Stealing 1st from 2nd: The Hilarious Herman Schaefer


We’ve all seen the occasional child playing
football accidentally run the wrong way on the field, and if you watch enough T-ball,
you might even occasionally see a kid run the wrong way on the base paths. It turns out, there was once a Major League
Baseball player who did this, only he did it on purpose. The man was Herman “Germany” Schaefer,
who also had other nicknames given to him such as “Dutch” and “The Prince”. Schaefer was a notorious prankster in baseball
who would do things like wear rain coats or carry a lantern out onto the field during
the game, trying to hint to the umpire that they should call the game because of rain
or darkness (more of his zany antics in the Bonus Facts below). One of his more memorable antics was to steal
first base from second (possibly twice, though there is no documented proof of the first
instance, just a story from a fellow player, Davy Jones.) Schaefer is the only known person to ever
steal first in a Major League game and will remain so, because, probably due to Schaefer,
a new rule was written shortly after his death at the age of 42 in 1919 from a “brain hemorrhage”
and complications due to tuberculosis. Rule 52, Section 2, which is now Rule 7.08i: After he has acquired legal possession of
a base, [if] he runs the bases in reverse order for the purpose of confusing the defense
or making a travesty of the game… [the] umpire shall immediately call “Time” and
declare the runner out… The supposed first instance of Schaefer stealing
first, according to Davy Jones, occurred in a game against Cleveland around 1908, with
the exact date unknown. With a runner on third late in the game, Schaefer
stole second hoping to draw a throw from the catcher so that the runner on third, Davy
Jones, could try and steal home. Jones gave the following account of what happened
next in The Glory of Their Times, by Larry Ritter: So now we had men on second and third. Well, on the next pitch Schaefer yelled, ‘Let’s
try it again!’ And with a blood-curdling shout he took off
like a wild Indian back to first base, and dove in headfirst in a cloud of dust. He figured the catcher might throw to first
— since he evidently wouldn’t throw to second — and then I would come home same
as before. But nothing happened. Nothing at all. Everybody just stood there and watched Schaefer,
with their mouths open, not knowing what the devil was going on. The umpires were just as confused as everybody
else. However, it turned out that at that time there
wasn’t any rule against a guy going from second back to first, if that’s the way
he wanted to play baseball, so they had to let it stand. So there we were, back where we started, with
Schaefer on first and me on third. And on the next pitch, darned if he didn’t
let out another war whoop and take off again for second base. By this time the Cleveland catcher evidently
had enough, because he finally threw to second to get Schaefer, and when he did I took off
for home and both of us were safe. On August 4, 1911, Schaefer, playing for the
Washington Senators, pulled the same stunt with less success, but at least this time
documented in the newspapers. In this instance, it was the bottom of the
ninth with a similar situation as above. There was a runner, Clyde Milan, on third
who represented the winning run of the game (it was tied 0-0), and Schaefer on first. Schaefer broke for second and made it, but
this failed to illicit a throw from White Sox catcher Fred Payne, as you might expect
in the bottom of the ninth in a 0-0 tie where a runner on second is meaningless to the outcome
of the game when there is already a runner on third. On the very next pitch Schaefer stole first,
again without drawing a throw. This brought the skipper of the White Sox,
Hugh Duffy, out to argue with the umpires about allowing Schaefer to do this. While Duffy was still arguing with umpire
Tommy Connolly, Schaefer broke for second, this time getting caught in a run-down, at
which point Milan tried to steal home, but was thrown out ending the inning. Not to be dissuaded, Schaefer argued with
the umpire that this shouldn’t have counted because at the time of the play, the White
Sox had ten team members on the field, though of course Hugh Duffy hadn’t played in a
