Fred Schulte helped Nats become 1933 A.L. champs

Fred Schulte played centerfield for the pennant-winning 1933 Washington Senators. His three-run homer in Game 5 of the World Series against the Giants pulled the Senators even. But New York won on a 10th-inning homer by Mel Ott that tipped off of Schulte’s glove. The victory gave the Giants the championship, four games to one.

In his 11-year MLB career, Schulte hit .291. A solid fielder, he was the regular in center for five seasons with the Browns and two with the Senators. He often was among the league leaders in assists and double plays for centerfielders, and retrospectively, twice led the league in range factor for his position.

A highly touted rookie in 1927, Schulte had been purchased from the American Association’s Milwaukee Brewers by the Browns for pitcher Claude Jonnard, third baseman Gene Robertson and infielder Bobby  LaMotte and a reported $75,000, a record at the time for a minor leaguer.[1] Schulte hit .347 in the American Association in 1926.

Fred William Schult was born on January 13, 1901, in Belvidere, Illinois, a town a few miles east of Rockford that in 1900 had just under 7,000 residents. Belvidere is in Boone County, which borders Wisconsin. His father was Charles Schult, whose parents were German immigrants. His mother was the former Frieda Brehmer, who was born in Germany.[2]  Both were Lutherans. They married in February 1900 when Frieda was 18. Frieda died shortly after giving birth to Fred.[3]

Charles Schult worked as a molder at the National Sewing Machine factory in Belvidere. He never added the “e” to his last name, which was rendered as Schult in his obituary in 1961. He remarried in 1919 and adopted his second wife’s 6-year-old daughter: Violet Schult became Fred’s step-sister. Charles and Minnie Schult had no children together.[4]

No public records or newspaper accounts shed light on who helped Charles Schult raise his infant son, but both his and his late wife’s parents lived nearby.[5] Young Fred apparently had added the “e” to his name by the time he reached adolescence. (The Schulte spelling is more common and most often pronounced with a hard “e.”)

A photo taken of Fred with a youth baseball team in May 1915 lists him in the caption as “Schulte.” The team was made up of Belvidere Daily Republican newspaper carriers between the age of 12 and 15, so Fred apparently was earning money at that age delivering papers.

Young Fred, who idolized Walter Johnson, liked to pitch in games with grade-school classmates.[6]  Schulte’s “boyhood was spent not so far from my home,” a prominent Belvidere resident recalled at an event honoring the ballplayer during his playing days. “In the box score of nearly every local game in which he participated, we observed that he showed up conspicuously.”[7]

Belvidere High School did not have a baseball team until Fred was a senior, but by then he had played on several sandlot teams, including the Tabala Temple Shrine club in nearby Rockford.[8]

Fred, who grew to 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds, played football and ran track in high school, but stood out most on the basketball court, where he led the Belvidere team to second place in the state tournament.[9] He later played for YMCA teams before progressing to the Tabala Templars and other semipro basketball teams through March 1930 before turning to officiating,[10]

In addition to playing for Belvidere High in 1919 as a senior, Schulte pitched and played the outfield for the Harvard, Illinois, American Legion post’s team in 1919 and 1920. He also played basketball for the same Legion post, about 12 miles east of Belvidere.[11]

Schulte, a right-handed thrower and batter, pitched and played the outfield for the Free Sewing Machine Co. and the Greenlee teams in the semi-pro Rockford Factory League starting in 1921. He had traveled to Cedar Rapids in 1920 in hope of a tryout with the B-level team there in the Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League, but didn’t get one. After playing for the Mattison Machine team in 1923, he was offered and was about to accept a company job that went along with his agreeing to manage the Mattison team in 1924.[12]

Clyde Curtis, a Belivdere man who played in the Three-I League and had tried to arrange the Cedar Rapids tryout for Schulte, persuaded Waterloo manager Cletus Dixon to take a look. So did Wilton Floberg, a sportswriter for a newspaper in Rockford, where Schulte also had failed to get a tryout.[13] This time, Schulte got a contract offer. After weighing his options, he began his professional career in Waterloo as an outfielder in 1924.[14]

