Monday, August 6, 2007
Willard Schmidt, RHP...RIP
One of the really interesting fruits on my family tree is Willard Schmidt. He is my great-uncle (my paternal grandfather's brother). I wasn't especially close to him and only met him a few times in person, but he has always been a source of pride for me as he was a major league baseball player, pitching for the Reds and Cardinals in the 1950s. When I did meet him, he always struck me as a really nice and humble fellow. He retired from baseball, settled in Oklahoma, and became a respected member of the community. When I was home in Oklahoma City a few weeks ago, I learned that Willard had passed away in March after a long illness.
My ancestors didn't come to America until the mid-1870s (which, of course, is a mild source of irritation to a Civil War enthusiast) where they settled in Kansas in villages in Ellis County, Kansas. Their heritage - of which I am extremely proud (and interested in) - as "Volga Germans" or "Germans from Russia" is well-documented and there is an active association of researchers and genealogists as part of the American Historical Society of Germans.
They were early and eager adopters of baseball as a sport after settling here, and undoubtedly it was one of the ways they assimilated into their new homeland. My grandfather (Willard's brother) played semi-pro baseball for many years; Ron Schueler - another relative - also hailed from Ellis County and was a journeyman MLB pitcher in the 70s. My brothers were also talented players. It skipped me, though.
I have always had some of Willard's baseball cards as personal treasures and knew a few things about his career, but since learning of his passing a few weeks ago and doing some research, I've learned even more, including his NL record (since tied) for being hit-by-a-pitch the most times in a single inning and a great outing against the Cubs in which he retired 20 Cubs batters before giving up a hit...that's just 4 outs short of a perfect game (they lost 4-3 that day, though).
I look forward to learning more - and even writing more - about Willard Schmidt. Till then , you can learn more about him here: