant rain delay, media misinformation, as the local paper actually stated that the game was rained out, and local preoccupation influenced the audience to this all-time low. The US Amateur Golf Open was being held at nearby Merion, and the media sensation was a 14 -year old Georgia Golfer named Jones.
The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin of September 9th did not mention Schang by name, but noted that the:
Athletics managed to find the visiting pitchers early and late and easy. They pummeled and pounded them from one end of Shibe Park to the other, until they had piled up eight runs through the medium of fourteen hits which totaled twenty-six bases…. [Y]esterday’s play at the local field was the exhibition of battling spirit shown by the Athletics.
Wally Schang played 19 seasons playing a total of 1663 games with 1435 games logged behind the plate. For the game in question Schang was listed at the starting left fielder. He was infamously known for, on Opening Day two consecutive years-1915 and 1916, of taking a foul ball off his throwing hand and missing significant number of games.
His aggressive and determined play defied the A’s horrible performance of that time. The 1915 Reach Guide identified Schang as,
“…one of the most sensational catchers in recent years. He is a remarkably fast runner, a good hitter and a strong thrower.”
Sporting Life noted that in July of 1916, Schang going after a foul ball in the outfield sustained another injury:
… went to the hospital for repairs. In chasing a foul fly with his usual fire and vim he dashed into the bleacher wall a week ago and fractured his jaw. He will not be available for a month at least. Schang has made himself a favorite by his unswerving devotion to the team. Even though the team made the miserable record of only two victories in six series on the home stand he was in the game TRYING EVERY MINUTE.
Seeing value in his star catcher, Mack eventually traded Schang to the Red Sox for players and $60,000 cash before the Sox’s famous 1918 season. His time in Boston was short and fruitful. His OPS+ was 130, in the spirit of great Boston player moves at the end of 1920 season he was traded to the Yankees were he rejoined the Babe.
It was in World Series play that Schang distinguished himself. In the 1913 Fall Classic, the New York Times described him as,
“Wally Schang, the kid catcher of the Athletics, will go down into history as the sensation of the 1913 world’s series.”
With the Red Sox in 1918, he again had a stellar World Series both in the field and with the bat. He made a great play at the plate in Game Three, a terrific collision at the plate, a play now illegal. In the decisive Game Six he had a late inning pickoff that saved a run, hit .444 for the series, and scored the winning run.
As the Yankees catcher he hit .318, scored three runs and played in all six games 1923 World Championship. Thus, he became the first person to win three World Series titles with three different clubs.
Schang is perhaps the best fielding and hitting catcher not in the Hall of Fame. He hit .300 six times ending with a career average of .284 and OPS+ of 117. Schang has a Deadball era WAR of 47.1 in which he hit 17 home runs and 43 triples despite averaging only 104 games per year; Hall of Famer Roger Bresnahan’s WAR is 46.8. Schang is second all-time in OBP and sixth on the career stolen bases for catchers. As his SABR Bio Project author noted,
Yet despite his impressive resume, Schang never received recognition for his accomplishments, earning only 22 votes in five appearances on the Hall of Fame ballot.
Vol. 67 No. 8
Vol. 67 No. 22
Vol 66 No. 1, No. 2; No. 3 & No. 4