Schulte pitched in a handful of midseason games when several of the starters fell ill at the same time, but clearly his future was as a hitter. His .368 average led Waterloo to the league championship and brought him to the attention of Milwaukee. Dixon sold Schulte to the Brewers for $1,500.[15]

Schulte appeared in two games for Milwaukee at end of 1924 and was with the American Association team again in 1925. He struggled at first, but with help from veteran outfielder and coach Bunny Brief, he managed to hit .275 in 74 games.[16]

Schulte found his stroke from the start of the 1926 season with the Brewers. During a 24-game hitting streak, he was 52-for-100 and had his average over .400 at mid-season. That attracted the attention of several big league teams.[17]

Bill Veeck Sr. tried to get him for the Cubs.[18] Washington’s Clark Griffith said he was willing to match any dollar offer for Schulte but didn’t have players he could add to the deal.[19] The Giants also had an offer ready. With the Brewers drawing well and in a pennant race past midseason, owner Otto Borchert held out until the Browns made their lucrative offer.

High expectations followed Schulte to St. Louis. By that point, he had acquired the nickname “Fritz,” common for a player of his heritage. Based on the price paid for him, some fans expected the next Ty Cobb, so Schulte’s decent numbers apparently weren’t enough.[20] Although he batted fourth in the Browns’ lineup 1928 and ’29, his power numbers were not typical for a cleanup hitter. By the middle of 1931, he most often was the team’s lead-off hitter.

Schulte hit .317 in 60 games as a rookie in 1927 as the starting centerfielder. On June 4 at Griffith Stadium, he hit his first major league home run off Johnson, who was in his final season. The solo homer beat The Big Train, 2-1.

A July 6 collision with the concrete outfield wall in St. Louis, however, left him with two broken bones in his left wrist, a broken rib and a concussion.[21] His season was over. In 1928, he drove in 85 runs with 44 doubles but just seven homers. Schulte hit .307 in 1929, but his RBI total dropped to 71 as he was out with “a case of boils”[22] for two weeks in June and missed 10 days after an outfield collision with Heine Manush on August 22.[23] He played even less in 1930, his worst season with St. Louis. He tried to come back too soon from a serious case of what was described as intestinal flu.[24]

He bounced back to hit .304 in 1931, a season in which his attitude toward the game seemed to change. The move from clean-up to lead-off in the order helped. He told a sportswriter that instead of worrying about driving in runs, he just had to try to get on base.[25] He did that enough to score a career-high 106 runs.

 In 1932, a .294 batting average combined with 71 walks produced his best full season on-base percentage: .373.  He had the only five-hit game of his career on June 4 that season: His hits included two doubles and a triple. Yet his quiet, undemonstrative, demeanor was sometimes taken for a lack of aggressiveness.[26] “If Schulte had the disposition of a Cobb,” Browns’ manager Dan Howley told a reporter, “he’d be one of the greatest outfielders of all time.”[27] 

In the off-season, Schulte continued to live in his boyhood home town. He began courting Maude Slater, who also had graduated from Belvidere High. With the Browns in Chicago during the opening week of 1928 season, Fred and Maude, 21, wed on Sunday evening, April 15, in the Belvidere home of the bride’s parents. Schulte had gone 3-for-5 with an RBI double that afternoon as St. Louis won its fourth straight. Brown’s coach (and later manager) Bill Killifer was Schulte’s best man. Browns manager Howley also attended the wedding.[28]

Fred and Maude Schulte, who worked as a bookkeeper, settled in Belvidere, where they raised three daughters: Sandra, born in 1932, Barbara in 1934 and Joyce in 1937.[29]