game since 1908. The umpires didn’t listen to his arguments
and ruled that the play stood, as did his steal from second to first base because, at
the time, there was no rule against it. The Senators went on to win the game 1-0 anyway. Besides using raincoats to try to get games
called because of rain, Schaefer was also known to occasionally wear galoshes and sometimes
to also bring an umbrella out, on at least one instance even up to bat as if he was going
to use it to bat. One of the instances where he wore a raincoat
got him ejected from the game. Another antic that got him ejected once was
wearing an extremely fake bushy black moustache up to bat. Generally, though, umpires gave Schaefer a
lot of rope before they’d eject him, as reported in Sporting Life in 1912: “Schaefer
is such a hit with the crowds that the umpires are giving him every liberty to do as he pleases.” After hitting a home run out of Columbia Park
in Philadelphia, Schaefer chose to carry his bat around the bases with him acting as if
it was a gun and that he was shooting the pitcher Rube Waddell with it. On June 24, 1906, Schaefer supposedly called
his shot (again a story from Davy Jones, but at least this time it can be verified that
Schaefer did hit the home run). With the Tigers down by one run with two outs
in the ninth, Schaefer supposedly yelled “Ladies and gentlemen, you are now looking at Herman
Schaefer, better known as ‘Herman the Great,’ acknowledged by one and all to be the greatest
pinch-hitter in the world. I am now going to hit the ball into the left
field bleachers. Thank you.” This was quite a claim from a player who at
that point only had 2 home runs in his career. Schaefer then hit the first pitch off of Doc
White into the left field bleachers. This is where his showmanship really kicked
in. Rather than just trot around the bases, Schaefer
made diving, headfirst slides into each base. This all was recorded in newspapers at the
time. Davy Jones went on to say that after getting
up from each base, Schaefer had called out his progress as if he was in a horse race,
though few in the audience could hear him. “At the half, Schaefer leads by a length!…
Schaefer leads by a mile!… Schaefer wins by a nose!” Jones said that after diving
into home Schaefer stood up and called out, “Ladies and Gentlemen, this concludes this
afternoon’s performance. I thank you for your kind attention.” This sort of thing wasn’t that rare for
Schaefer, who liked to tell people he was psychic, and would often try to predict what
was about to happen on the field. Most of the time, he was wrong, but, of course,
as the late great Hall of Fame baseball announcer Dave Niehaus use to say “Nobody remembers
those times, they only remember when you’re right”. Another common off-the-field antic of Schaefer,
recalled by Ty Cobb, was Schaefer’s practice of holding running conversations with strangers
on the street, while continuing to walk as he passed them and conversed, such that at
the end of it, both he and the stranger would have to be screaming at the top of their lungs
to hear each other from so far away. Trying to be polite, most people would continue
on with the conversation until this happened. As Cobb stated, at the end “all street traffic
would have stopped to listen open-mouthed to the dialogue and Germany never considered
the stunt a complete success unless he still had the mother screeching answers when we
were half a block away.” In October of 1914, Schaefer randomly showed
up in Court to defend some homeless drunkards who were to be charged that day. His principle argument was that “these poor
souls should not be sentenced to 30 days in jail for an offense that a millionaire would
be sent home in a cab for.” The judge sided with Schaefer and let the
drunkards go. Schaefer then took them all out to dinner. About what he’d do after retiring from baseball
(which he never got the chance to do, because of his early death while still a scout), Schaefer
once said in an interview he’d like to buy a saloon, “Not a big gaudy place, but a
cozy spot where my friends can enjoy a glass of beer and a sociable evening. And along about 10 o’clock every evening
I want one of my pals to say to the bartender on duty, ‘Where’s old Schaef tonight?’ And I want my bartender to be able to say,
‘He’s upstairs, drunk.’”

