RIP to Dick Schofield, a one-time “bonus baby” and part of a long baseball family dynasty. He died on July 11, at 10:30am, at his residence in Springfield, Ill. He was 87 years old. Schofield played for the St. Louis Cardinals (1953-58, 1968, 1971), Pittsburgh Pirates (1958-1965), San Francisco Giants (1965-66), New York Yankees (1966), Los Angeles Dodgers (1966-67), Boston Red Sox (1969-70) and Milwaukee Brewers (1971).
All total, there have been four generations of the family to play professional baseball: father John “Ducky” Schofield, Dick, his son Dick Schofield and grandson Jayson Werth. The family played professional baseball from 1924 through 2017, totaling parts of 48 major-league seasons and 36 minor-league seasons. Considering that Dick Schofield, the third generation, is still a minor-league coach, the family is nearing a full century of involvement in pro ball in one form or another.
John Richard Schofield was born in Springfield on January 7, 1935. His father John played in the minor leagues from 1924-38 and passed on his nickname to his son, as well as a love of baseball. John Richard, who would be known as “Dick” or “Ducky” as a player, attended Springfield High School. He was a talented guard on the basketball team and a shortstop on the baseball team. In the summers, he served as the team captain for Springfield’s Capital City Motors American Legion team. When the Motors won the Downstate Illinois American Legion Junior baseball championship in 1952, Schofield was named the most valuable player of the tournament.
Schofield was targeted for the majors pretty quickly, but he was not an inexperienced youngster. His father had taught him to switch-hit by the time he was 8 years old, and he was able to play defense all over the infield. Though he was on the small side for a ballplayer — 5-foot-7-1/2 inches and 160 pounds — 13 of the 16 major-league teams made offers for him. He ended up with signing with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1953 as a “bonus baby” for reportedly $40,000, which meant that he had to bypass the minor leagues and spend two seasons on the major-league roster. He was the first bonus baby ever signed by the Cardinals and was signed personally by team president August Busch Jr. His new teammates seemed to welcome the youngster — which is more than some other teams did. “The White Sox actually offered more money,” Schofield said, “but the reason I didn’t sign with them was that the players didn’t treat me as well when I worked out in Chicago.”
Cardinals manager Eddie Stanky was impressed with Schofield’s poise, even though his young player had never been on an airplane before he joined St. Louis. “Dick acts as though he’d been with us a couple of weeks or so,” the skipper said after his newest player just joined the team and began taking infield practice. “He’s got a great arm — his ball is ‘alive’ — and his hands are extremely quick.” Typical of most bonus babies, Schofield joined the Cardinals in early July and spent most of the first month sitting on the bench, or getting token appearances as a pinch-hitter. In fact, Schofield was ejected from a game before he even played in one! It happened on June 25, 1953. Stanky was upset at home plate umpire Augie Donatelli for not calling a balk on New York Giants pitcher Jim Hearn. He threw a towel on the field and received a warning. Then another towel flew onto the field. It was courtesy of Schofield, acting on orders from his manager. Donatelli tossed the rookie for the stunt.
Schofield’s first major-league hit came off Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Johnny Podres in a 14-0 loss on July 17. Schofield ended up getting a few starts in August at shortstop over veteran Solly Hemus. He hit his first home run on August 16 off Cincinnati’s Stu Miller. However, the 18-year-old struggled to keep his average over .200, and he spent the last month of the 1953 season as a pinch-runner. He played in 33 games and had 7 hits in 39 at-bats for a .180 average. He had 2 home runs and drove in 4 runs. He saw even less time in 1954, as rookie Alex Grammas received the bulk of the playing time at shortstop. Schofield appeared in 43 games but came to bat just 7 times, with 1 hit — an RBI triple against Joe Nuxhall of Cincinnati on April 20. He scored 17 times.
As soon as St. Louis was able to send Schofield to the minor leagues in the summer of 1955, the youngster found himself in Omaha. He spent most of 1955 and ’56 there, hitting for a good average and showing some pop in his bat, with 11 homers in 1956. He worked with Omaha manager Johnny Keane, who tutored him in all the finer points that he would have learned had he been allowed to play in the minors in the first place. Schofield received handfuls of playing appearances in St. Louis Cardinals in both seasons. Even in 1957, when he returned to the Cardinals as a full-time major-leaguer, Schofield was primarily a pinch-hitter and defensive replacement for the new shortstop, veteran Al Dark. In fact, for the first five seasons of his career, Schofield played in a total of 169 games, had 146 plate appearances and slashed .147/.200/.221.