In January 1931, Schulte became co-owner of a bowling alley in Belvidere.[30] Throughout his playing career and well after it, he bowled on competitive teams in several leagues. He also had become an avid fisherman, making off-season trips to Wisconsin’s Long Lake.[31]  Schulte served as the manager of his bowling alley in the off-seasons through 1935. After making it through the depth of the Great Depression, he sold his interest in the winter of 1936.[32] But during World War II, he became the manager of NorBar Alleys in Belvidere, organizing and taking part in the city’s annual bowling tournament.[33]

With St. Louis, Schulte’s solid if not outstanding numbers didn’t satisfy Browns owner Phil Ball, who was short on cash. Although the Browns finished with winning records in 1928 and ’29, the team slumped badly the next three years. So in December 1932, when Washington’s Griffith offered outfielders Sam West  and Carl Reynolds and lefty starter Lloyd Brown, Ball countered by offering Schulte in addition to Goose Goslin and lefty Walter Stewart. Griffith threw in $20,000 to close the deal.

Griffith hated to part with West, a consistent hitter and highly regarded centerfielder, but Washington’s 1933 lineup was going to be top heavy with left-hand batters.[34]

 Goslin, a lefty swinger, had asked Griffith to get him back.[35] Manush (traded to the Nats in 1930), Joe Kuhel and Buddy Myer all batted left, as did Sam Rice, by now a veteran reserve. So Griffith wanted Schulte as much as he wanted Stewart to replace Brown. “I knew I was letting the better ball player [West] go, but I had to have another right-handed hitter,” Griffith said more than five years after the trade.[36] Yet in Schulte, he got what hoped for in 1933.

Spring training in 1933 took place during what was the low point of the Great Depression. In March, an estimated 15.8 million people out of civilian workforce of 51.5 million were without jobs. Major league attendance had fallen from 10.1 million in 1930 to less than 7 million in 1932, so the outlook for the 1933 season was bleak. Yet thanks to Washington’s run to the A.L. pennant, Griffith Stadium attracted 60,000 more paying customers, even as attendance in both leagues fell to a decade-low 6.1 million in 1933.  The Senators’ home attendance was second only to that of the second-place Yankees.

A 13-game winning streak in August separated Washington from New York. By mid-September, the Nats had a 10-game lead over the Yanks. The pennant winners won 99 games and finished seven games ahead. The December trade that sent Schulte to Washington was of no immediate help to the Browns, who finished last with 55 wins.  

Schulte got off to a hot start and had his average over .400 as late as May 10. Despite missing time after breaking a finger,[37] he was still hitting .330 in late July. By then the rest of the Washington lineup was picking up any slack. Schulte hit and fielded well enough that fans soon stopped lamenting the loss of West.[38]

In a potent Senators’ lineup, Schulte held his own: second in runs scored (98), fourth in RBIs (87) and hits (162, one behind Goslin). On a team with four regulars who hit .302 or higher, Schulte’s .295 was just sixth best. As a team, Washington hit a league-leading .287.

Schulte’s numbers fell off after the all-star break, when he was hitting .337 with a .406 on-base percentage. His second half average was .259 with a .329 OBP. After an ice-cold August (.191), however, Schulte hit .316 in September. So he was ready for the Senators, A.L. champs for the first time since 1925, to face the Giants in the World Series.

Although the Giants won in five games, Schulte was the offensive star for Washington. He led the Senators by hitting .333 (7-for-21) with four RBIs. He doubled in a run in Game 3. In Game 5, with two men on base in the sixth, he homered on the first pitch from Hal Schumacher to tie it at 3 -3.[39]

The game, played in Washington, remained tied after nine.  With two outs in the 10th, young slugger Ott hit a 2-2 pitch to deep center. As in the 1924 and ’25 Series, outfield depths had been reduced to increase Griffith Stadium’s capacity.  Fans were allowed behind a low barrier erected in front of the outfield walls. Schulte went back on Ott’s fly and leaped near the barrier. His glove tipped the ball, which ended up in the temporary bleachers. At first, Cy Pfirman, the second base umpire, ruled it a double, but after consulting with his colleagues, the hit was correctly ruled a home run.[40]

In the bottom of the inning, Dolf Luque allowed a two-out single to player/manager Joe Cronin and walked Schulte before striking out Kuhel to give the Giants a 4-3 win and the championship.

