Jumbo Schoeneck

First Base
  • Series: 1880s: Loving Paupers
  • City: Chicago
  • Team: Maroons
  • League: Western Association

Lewis N. Schoeneck (1862-1930) came by his nickname honestly, standing 6'2” and 223 lbs, a true Gargantua in his day. Despite his size and presumed strength, Schoeneck proved better suited to the minors than the big leagues. His decade in pro ball was mostly in those smaller circuits and, apart from his season with the Union Association in which he played for two clubs and saw pitching a decided cut below true major league caliber, his batting average was consistently much higher in the minors. This is, of course, not unique by any means and the big first baseman was able to perform very well for most of the franchises he played for. Thanks to the renegade UA that siphoned off a lot of upper-tier minor league talent to make its attack on National League dominance in 1884, many of its players enjoyed one sunny season hitting well above their pay grade. Jumbo, for example, was in the top ten in the league in many offensive categories, including BA, OBP and Slugging Percentage. Since his only other major league time came four years later with the Indianapolis Hoosiers of the NL, his summer of love with the Pittsburgh Stogies and Baltimore Monumentals (never mentioned in connection with baseball greatness) enabled Schoeneck to “retire” with a career major league batting average of .283. Not a bad accomplishment to tell the grandkids.

  • During his first of two seasons with the Hoosiers in 1888, Jumbo was summoned to relieve in two games. He hurled 4.1 innings, surrendering five hits and four runs without a decision. All of the runs were unearned giving him a phenomenal career ERA
  • Neither of Jumbo's UA clubs performed too badly, but all of the league's other teams were crushed by the St. Louis Maroons who made mincemeat of the competition. The lop-sidedness of the runaway Maroon steamroller played a large part in demoralizing the fans and leading to the league's demise after that storied '84 campaign. St. Louis was a big winner in another, more important way. Their achievement led to the franchise graduating to the NL in 1885 where they became cellar-dwellers

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John Shaw

Shortstop
  • Series: 1880s: Loving Paupers
  • City: Minneapolis
  • Team: Millers
  • League: Western Association

John Shaw made his mark in 19th century baseball via his six-photo spread in the Old Judge catalog when he was pictured in his Minneapolis Millers uniform in 1887/88. John had been the regular shortstop for the Millers in ‘87, but as the next campaign began he was shuttled down to New Orleans in what was described by The Sporting News as a cost-saving move by Minneapolis management. Shaw was said to be “a rattling good hitter and a fine base runner.” Yet, the News speculated he was let go because he was a “high priced man whom the club did not want.” The team had signed future major leaguer Joe Walsh to play short and Shaw was expendable. John had begun in 1884 with the Boston Reserves of the Massachusetts State Association and knocked around New England with Portland, Brockton, Newburyport and back to Boston’s Blues in 1886. Shaw’s move to the Twin Cities allowed him to post his career year in ‘87. He hit .292, playing every day at shortstop. The forced move south didn’t sit well with poor Shaw. He joined the Pelicans for the 1888 season and found himself mired in a slump that left him with a pitiful .143 average in a mere four games. The spotty minor league data of the era show only that Shaw finished the ‘88 season with Easton of the Central League with no stats available.

  • The Sporting News coverage of Shaw’s move to the Crescent City gives a glimpse into the day-to-day updates available for fans of the era. The reporter noted that “Advance money and a ticket was sent Shaw this morning and he will come south at once.”
  • One is left to surmise that John had to pay his own way to Pennsylvania for the ignominious conclusion to his tenure in pro ball

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Lev Shreve

Pitcher
  • Series: 1880s: Loving Paupers
  • City: Indianapolis
  • Team: Hoosiers (NL)
  • League: National League

Leven Lawrence Shreve (1869-1942) had a spotty experience in the major leagues beginning with the Baltimore Orioles in 1887, moving to the Indianapolis Hoosiers that year and staying there until 1889. His total pitching record was 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA. Shreve was a slight 150 lb right-hander. He had played for two minor-league clubs in ‘86: Savannah and Chattanooga in the Southern Association where he was a combined 12-9. He was said to have played for some midwestern teams that year but no data survives, so he may not have made the squads. Following the Hoosiers, Lev did get to play briefly in the Twin Cities and ended his stint in pro ball with the Rochester Hop Bitters of the Eastern Association in 1891.

