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Oldest MLB player turns 100: room with Yogi Berra, thwarted Ted Williams



Oldest MLB player turns 100: room with Yogi Berra, thwarted Ted Williams

SONOMA, Calif. – There were no radar guns in Art Schallock’s day, and even if there were, the soft-throwing southpaw knows he would have barely registered a beep. At 6 feet tall and weighing 155 pounds, the New York Yankees pitcher got by on guile.

“I was sneaky,” Schallock said Monday.

But now, om terribly Finally, the crafty southpaw is on the verge of reaching triple figures. Schallock turns 100 this month, a milestone day for the oldest living former Major League Baseball player.

And here at this senior center, where Schallock is the celebrity, they’re about to throw the party of his century. “Oh, it’s the big buzz,” said Wendy Cornejo, the executive director of the Cogir on Napa Road. “It’s all about Artie’s party.”

Schallock was born on April 25, 1924. Elsewhere that day, Babe Ruth hit a three-run home run against the Red Sox, while Wally Pipp played first base (Lou Gehrig’s epic Iron Man streak had yet to begin). In Philadelphia, “The Big Train” Walter Johnson lost a 2-1 decision to the Athletics.

Thus began Schallock’s lifelong connections with the baseball gods. When he was called up for his Major League debut on July 16, 1951, the Yankees made room on the roster by selecting a disappointing rookie named Mickey Mantle from Triple-A Kansas City. They joked for years about the absurdity of that transaction. And Mantle exacted his playful revenge, in 1955, when Schallock was with the Orioles, by hitting a home run that had yet to fall. The Mick smiled around the bases. “Jeez, he could hit that ball,” Schallock said.

Art Schallock pitched in the Majors from 1951 to 1955, enough time to play against three World Series champions for the Yankees. (National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum):

Schallock’s first roommate on the road? The Yankees paired him with Yogi Berra and counted on the veteran catcher to share some wisdom with the rookie on how to attack hitters in the league. Schallock still marvels at how Berra knew the weaknesses of every American League hitter, as well as those who had none. “Every now and then he would meet someone and say, ‘Hold them to one,’” Schallock said with a laugh.

Berra also got something out of the clutch.

“Yeah, when I got to his room I had to run down to the lobby early in the morning to get him funny papers,” Schallock said, laughing again. “Damn, I didn’t know anything about comic books, but he said, ‘Go down and get half a dozen comic books.'”

With Schallock, just like with some trees, you can calculate the age by counting the rings. He helped the Yankees win three consecutive World Series, starting with his rookie season of 1951. For this interview, the facility decorated the walls of a conference room with photos from his Yankees days. At his side were the commemorative bats of the World Series winners, and at one point he studied the names engraved on the 1953 model and began reading royalty-like roll calls.

“Whitey Ford… Vic Raschi… Phil Rizzuto… Casey Stengel, oh, he was a great manager,” Schallock said. “He was a smart kid when it came to baseball. Half the time he was sleeping on the couch and Frank Crosetti was running the ball club.”

The golden names just keep coming. Although Schallock made only 58 appearances while shuttling between the big club and Triple-A from 1951 to 1955, he had plenty of time to play alongside eight Hall of Fame teammates: Berra, Mantle, Rizzuto, Ford, Joe DiMaggio, Johnny Mize and Enos Slaughter. with the Yankees; and rookie third baseman Brooks Robinson with the Orioles.

On the hill, Schallock faced fourteen future Cooperstown residents. Let the record reflect that Ted Williams went 0-for-2 against him.

“I threw fastballs at him, but never as a strike ball. He would kill me!” Schallock said. “I changed the speed with him. But he did hit the first baseman once. Ripped the glove right off his hand. He picked it up and threw him out.”

Schallock’s voice is powerful and his memories are vivid, as even his bygone minor-league stories pass fact-checking. But aside from that and his sense of humor, not all of his health is so robust. ‘I can not see it. I can not hear. I’m falling apart!” he cracked.

Schallock took over the distinction of oldest living baseball player when the aptly named George Elder passed away on July 7, 2022 at the age of 101. By the time of Schallock’s 100th birthday, he will be the oldest living former Major League player at 659 days.

“Is that right?” Schallock said. “Well, I’ll be damned.”

The next two players behind him are also undersized pitchers. Schallock is 131 days older than Bill Greason (a 5-10, 170-pound right-hander) and 519 days older than Bobby Shantz (5-6, 139-pound left-hander).

This has meaning for Schallock, who mentions his status when asked what makes him most proud of his baseball career. On August 15, 1951, the New York Times described him as “the little southpaw from the Coast” in a story headlined “Schallock Subdues Senators, 5-3, for Series of Bombers.”

“I thought I had two strikes against me because of my size,” Schallock said Monday. “But I did it. I mean, you can’t get any higher than the Yankees, the No. 1 team in the world.”