 Despite Washington’s defeat in World Series, Schulte was received as a conquering hero when he returned home to Belvidere. He was well-known locally as newspapers had chronicled his baseball career.

“The Washington centerfielder was greeted at the station by a 75-piece band, which headed a parade staged in his honor,” the Washington Post reported. “A banquet was held at a local country club to mark ‘Schulte Day.’”[41] 

Unlike 1932, Griffith made just one major trade in preparation for the 1934 season, swapping Goslin to the Tigers for outfielder John Stone, who took over in right and hit .315.[42] Young Cecil Travis began taking over third base from the veteran Ossie Bluege. Schulte was back in centerfield.

The veteran Senators’ lineup was hit with a series of crippling injuries, and the pitching didn’t hold up.[43] General Crowder, a 24-game winner in 1933, fell to 4-10 with a 6.75 earned run average and was waived in August.[44] Earl Whitehill went from 22 wins to14 with an ERA more than a run higher. The team ERA went from 3.82 to 4.68. Washington finished seventh, 20 games under .500.

The injury jinx didn’t hit Schulte until September, a week after Cronin had broken his arm in a collision at first base. Schulte caught a spike when sliding home in a September 11 loss and seriously injured an ankle. He had to be carried off the field and was sent to a hospital.[45] He had torn a ligament and was out for the season, immediately returning home to Belvidere.[46]

At that point , Schulte had been in 136 games was hitting an even .300, rounded up from .2996 with 157 hits in 524 at bats.[47]

So after the 1934 season, Griffith looked for pitching help – and for cash. Attendance in Washington had dropped from 437,500 to 330,000, and the Nats’ owner was saddled with a high payroll. He shockingly sold Cronin to the Red Sox, right after the young player/manager had become an in-law,[48] for a badly needed $250,000 and a mediocre replacement. Griffith then announced that Schulte and others were on the trading block.[49]     

Griffith could not get what he wanted for Schulte, but he made it clear that the younger Jake Powell would take over in 1935 as the regular in center. Schulte started just 51 games, 26 of them in right field and just 15 in center. In 265 plate appearance, his batting average fell to .265. His .354 slugging average barely eclipsed his .344 on-base percentage.

 At age 35, Schulte’s days in the A.L. ended.  On January 30, 1936, the Pirates claimed him off waivers for $8,000. In Pittsburgh, he started 52 games (50 of them in center), but slipped to a career-low batting average (.261). In late April, he was beaned and knocked unconscious, which caused him to miss time. He had some success, however, as a pinch-hitter, with seven hits and two intentional walks in 19 plate appearances.

In 1937, at age 36, Schulte started just two games all year, the second coming on October 3, the last day of the season. Pirates’ manager Pie Traynor surely knew this was Schulte last hurrah: The next day, the Pirates released him.

Schulte gave it one more try as a full-time player in 1938, closer to home with the Milwaukee Brewers. The oldest regular on the team, Schulte hit an even .300 in 124 games. Returning to the Brewers in 1939, he appeared in just 76 games, but hit.298 and doubled as a coach.[50] The team held a “Fred Schulte Day” on August 28.

In December 1939, Schulte was seeking another coaching job or a chance to try umpiring in the low minors.[51] He had umpired at a major softball tournament in Belvidere and must have enjoyed it: He was hired to umpire several years later in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.[52]

In the fall of 1940, Schulte was asked to put together and manage a team in Oshkosh to play in the Wisconsin State League. The team had no major league affiliation in 1941. The Oshkosh Braves finished last, but led the league in attendance. Schulte played in a handful of games. One of the players the manager signed was a young outfielder, Hank Bauer, but the team lost him when he enlisted in January 1942. He hadn’t been placed on its reserve list.[53]

The Giants made Oshkosh an affiliate for 1942. New York’s Bill Terry knew Schulte and recommended that he remain as manager.[54] In October, after a sixth-place finish, Schulte was fired.

