Strange But True: Schaefer Steals the Show

He played for several major league teams, including the Cubs, Tigers, Senators and Indians, between 1901 and 1918. He could play the infield and the outfield, and once even tried his hand at pitching. His name was Germany Schaefer, and everybody, fans and players alike, thought he was just a little crazy.

Once when Germany was playing for the Senators, he was on first base. A teammate, Clyde Milan, was on third. The score was tied with two out in the ninth. Germany decided to try a double steal. He would go for second, and if the catcher threw the ball to second, Milan could score from third and win the game. Schaefer broke for second on the pitch, but the catcher held on to the ball. Germany slid in safely, but Milan had to hold his base.

To Germany, the double steal still seemed like a good idea. But where could he go now? Not to third, because Milan was already there. The logical answer was back to first. So on the next pitch he stole first base. The catcher was too surprised to make a throw, and Germany slid in safely. Now there was a lot of confusion. How could a player steal first base? And why would he want to, anyhow, since he was on second base when he started out?

There was no rule about stealing first from second. In fact, years earlier, a player named Harry Davis had done the same thing. But such silly running had to be stopped. Soon after Schaefer’s theft, a new rule was passed that stated if a player ran the bases backward, he was automatically out.

Earlier, when he was with the Tigers, Schaefer was called to pinch-hit one day. The Tigers were behind by a run, but had one runner on base. The crowd jeered when Germany came up–he wasn’t famous as a consistent hitter. But he held up his hands for silence. The he shouted, “Ladies and gentlemen, you see before you the world’s greatest hitter. I shall now demonstrate.”

And he promptly hit a home run! Instead of circling the bases normally, he raced to first and slid in. As he got up, he imitated the caller at a racetrack, shouting, “At the quarter, Schaefer is leading by a head.” After sliding into second, he announced, “At the halfway point, it’s Schaefer ahead by a length.” When he slid into third he cried, “It’s Germany Schaefer leading by a mile!”

When he touched home, he tipped his cap and shouted, “Ladies and gentlemen, that concludes my performance for today. I sincerely trust that you enjoyed it.”

From The Giant Book of Strange But True Sports Stories by Howard Liss. Illustrations by Joe Mathieu.

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When you can walk its length, and leave no trace, you will have learned.


  1. I love getting another example of how players in the old days weren’t robots. I wish all of the soulless killjoys who throw 95 mph heat at guys for supposedly breaking the unwritten rules would learn something about how things really were.

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