- Card series: Diamond Heads '15
- City: Chicago
- Team: Cubs
- League: National League
Frank M. Schulte (1882-1949) played for his local minor league franchise, the New York State League’s Syracuse Stars, for three years before being discovered by the National League’s Chicago club, who bought his contract and brought him up at the end of the 1904 season. The team was being called the “Cubs” by sportswriters, a name that wouldn’t be official until 1907. By any name, “Wildfire” Schulte made a big impact. He was a solid-hitting outfielder who became a mainstay in West Side Park’s outfield as the Cubs won four pennants and two World Series during his long tenure. Frank must have really liked the play “Wildfire” he once saw in Mississippi: He named his racehorse after the play and would earn the sobriquet for himself by teammates who clearly appreciated his spirit.
Schulte’s above average hitting (career 115 OPS+) was reliable, but he proved particularly clutch in the post-season, where he averaged .321 across 21 World Series’ contests. Such fortuitous timing would further Schulte’s legacy in yet another remarkable achievement: his spectacular campaign of 1911 just-so-happened to coincide with the inaugural presentation of the Chalmers Award; essentially MLB’s very first MVP award, which was gifted to the “most important and useful player to the club and to the league.” The prior season, Hugh Chalmers decided to spark car sales for his automotive company by offering a new model to the players with the highest batting averages in each league. The ensuing fiasco involving Ty Cobb and Nap Lajoie prompted Chalmers to revise the award in 1911 to be gifted to the leagues’ “MVPs” and Schulte’s career year-for-the-ages couldn’t have been better timed.
Schulte’s 1911 MVP Award season:
- 154 games, 105 runs, 173 hits, 30 doubles, 21 triples, league-leading 21 HR, 107 RBI, 23 stolen bases, league-leading .534 slugging, league-leading OPS+ 156, league-leading 308 total bases
- With the performance, Schulte became the first person in MLB history to have 20 or more doubles, triples, home runs and stolen bases in the same season
- Schulte’s achievement would stand unmatched for 46 years, until Willie Mays duplicated the feat in 1957
- Schulte earned his nickname by a ferocious approach to base running that saw him steal home 22 times
- Famed shortstop Joe Tinker’s Chicago career spanned Wildfire’s and Schulte inspired Tinker to speculate that no “quainter or more original character ever existed in the National Pastime.” One eccentricity was Schulte’s penchant for scouring the sidewalks looking for hairpins, auguring success at the plate.
- Another testimony to Frank’s batting prowess was his thirteen-game hit streak during his four World Series appearances, which still ranks him fourth all-time, tied with Harry Hooper and Derek Jeter
- Schulte closed out his time in Chicago with the 1916 season. He spent the next three years with three teams and went on to play in the International League and Pacific Coast League through 1922 before retiring to live in Oakland, CA
For a brief but wonderful account of the history of the Chalmers Award, including a review of the events of 1910 surrounding the controversy between Ty Cobb & Nap Lajoie, check out this Ars Longa guest blog post by Van Nightingale: Did They Get it Right?
- This card is not included in the 100-card Diamond Heads ’15 base set.
- This card is one of the rewards you receive for completing the Ars Longa Clubhouse Challenge: Chalmers Awards Winners
- This card is exclusive to that challenge, is gifted freely to winners of the challenge, and is neither bartered nor sold otherwise by Ars Longa.
- This is one of two such Diamond Heads ’15 Clubhouse Challenge reward cards. The other is Franklin Pierce Adams.