The next April, Schulte signed on as a player/coach for the AA LouisviIle Colonels, but at age 42, he appeared in just two games.[55] In 1944, with the high minors struggling to fill their rosters, Schulte again took on the role of player/coach, this time with AA Indianapolis and St. Paul, playing in a total of 37 games.

In addition to running a bowling alley, Schulte spent 1945 umpiring in the Midwest -based AAGPBL and doing some scouting for the Cincinnati Reds. In 1946, he managed Wausau to a last-place finish in the Wisconsin State League. In 1947, in addition to scouting, he served as business manager for the Red’s affiliate in Rockford.[56]

In December 1952, Schulte left the Reds to join the White Sox scouting staff. Two years later, the Indians hired him. In 1960, he began scouting for the Braves, where he stayed until he retired from the game after the 1964 season.

Since 1962, the annual award for Belvidere High School’s best baseball hitter has been named for Fred Schulte. He remained active into the 1970s, recruiting players and executives to attend annual dinners held by Belvidere service organizations.

By the early 1980s, Schulte’s health began to fail. After a long illness, he died at a nursing home in Belvidere on May 20, 1983, at age 82. His body was cremated and his ashes interred at Belvidere Cemetery. His widow, Maude, lived to be 100 years old and died in December 2007.

Belvidere, proud of being known as the “City of  Murals,” unveiled one in Schulte’s honor on October 15, 2017, on the side of a building on North Main Street. His 83-year-old daughter, Barbara Anderson, attended the ceremony.[57]


[1] Billy Evans, “Jinx Rider or Major Star?” The Sporting News, February 24, 1927: 6. In later years, the amount of cash was often reported as $85,000.

[2] 1900 U.S. Census, accessed through FamilySearch.org

[3] Illinois marriage records, accessed through FamilySearch.org

[4] 1930 U.S. Census, accessed through FamilySearch.org, and Heritage Hub obituary database, accessed online: https://infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/?p=HHUB

[5]  1900 U.S. Census records accessed through FamilySearch.org

[6]  “Leaves From a Fan’s Scrapbook,” author and publication unknown, July 6, 1933, from Schulte’s player file at the Hall of Fame research center.

[7] “Big Turnout Greets Local Series Hero,” Belvidere Daily Republican, October 11, 1933: 5.

 [8] “Colorful Career of Fred Schulte Takes Him From Obscurity to Bright Niche in Sportsdom,” Belvidere Daily Republican, February 26, 1932: 6.

[9] Mike Doyle, “Fred Schulte: High school 3-sporter excelled in golden age of baseball,” Rockford Register Star, July 21, 2013: 8

[10]  “Schulte Hopes to Become Referee Next Season,” Belvidere Daily Republican, March 20, 1930: 9.

[11]  “Colorful Career of Fred Schulte….”

[12] “Colorful Career of Fred Schulte…” Although the national American Legion didn’t officially sanction a baseball program until 1926, local posts had teams before then.

[13] Henry P. Edwards, “Fred Schulte Amazed Mates By New Form,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 6, 1931: 40.

[14] “Colorful Career of Fred Schulte…”

[15] “Schulte Sees Better Deals With Change of Scenery,” Washington Post, March 24, 1933: 12.

[16] “Colorful Career of Fred Schulte…”

[17] “Colorful Career of Fred Schulte…”

[18] “Scribbled by Scribes” column, The Sporting News, July 22, 1926: 4.

[19]  Louis A. Dougher, “Griffs Bid With Cubs,” Washington Times, June 15, 1926: 24.

[20]  Gary A. Sarnoff, The Wrecking Crew of ’33 (McFarland & Company, Inc., Jefferson, N.C., 2009): 10.

[21]  Charles J. Foreman, “Baseball’s Newer Stars,” a 1928 clipping from an unidentified publication in Schulte’s file at the Hall of Fame research center.