When asked to describe his pitching repertoire, Schallock talked about his fastball and a big breaking ball “like that left-hander from the Giants.” While racking his brain for the name, it struck him that his longevity opens up a wide range of possibilities – Carl Hubbell? Johnny Antonelli? Vida Blue? Barry Zito?

“Bumgarner,” he finally said, referring to the MVP of the 2014 World Series.

There are countless wonderful ways to understand Schallock’s longevity. Also born in 1924 were iodized table salt, ready-made Band-Aids, Kleenex tissues, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and Washburn’s Gold Medal Whole Wheat Flakes (known today as Wheaties).

Baseball researcher and historian Bill Chuckwho dug up many of the statistical gems for this story, noted that Babe Ruth hit 240 home runs before Schallock was born and another 474 afterward.

Schallock’s favorite baseball player growing up was outfielder Lefty O’Doul, who last played in the Majors in 1934. O’Doul was a native of San Francisco and Schallock was born and raised about 15 miles north, in the Marin County town of Mill Valley .

O’Doul spent the latter part of his post-MLB career playing for the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League, and Schallock wanted to be just like him.

Unfortunately, the admiration was not mutual.

“When I grew up, I wanted to play with Seals,” Schallock said. “But O’Doul scouted me and said I was too small.”

Art Schallock’s milestone birthday party will be greeted with much fanfare. The CBS Evening News sends a camera crew. (Wendy Cornejo / Cogir on Napa Road)

Instead, Schallock took the byways to his unlikely career. He was a star at Tamalpais High School when he entered the draft as a senior in 1942. In 1943, he was drafted into the Navy and his baseball career was put on hold while he served as a radio operator in the U.S. Navy. the USS Coral Sea during World War II.

Schallock was discharged in 1946 after receiving 11 battle stars. Not long after returning home, he went on a blind date with a woman named Dona Bernard. Things seemed to go well. They were married for 76 years until Dona passed away last year at the age of 97.

She died on Art’s 99th birthday. They had two children and five grandchildren.

“They were great together. A true lifelong love,” Zach Pascoe, one of the grandchildren, wrote in an email. “They were best friends. They really enjoyed being in each other’s company, and as partners they were even stronger. They complemented each other perfectly. They knew when to give each other space and when to be there for each other.”

The Dodgers signed Schallock in 1946, and his career of rubbing elbows with legends was underway. His first manager at Class-A Pueblo (Col.) in 1947 was Walter Alston.

In 1948, he made his debut with the Triple-A Montreal Royals, relieving the great Don Newcombe at the age of 21 on a team that also included Duke Snider. That team’s first baseman was Chuck Connors, who later made a name for himself. as the star of the “Rifleman” television franchise.

Perhaps that introduction to a future actor prepared him for a life for the Hollywood Stars, where Schallock starred in 1949. That team’s famous shareholders included Cecil B. DeMille, Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck.

The fans were famous too.

“Well, every host family had Groucho Marx there,” Schallock recalled. “He had a box on the back of home plate. There were six seats, but he would only fill one. … He was a decent guy.”

Dona cherished this time of their lives. “My wife loved Hollywood, all the movie stars,” Schallock said.

She was less enthusiastic about the pecking order of the baseball universe at the time. So Dona had a curious reaction when Hollywood Stars manager Fred Haney called her from the stands midway through a game in July 1951 to tell her that Art had just been traded to the New York Yankees.

“And my wife said, ‘Who the hell are the New York Yankees?’” Schallock said. ‘Fred Haney almost fell off the chair laughing.’

Schallock experienced his highlights in the major leagues. He pitched three complete games and amassed a career record of 6-7 with an ERA of 4.02.

Although he played for three World Series teams, he only appeared in one Fall Classic. In 1953, with the Yankees trailing late in Game 4, he pitched the final two innings and gave up one run. And as was his custom, he left with a story to tell. The first five batters he faced were Jackie Robinson, Gil Hodges, Roy Campanella, Duke Snider and Carl Furillo.

His favorite baseball memory, however, had nothing to do with the superstars in his midst.

“The highlight of my career was walking into Yankee Stadium,” he said. “I thought it was a sensation just to be on the mound.”

Schallock will have at least one more chance to tip his hat to the public, during his centenary celebration on April 25.

Staffers at Cogir on Napa Road will wear Yankees jerseys as they transform the parking lot into a mini ballpark, complete with concession stands selling popcorn and hot dogs.

Sonoma Mayor John Gurney will present Schallock with a certificate honoring his centennial status. The slightly younger players from the Sonoma High School baseball team will be in attendance. CBS Evening News sends a camera crew. There will be a live band.

“He’s just humble,” said Cornejo, the facility’s director. “And he loves baseball. It’s simply an honor to be able to celebrate a living legend.”

Schallock wasn’t the hardest thrower, but it’s now easy to see what made the zip on his fastball so special. It had a late life.

(Top photo by Art Schallock: Daniel Brown/The Athletic)