View Full Version : The Germany Schaefer Rule

03-31-2007, 12:44 PM
A friend of mine sent this to me and I thought it was an interesting tidbit on how some of the rules of the game were put in place.

"When he was playing for Washington early in the 20th century, Germany Schaefer was on first base and a team mate was on third. Schaefer broke for second, hoping to draw a trow from the catcher so his teammate could race home. However the catcher made no throw. So Schaefer decided to start over.

He stole first base.

The catcher made no throw.

There was quite a bit of screaming, but a check of the rule book showed that Schaefer's backwards theft was not illegal as the rules were drawn up at that time. When play resumed, Schaefer stole second base again. This time the catcher threw-- too late--and Schaefer's teammate scored from third. Later the rules were amended to state that if a player ran the bases backward, he was automatically out.

Schaefer sometimes ran the bases forward in an unusual manner too, Once he hit a home run and proceeded to slide into each base as he circled the bases."

Imagine how many steals some of the speedy guys today could rack up had that not been put in place. I had always assumed something like that would have been in the rules from the start.

03-31-2007, 01:07 PM
Good post and interesting story. If that were legal now, I don't think it would ever happen, but I could see it in the mid 1900's.

03-31-2007, 01:55 PM
The Deadball group at SABR covered this in an exchange a while back

Here are a couple of quotes

Harry Davis of the Athletics was the first to do it August 13, 1902; Fred Tenney and Schaefer both did it in 1908."

"In the 6th inning of a game with the Tigers, Harry Davis of the A's attempts a double steal with Dave Fultz, who is on 3B. But Davis does not draw a throw as he goes into 2B. On the next pitch he 'steals' 1B.

The next time he steals 2B he does draw a throw and Fultz scores from 3B..." (baseballlibrary.com)

Los Angeles Times, Feb. 12, 1947, "Sportraits" by Al Wolf includes catchline:

"Ty Cobb tells a goodie" about the Schaefer steal. Cobb is quoted as saying the teams were Detroit & Cleveland. Does not name the runner on third.

The January 25, 1940 edition of TSN mentions that the current issue of the Saturday Evening Post included the saga of Germany Schaefer. The TSN article mentions a few of Schaefer's stunts, but does not mention stealing first. Perhaps the SEP article did?

Bob has asked if anyone has rigorously examined the legend of Germany Schaefer stealing first base. The topic has appeared on SABR-L a couple of times.

September 4, 1908 is often cited as a date in which Schaefer pulled the trick with Davy Jones on third base against Cleveland. However, as Lyle Spatz noted in May 2000, Schaefer's club (Detroit) was playing St. Louis that day. They had played Cleveland the previous four days. [It was actually a games series beginning Aug 30.] Lyle found that Schaefer preceded Jones in the lineup on three of those dates & Jones didn't play in the fourth

Ted Turocy noted that he found a case of Schaefer taking first on August 4, 1911 in the first game of a double-header against Washington. In the bottom of the 9th with Clyde Milan on 3rd & 2 outs, Schaefer took first with Milan retired for the third out. Ted didn't have the source in front of him at the time, but he thought it was from the Chicago American.

David Horwich followed up with results of his research. In trying to substantiate the 1908 story as well as other stunts by Schaefer, David noted
he went through every issue of the Sporting News during Schaefer's career & found no mention of the incident. He did find the 1911 play in the 8/10/11 issue of TSN. In that piece, it is stated the Schaefer walked back to first base with the White Sox making no play on him. The White Sox protested that Schaefer should be out and "from something said by one of the umpires, the Sox gathered that Schaefer could be put out while standing on first base, and went after him." Schaefer started for second. Milan broke for home & was thrown out at the plate for the third out.

The Senators then objected, because the play took place while White Sox manager Hugh Duffy was on the field. The umps said time couldn't be called, because Schaefer was technically on the base lines while on first base. The Senators protested the game, but eventually won in 11 innings.

A widely circulated date for Schaefer's theft is Sept. 4th. According to both Davery Jones (the runner on thrid) and Ty Cobb (the on deck batter) the opponent was Cleveland. The catcher was "Nig" Clarke. However, SABR researchers have determined that the Tigers opponent on that date was the A's.

The Tigers had just concluded a series with Cleveland, but no one has found a report of the theft in that series.

There are too many similarities in the tale told by Jones and Cobb to think that it never happened. But tieing this event to a specific date and verified newspaper account is a major challenge.

I'm really baffled about how certain you are about Schaefer "stealing first not only once but two other times and that you say it's true because you looked it up. Unless you are willing to believe that such a stunt would not be reported in any newpaper accounts of the games in question, How were you convinced?

I can tell you that nothing was mentioned in the Detroit News coverage of the game of Sept 4, 1908 which was in fact played against St Louis, not Cleveland.

Can you produce newspaper accounts of these games that mention the bizarre stunt?

Like everyone else I would like to believe these tales but until some solid proof (besides long after the fact recollections) surfaces, I feel that Germany Schaefer may be most famous for something that never happened.

Schaefer announced during WWI that he was changing his nickname to "Liberty" He had seen a sign in a store window advertising sauerkraut as "Liberty cabbage". Current events brought that story to mind recently.

03-31-2007, 03:28 PM
A friend of mine sent this to me and I thought it was an interesting tidbit on how some of the rules of the game were put in place.

Imagine how many steals some of the speedy guys today could rack up had that not been put in place. I had always assumed something like that would have been in the rules from the start.

In that story, you have to question the intelligence of the catcher! :evil:

04-01-2007, 12:08 PM
William Herman Schaefer

One of the all-time characters in basbeall history. Known for his zany stunts, Schaefer once amused fans and players when he hit a pinch-hit HR in Chicago and then slid into all four bases. Changed his nickname from 'Germany' to 'Liberty' with the onset of WWI.

JULY 3, 1906…When it begins to rain in Cleveland, Detroit Tigers’ second baseman Herman Schaefer goes to his position wearing a raincoat!