[22]  “Schulte Hopes to Be Back in Lineup Soon,” Belvidere Daily Republican, June 21, 1929: 5

[23]  “Schulte Hurt in Collision With Manush,” Belvidere Daily Republican, August 21, 1929: 5.

[24]  “Schulte Unable to Go East With St. Louis Team,” Belvidere Daily Republican, June 20, 1930: 8.

[25]  Edwards, “Fred Schulte Amazed Mates…”

[26]  During his 11 years in the majors, Schulte was never ejected.

[27] “Says Schulte Has No Aggressiveness,” Belvidere Daily Republican, March 28, 1928: 5.

[28]  “Maude Slater is Wedded to Fred Schulte,” Belvidere Daily Republican,  April 16, 1929: 3

[29]  1940 U.S. Census, accessed through FamilySearch.org

[30]  “S. and A. Alleys to Be Thrown Open Monday,” Belvidere Daily Republican, January 17, 1931: 3.

[31]  “Home from Long Lake,” Belvidere Daily Republican, October 12, 1931: 4.

[32] “Brief Bits of Gossip” column, The Sporting News, March 19, 1936: 7

[33] New Names In Leader List,” Belvidere Daily Republican, April 14, 1945: 3.

[34] Sarnoff, The Wrecking Crew of ’33: 10.

[35]  Jeff Carroll, “Sam Rice,” McFarland & Company, Inc., Jefferson. N.C., 2008): 172

[36]  Francis E. Stan, “Win, Lose or Draw” column, (Washington) Evening Star,” June 16, 1938: D1.

[37] “Leaves From a Fan’s Scrapbook…”

[38] Sarnoff, 139.

[39] Sarnoff, 192.

[40] Sarnoff, 192.

[41] “Fred Schulte Honored By Fellow Townsmen,” Washington Post, October 10, 1933: 16.

[42] Away from cavernous Griffith Stadium, a resurgent Goslin drove in 100 runs in 1934 and 111 in 1935, helping the Tigers win two A.L. pennants.

[43] Francis E. Stan, “Injury Jinx Dethrones Nats,” (Washington) Evening Star, October 1, 1934, A15.

[44] Detroit claimed Crowder, who joined Goslin in helping the Tigers secure the pennant, winning five of six decisions.

[45] “Schulte Hurt, Nats Bow in 11th, Washington Post, September 12, 1934: 17.

[46] Stan, “Injury Jinx…”

[47] Official A L. statistics for 1934 fail to credit Schulte with one hit, showing him with a .298 average and 156 hits, although Retrosheet’s game logs show Schulte had 157 hits.

[48]  Sarnoff, 247-248. Cronin was on his honeymoon with Mildred Robertson, Griffith’s personal secretary and niece, when Griffith called to say the playing/manager had been sold to Boston.

[49] John B. Keller, “Sewell and Schulte to Go on Block,” (Washington) Evening Star, November 15, 1934: D-1.

[50] “Tribute to Schulte Is Impressive,” (Belvidere) Republican-Northwestern, August 29, 1939: 6.

[51] “Schulte Considers Trip to Baseball Meeting in Cincy,” Belvidere Daily Republican, December 4, 1939: 14.

[52] “Fred Schulte Is Umpire In Girls’ Pro Ball League,” Belvidere Daily Republican, June 12, 1945: 3.

[53] Arlo Jacobson, “Honors Bestowed on Fred Schulte,” Belvidere Daily Republican, December 20, 1958: 1.

[54] Gilbert LaBudde, “Oshkosh Becomes Giant Unit; Fred Schulte Stays as Leader,” The Sporting News, February 19, 1942: 12.

[55] “Schulte, 39, Signs With Colonels,” Caught on the Fly, The Sporting News, April 1, 1943: 8. Obviously, Schulte was really 42 that season.

[56] Jacobson, “Honors Bestowed…”

[57] Adam Poulisse, “Mural Honoring World Series Baseball Player Fred Schulte Unveiled” Rockford Register Star, October 15, 2017: D2.

A version of this essay appears as part of the BioProject at SABR.org

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