Saturday, January 21, 2006

January 21st, 1916

Yankees Accquire Germany Schaefer

Schaefer is best known, I'm pretty sure, for being the man who "stole" first base after being on second, supposedly to rattle a catcher and allow another shot at a botched double-steal. Later research has cast some doubt on the story; the whole thing might be apocryphal or it might not have been Schaefer who did it, or he might have been the last in a long line of people doing it before it was finally banned, but what the hell, it's a good story.

Either way, that wasn't what caught my attention about him. Schaefer was born in Chicago, but acquired his nickname for his German heritage. This was no problem until 1917 and the First World War (that's the one without Hitler) when the United States when to war with Schaefer's namesake country. Afraid of being jeered or worse, Schaefer decided a name change was in order. However, just like anyone nicknamed "Frenchie" in 2002, Schaefer only needed to look to the world of food for his cue. Seeing that the ultra-German "sauerkraut" had been renamed "Liberty Cabbage" (a fact once recounted by "Grandpa" Simpson) he decided that for the duration of the war, he would be "Liberty" Schaefer. Having retired to become a scout for John McGraw in 1919, he would die that same year of a heart attack while scouting players in upstate New York. The Armistice having been signed a few months earlier, Schaefer was properly remembered in his obituary as "Germany."

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