Former major leaguer talks about career in Gratz
By Rob Wheary, Staff Writer • email@example.com
GRATZ – When Carl Scheib was 16 years of age, he left a small farm in Gratz to accomplish a dream of playing major league baseball.
Seventy-three years later, Scheib returned home to Gratz to talk about his career and his memories of his career during a meeting of the Gratz Historical Society.
Scheib’s return filled the Gratz Community gym with a good number of baseball fans and residents to hear about his career. Interest in his career is growing thanks to a new book entitled “Wonder Boy — The Story of Carl Scheib,” which was released on May 26 by Sunbury Press.
Press company owner and the author of the book, Lawrence Knorr, spoke about how publishing the story of Scheib’s life came about — almost by accident.
“We have a series of books called Keystone Tombstones about the stories of famous people buried in Pennsylvania. The authors discovered Carl Scheib from Gratz in the baseball record book and thought it would be a great thing to profile him,” Knorr said.
After doing some checking around, Knorr found out that Scheib was still alive and broke the news to the authors.
“They were so disappointed,” Knorr joked, but then after doing some research, decided that Scheib’s story was one to tell.
“Here is a person that came into the game at 16 years of age, and for a little bit, was the youngest player to play in the major leagues. It’s a fascinating story to tell,” Knorr said.
Scheib held that distinction for one year until Cincinnati’s Joe Nuxhall pitched 2/3 of an inning at the age of 15, breaking his record. Scheib held on to the American League mark, a record he still holds to this day.
“Carl is a person that is a real treasure. He is one of the last players of his era. He was discovered and signed to a contract by Connie Mack, who created some great teams and ballplayers, and played against and pitched against some of the all-time greats in the game,” Knorr said.
To accomodate the crowd and Scheib’s visit, the historical society moved the meeting to the community center. The talk was supposed to begin at 7 p.m. but was delayed 45 minutes so Scheib could sign autographs and meet with the people.
“On a good day, you can expect to sell 15 to 20 books at a book signing. Maybe 50 with Carl here,” Knorr said. “I brought 104 with me and sold out of them and we are taking orders for those that couldn’t get them today.”
Scheib greeted every fan in attendance and signed every item, many of them having sentimental value to their owners.
“The first baseball game I ever went to was in 1951 to see the Philadelphia A’s and Carl Scheib was a member of that team. I skipped a meeting to be here and have him sign the team photo I bought that day,” said Park Leitzel.
After Knorr made some remarks, Scheib talked about the fateful day of his tryout.
“I went down with Gummy Rothermal and made the 120-mile ride to Philadelphia for a tryout and Connie Mack said come back after high school,” Scheib said. “I worked on pitching batting practice and then on the train rides.”
On a September train ride, he was called into Connie Mack’s room on the train, and was asked by Mack, “Don’t you think it’s about time you played ball?” Scheib’s response was that he was ready.
“I called my dad to come to Philadelphia and he signed the contract and I became a professional baseball player,” the Gratz native said.
He retired at the age of 27 due to a sore shoulder, finishing his career with the St. Louis Cardinals. In 1,070 2/3 innings pitched, he amassed a record of 45-65, going between starter and reliever. The most he made in one year of $11,000 in 1949.
When given the chance, members of the public got to ask him questions. Some of the questions and Scheib’s response were:
Q: Who were some of the guys that you were concerned about pitching against?
Scheib: “Nellie Fox was one of them. I swear that guy had a 40-foot bat. Yogi Berra was another one, he had the best stance and balance. He could hit it anywhere.”
Q: How many different pitches did you have?
Scheib: “I basically had three pitches, fastball, curve and a ‘change of pace.’ I wasn’t much of a strikeout pitcher. I pitched for contact to get the groundouts.”
Q: Did you ever have to brush back a batter?
Scheib: “Damn right I did.”
After all the questions, Scheib thanked everyone for their hospitality and making him feel so special on this night.
“I love to come back to my hometown,” he told the crowd. “I’ve been so blessed with everyone here. Thank you for honoring me with that plaque at the ball field and for being so good to me here in Gratz.”
He even found time to end the night with some laughter with a joke.
“The devil is talking with St. Peter and is constantly pestering him to have a baseball game between heaven and Hell,” Scheib said. “St. Peter said to the Devil, ‘Why would you want to have a ball game? We have all the best ball players in heaven.’ The Devil says to St. Peter, “Yes, but we have all the umpires.”