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Reader Comments

  1. Beemer

    Now that you say his name, Davy Jones Locker is another term for "grave at the bottom of the sea." You should do one of these on the history of that.

  2. Beemer

    WHAT A LEGEND.
    "He would go to court and say 'this homeless man is being charged for what a millionaire would be put in a cab and sent home for.'"
    "He didn't consider his random conversations with strangers on the street until they were yelling at the top of their lungs from a half a block away."
    I absolutely love this guy. He took mundane every-day tasks and made them into an event like it was none of his business. A real life troll. I love it.

  3. Twinks '

    Simon it would be really good to get a video regarding the question: Can you simply contact a single doctor and ask for a complete full medical exam and how complicated? I think it would be rather interesting. Thanks

  4. TyDie85

    Yeah, the game was fun back then. Now everything is so damn serious and just depressing! This guy sounds like he made the game great and was a great guy off the field as well!

  5. Gus Mancuso

    I have a baseball that my grandfather (Gus Mancuso … look him up) gave me. It reads, "Thrown by Hallahan, struck out Hurst" The story behind it is epic. Hallahan was a punk kid with a very hard fastball. But he was wild. He would go on 3 day drinking binges. Scheduled to pitch the second game of a double header but not showing up till late in the first game, Gus tried to convince Bill Terry to start another pitcher as Hallahan was drunk. Terry said," Hell no! Pitch him!". Hallahan proceeded to walk in run after run. Second inning, with several outs and two strikes and Hurst up to bat, Hallahan collapwed on the mound, the pitch floating across the strike zone but everyone focused on Hallahan. The pitch was a strike. Gus kept the ball, wrote the cryptic comment. I now have it. Some crazy things happened back in those days.

  6. Kim Boyle

    He's awesome, from a time when a game was a game and sports were meant to be fun. People take everything so seriously now. He reminds me of Bill Murray. That would be a good guy to do an episode on

  7. interwebtubes

    Simon can you please make a video piece about the saying,

    Pins and needles??;

    It’s Origins and exactly what it was supposed to mean??;

    Inquiring minds want to know?? ;

    Thanks again for your videos:

    Very informative 👍

  8. Michelle L

    Why are people insane over the idea of micro amounts Cocaine in food and drink but 100% more then ok eating drinking cyanide Heroin? Can you plz do a video about this i do not understand how Cocaine bad cyanide good. We are talking about micro amounts that could not get a ant high witch are used for heath numb gums are taste.

  9. ramzy boutros

    Nice video and glad to see you know about Dave Niehaus, one of the all time best baseball broadcasters. But his name is pronounced "Neehouse", not "Neyehouse". Cheers.

  10. CanuckMonkey13

    I was on my school's basketball team in junior high, and once at the start of the second half I got possession and ran straight for the basket. Amazed that there was nobody defending against me, I took the shot–and missed anyway, because I was a terrible shot. This was fortunate, because the teams switch baskets at half-time, and I had just attempted to score on my own basket. Even the refs had no idea what to do.

  11. radtech21

    “Making a travesty of the game…” is what half of the overpaid babies in the MLB currently do. Might as well let them run the bases in reverse. I LOVE this guy!

  12. Grimm

    In 2013 Segura actually stole 1st from 2nd. Search Segura's baserunning adventures. It was not intentional, happened on a failed double steal. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZM1JcJwo9E

  13. B Sharp

    If baseball teams were filled with a bunch of men like Schaefer I'd probably be a baseball fan today. Instead, they created rules that made the game boring.

  14. David A

    A similar bazaar, play occurred on April 19, 2013 when Jean Segura with the Brewers stole second, then attempted to steal third with a man on first base (Ryan Braun). Segura was caught in a rundown when both players meet at 2nd. Braun was tagged out (for passing the runner), but Segura thought he was out and started walking back to the dugout (towards first). Segura then realized he was still an active runner then stopped on first base. Ultimately, Segura went from 2nd to 1st. Next play, Segura was thrown out trying to steal second again.