  • Shreve mustered only four hits with the Orioles, but got three of them during his debut. Despite being shelled, his bat helped him win 15-9

 

 

 

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Pete Sommers

Catcher
  • Series: 1880s: Loving Paupers
  • City: Chicago
  • Team: White Stockings
  • League: National League

Joseph Andrews Sommers (1866-1908) was a catcher in the days when the position exacted a heavy toll on its players. Perhaps this accounts for why Pete could last four seasons in the majors despite having no discernible skills in the batter’s box. He hit .181 his rookie year in the lesser circuit of the day, the American Association. He debuted with the New York Metropolitans, a struggling club under Dave Orr’s direction in 1887. Sommers got into a mere 33 games, but did contribute a dozen RBI. The following year Pete moved to the National League where he would remain during his major league tenure with Boston’s Beaneaters, the Chicago White Stockings, Indianapolis Hoosiers, New York Giants and Cleveland Spiders. He split the ‘89 season between Chicago and Indianapolis and was in NY and Cleveland for his final turn in 1890. Overall Sommers managed to hit a combined .198 in these four years. Nevertheless, the risks of being the backstop in the days before modern protective gear were such that a high batting average was hardly necessary to fill in at catcher and Sommers got to be part of some of the noteworthy teams of the decade. His MLB experience was less than half of Pete’s pro career. He had started out with Cleveland’s Forest Cities in the Western League in 1885 and saw limited service as late as 1896 with the Quincy, IL Ravens.

  • In ‘92 Pete was a regular with the Terre Haute Hottentots (a simpler time!) of the Illinois-Iowa League where he hit .250
  • During his season in the Big Apple, Sommers proved to be a sturdy oak behind the plate. News reports described a collision with Orr that left the player/manager out cold and missing two teeth. Apparently, Sommers and first-baseman Orr were trying for the same pop-up. Unknown if Pete held onto the ball

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Pete Sweeney

Third Base
  • Series: 1880s: Loving Paupers
  • City: Washington, D.C.
  • Team: Nationals
  • League: National League

Peter Jay Sweeney (1863-1901) played infield and outfield on the west coast beginning at the tender age of 15 with two San Francisco clubs. He moved across the bay to Oakland in 1881, then came back to Baghdad by the Bay with the SF Haverlys in 1884-85. At age 24, Pete got his big chance, joining the Washington Nationals in '88. He returned to D.C. the following season and was moved to the St. Louis Browns later in '89. They demoted him briefly to the St. Paul Apostles, but brought Sweeney back in 1890 before trading him to the Philadelphia Athletics who sent him later the same season to the Louisville Colonels. His major league tenure ended in Louisville with Pete seeing action for four clubs in a mere three years. He was far from finished with baseball, however. Sweeney had a coast-to-coast season in 1891, playing back home for Oakland and finishing the year with the Rochester Hop Bitters in the Eastern Association. Thereafter, this wanderer would roam from California League teams to the east coast and even a season with the Nashville Tigers of the Southern League. Having begun in 1879, this lifer didn't hang 'em up until concluding the 1897 campaign with the Sunbury Pirates of the Central Pennsylvania League. There was a reason he spent most of his time in the minors: he couldn't hit big league pitching. Pete's average for his four MLB clubs was a paltry .209. Yet, he could thrive in the lower levels of the game. When he left the big leagues for Rochester, Sweeney led the Eastern Association in home runs.

  • Not a lot of native Californians got to play in the majors in the nineteenth century, but while playing for the San Francisco Knickerbockers in 1879, Sweeney did play alongside one early luminary: The Only Nolan. A pitcher, perhaps from Canada, Edward Nolan sported one of the great appellations in the game
  • Only one teammate from the Haverlys made it to the majors: John Smith. He had a cup of coffee in 1882 with the Troy Trojans and Worcester Ruby Legs, then of the National League

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