Obituary: Mark Schaeffer (1948-2022)

RIP to Mark Schaeffer, who pitched for the Padres out of the bullpen in 1972. It ended up being his final season of professional baseball, but he did contribute to a notable baseball record. He died on June 1 at the age of 73.

Mark Philip Schaeffer was born in Santa Monica, Calif., on June 5, 1948. He attended Grover Cleveland High School in Reseda, where he was the starting quarterback for the Cavaliers’ football team and an ace pitcher for the baseball squad. He threw a no-hitter in 1964 against North Hollywood High, just days after his father Walter died of a heart attack at age 50. Walter Schaeffer had been a scout for the Los Angeles Angels and passed on a love of sports to his sons. Joel, the oldest brother, was an excellent high school and college linebacker.

Throughout his high school career, Mark Schaeffer was bothered by arm injuries, and at the end of his sophomore season he had to have surgery for “Little League elbow.” “That’s from throwing too much when you’re small,” he said. “My arm was in a cast for two months after the surgery.”

Source: The Berkshire Eagle, April 20, 1968.

It wasn’t just Schaeffer’s arm that was good; he once tied the West Valley League record by kicking five extra points in one football game. In 1965, after a 6-inch growth spurt gave him a height of 6’6″, he decided to give basketball a try and scored 20 points in his first game, spurring Cleveland to a 67-61 win over Taft. But it was as a pitcher where the left-hander made the biggest splash. In his senior year of 1965, he was named to the Helms Athletic Foundation’s All-West Valley League Second Team All-Stars. He had a perfect 4-0 record that year. Schaeffer was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the 37th Round of the 1965 June Amateur Draft but did not sign. He was then selected by the Boston Red Sox in the Second Round of the 1966 January Draft – Regular Phase (for players who had been previously drafted) and joined the club.

The 18-year-old Schaeffer debuted for the Waterloo Hawks of the Class-A Midwest League in 1966, and he led the team with 13 wins and a 2.78 ERA. He also threw 12 complete games, including 2 shutouts. While not a great hitter — he hit .197 for the Hawks — he did smash a couple of home runs as well. Schaeffer won 12 more games for Class-A Winston-Salem in 1967, albeit with an alarming 172 walks in 204 innings. He also picked up 226 strikeouts, which led the Carolina League.

See Mark Schaeffer at Baseball Almanac

After some work in the Florida Instructional League, Schaeffer pitched for Double-A Pittsfield and Triple-A Louisville in 1968. He struggled to a 5-11 record, but his control improved. He also retained the ability to rack up double-digit strikeout performances on a regular basis. Over that offseason, Schaeffer was acquired by the Houston Astros. Again, he split 1969 between Double-A and Triple-A, though most of his success came with Double-A Savannah. In a July 28 game against Columbus, the big southpaw struck out 11, took a no-hitter into the sixth inning and drove in the winning run with a ninth-inning single for a 3-2 victory. Schaeffer spent all of 1970 and 1971 in Triple-A Oklahoma City. He was converted to a reliever in ’71 after struggling as a starter the previous season. It didn’t help that Oklahoma City had a wealth of capable starters, including J.R. Richard, Scipio Spinks, Tom Griffin and Larry Yount. Schaeffer was the odd man out in a competitive fight for a starting rotation spot.

In his first season as a reliever, Schaeffer had a 2-7 record, 5 saves and a 5.82 ERA in 38 games (including 4 starts). Control was a continuing problem, as he walked 62 batters in 82 innings. He still had a live fastball, and he and Richard once combined for a 17-strikeout performance against Wichita — Richard had 13 in 7 innings, and Schaeffer had 4 over the final 2. After the season was over, Houston traded Schaeffer and fellow minor leaguers Bill Greif and Derrel Thomas to San Diego for pitcher Dave Roberts.

The Padres made use of all of the rookies in 1972. Greif was inserted into the starting rotation, Thomas became a regular at second base, and Schaeffer was added to the bullpen. He started off his pitching career with 7 straight scoreless appearances, totaling 8-1/3 innings. In three of those outings, he was brought into the game to face one batter — a lefty. In fact, 11 of his 41 appearances involved facing one hitter. He retired the batter in seven of those opportunities as a LOOGY — a lefty one-out guy. When he had extended outings that lasted longer than an inning, Schaeffer would frequently get roughed up.

Schaeffer was part of baseball history — though maybe not the way he wanted — on July 23, 1972. Working the second game of a doubleheader against Montreal, he hit Ron Hunt in the inside of his right calf with a pitch. It was the 193rd hit by pitch of Hunt’s career, moving him past Minnie Minoso to become the modern-era leader in that category. Technically, Hunt had broken the record in the first game when he was grazed by an inside pitch from Steve Arlin. “Arlin ticked my sleeve, but home plate umpire Bruce Froemming just gave me a vacant look when I asked him about it,” Hunt said. “That figured.” He kept the record-setting ball as a souvenir. Hunt retired with 243 times hit by pitch. The current modern-day leader is Craig Biggio with 285, and the all-time leader is Hughie Jennings with 287.

Schaeffer picked up the only save in his career on July 29, in a 17-inning game between the Padres and Reds. After San Diego’s Jerry Morales had driven in the go-ahead run in the top of the inning off Reds reliever Ed Sprague, Padres pitcher Ed Acosta retired the first two batters but then put two runners on base. With the game on the line and Pete Rose coming to the plate, Padres manager summoned Schaeffer. He retired Rose on a fly to deep center field to end the game with a 4-3 win.

Schaeffer doesn’t have an official Topps card, but card artist @wthballs (Twitter) created this card for his blog.

After a rough summer that saw his ERA shoot above 5.00, Schaeffer didn’t allow a single run over the final month of the season. He also picked up his only major-league wins in September. The first came on September 17 against Cincinnati. After Mike Caldwell had surrendered a game-tying homer to Hal McRae, Schaeffer got out of the eighth inning by allowing a single to Joe Morgan and getting Bobby Tolan to bounce into a double play. Once again, Morales broke a tie with a clutch base hit off Sprague to spur the Padres on to a 10-7 win. In his very next appearance on the 25th, Schaeffer was brought into the bottom of the seventh inning to face Bill Buckner of the Dodgers, with 2 outs, 2 runners on base and a 3-3 tie. He fanned Buckner to end the inning, and pinch-hitter Randy Elliott hit an RBI triple to make the final score 4-3 San Diego.

Schaeffer pitched in a total of 41 games and threw 41 innings. He had a 2-0 record and 1 save, compiling a 4.61 ERA. He walked 28 batters and fanned 25. He had an ERA+ of 72 and a WHIP of 1.951.

Schaeffer did not return to baseball in 1973. He was expected to be a part of the Hawaii Islanders pitching staff, a Triple-A team in the Pacific Coast League that included Padres minor-leaguers. He pitched for them during spring training in Arizona but did not join the club when the season got underway. That ended his professional career at the age of 25. There is not much information available on Schaeffer in his post-baseball life. He was the co-operator of American Sash & Door, according to his obituary (see below). Schaeffer is survived by a sister-in-law and three nephews.

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