  15. MadTheDJ

    I raise my beer to Dutch Schaefer.
    These days, most of those on-field antics would get him ejected pretty fast. There are rules about respecting the game, like not running the bases backwards (either going in the right direction but facing backwards or running from 3rd to 2nd to 1st). You also can't run with the bat. And as noted, you can't steal 1st, from either direction. Good on him for being the only man on the books officially to do so.
    Hollywood, this man deserves a movie!
    Also, looking up his stats, I see he had a .257 career batting average, which is nothing spectacular (utility man average), but his career on base percentage was a respectable .319. He had a few very good years in the middle of his career, with his single best season being 1911. He had a good amount of base-on-balls (walks), so seemed to have a pretty good eye at the plate, which helps the OBP. All in all, I'd say he was an average player with a decent enough career, so more power to him for making the game fun for everyone!

  16. Paul M

    Great video! You people always do such professional and polished work. Great writing and editing. Your research is top notch and you are always entertaining. Thank you for helping to keep YouTube relevant.

  17. John S

    I'd rather have antics like this on and off the field than the criminal antics that many of today's professional athletes get into. Besides, baseball's ratings could use the boost.

  18. Brett Johnson

    0:51 says "…only known person to ever steal first in a major league game…" But this is only from second base. A batter has the opportunity to steal the first base if the catcher drops the ball on a two-strike count, regardless of pitches counted as "balls". It's common in little-league, but the rule does exist in MLB and I have seen it happen.

  19. BryceGTV

    Don't forget about the time Loyd Mosbey Stole 2nd base… and 1st base… and 2nd base again, all on the same play!!!
    https://youtu.be/YSLJu2tgOPc

  20. Loki Scarlet

    This man. If I were to have played baseball more than once, I probably would have ended up emulating his antics, knowing it or not. Though obviously not pulling his distraction stunt (though I totally would were it legal)

  21. TM Rezzek

    Pre-World War I baseball was awesome–it was like the Wild West. The unofficial rule was "anything goes." Case in point: champion hitter/drunk Pete Browning ("I can't hit the ball until I hit the bottle") who played for the Louisville Colonels/Cincinnati Reds/Pittsburgh Pirates; a bucket of beer would sometimes be put at third as enticement for him to hit a triple or steal extra bases. And years before Mark Fidrych talked to baseballs, Browning talked to his bats.

  22. nacoran

    It wasn't credited as stealing first, but there was a fairly famous play back in '87 where Lloyd Moseby took off for second on the pitch but lost track of the ball which got overthrown into the outfield. Thinking it was a fly ball he ran back to first where he slid in, but the throw hit him and went off into foul territory. He got up and ran back to second before the fielders could get the ball.

    Reading the text of the rule I think he should have gotten 2 steals, since he wasn't doing it to make a mockery of the game, and because it would have made for a great story. In the end, because he ran back to first and then advanced on an error he wasn't credited with a steal, just advancing to second on an error.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YSLJu2tgOPc

  23. Nighthawk

    Jean Segura actually stole first base a few years ago when he was on the Brewers. He got caught in a rundown and thought he was tagged out, so he started running back towards the dugout. However, he was never officially out so the first base coach stopped him and told him to get on the base. Not the same thing as this legend, but stealing first has technically happened again and pretty recently

  24. d10fel

    Wow! What a loony toon! He really missed his calling in life. He could've been elected to the highest of political offices in America.

  25. Daniel Huddleston

    im surprised I read this piece of trivia on some weird all trivia baseball website years ago, why choose to that site to copy into a video

  26. PyroPry11

    Are American accents as hard to understand in the UK as their accents are for us? I like this guy but I have to really pay attention to his words to understand lol. Great videos though!

  27. West Coast Emerald Bull

    Yup. Simon being the British gentlemen he is, referring the score as "nil-nil" even if he's talking about the American pastime, baseball ⚾️.

  28. Atlas 51232

    First video of this channel that doesn’t explain anything to me or those who dont know what hes talking about (not everybody but a few bad-footballer countries practise this sport so i would expect an explanation, i just thought this channel was targeted to all the world)

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