By 1958, Schofield was 23 years old, far removed from his bonus baby status but still unable to get much of a chance to play. The Cardinals finally began to play him regularly, allowing him to reach 100 at-bats in a season for the first time in his career. He hit just .213 with 1 home run, but he established that he could do more than pinch-run in the majors. His fortunes changed when he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in June for infielders Gene Freese and Johnny O’Brien. The move didn’t pay dividends for Schofield immediately, as he received less playing time in Pittsburgh and ended the year with a .200 batting average. However, things would turn around as he became a busy backup infielder and outfielder, filling in wherever there was an opening in the Pirates’ lineup.
In 1959, Schofield appeared in 81 games and hit .234 — his best average in the majors to date. He hit just 1 home run, but it was a game-winning blow that gave Pittsburgh a 4-3 win over Cincinnati. His playing time decreased in 1960 — until he was thrown into the starting lineup at a key moment in the season. Starting shortstop and team captain (and 1960 NL MVP) Dick Groat broke his wrist on September 6 after being hit with a pitch from Lew Burdette. The Bucs were leading the NL at the time of the injury, but there was a real fear that replacing Groat with the little-used Schofield could send the team into a tailspin. Instead, Schofield batted over .400 for the remainder of the season, and the Pirates continued their winning ways. When he replaced Groat in the lineup on the 6th, he went 3-for-3 with a run scored. He had eight games with multiple hits in that span, including a 3-for-4 day in his final regular-season game to give him a .333 batting average. Granted, it was just 34 hits in 102 at-bats, but his play helped the 1960 Pirates into the World Series, where they shocked the world by beating the New York Yankees in one of the most famous Series wins of all time. By then, Groat was back in the starting lineup, so Schofield appeared in only 3 games, with a hit and a walk in 4 plate appearances.
As magical as that final month of the season was for Schofield, it was also a frustrating time. He played as well as he’d ever played in the majors, but he knew he would be sent back to the bench as soon as Groat was healthy. “I believe I can play shortstop as good as anybody,” he told sportswriter George Kiseda during his hot streak. “I want to play regular, whether it’s with Pittsburgh or someone else. I want to get with a ball club where I can play every day… I don’t say I want Pittsburgh to trade me, but it looks like I almost have to be traded to be a regular.”
Groat remained healthy and productive in 1961, so Schofield returned to backing him up, as well as third baseman Don Hoak and second baseman (and World Series hero) Bill Mazeroski. Schofield batted under .200 in ’61 but hit a solid .288 in 1962. His improved play in ’62 was one of the factors in Pittsburgh trading Groat to the St. Louis Cardinals for pitcher Don Cardwell and infielder Julio Gotay. “I can’t get away from Schofield,” said general manager Joe L. Brown. “Every time Schofield has had an opportunity to play for us for any prolonged time, he’s hit.”
Schofield, now 28 years old, became the Pirates starting shortstop in 1963 and 1964. He batted .246 with 3 home runs each year, which didn’t replace Groat’s former production. However, he made great strides in his fielding at shortstop, thanks to being able to play regularly. In 1964, he reached career highs with 22 doubles, 5 triples and 36 runs driven in. He got off to a slow start in 1965 but started to turn things around in May, with a modest 4-game hitting streak. However, the Pirates had decided to move Gene Alley from second base to shortstop, which would have returned Schofield to the bench. Instead, Pittsburgh traded him to San Francisco, which needed a shortstop, in exchange for infielder Jose Pagan. The trade allowed Schofield the opportunity to keep playing regularly, so he was delighted with the move.
“I just wasn’t cut out to ride the bench,” Schofield said. “I have to play every day or I’m the worst person you ever saw. Some guys don’t mind being on the bench; I do. I had my fill of that with the Cardinals and my first five years with the Pirates.” The shortstop admitted that he was never able to completely step out from the departed Groat’s shadow at shortstop. “I could field better than Groat but I couldn’t handle a bat like he did. Yet no matter what I did, people compared me with Groat. I wasn’t trying to be a second Dick Groat. I was trying to be a first Dick Schofield.”
At first, the move looked like a winner for the Giants. Schofield was a better solution as a leadoff man than the team had had in years. “Just great. He gets on base and it seems there’s always somebody to drive him in,” commented Willie Mays. “And he plays the devil out of shortstop.” Eventually, Schofield’s batting plummeted to .203 with the Giants. He started the 1966 season with a sore wrist and shoulder and lost the starting shortstop job to Tito Fuentes. After managing 1 hit in 16 at-bats for San Francisco, his contract was sold to the New York Yankees on May 11 for $25,000. The Yankees, at the time, were on a downward trend, and the team decided to give more playing time to the unproven Horace Clarke after Schofield hit .155 in 25 games. After a couple of months, Schofield was on the move again — this time to the Los Angeles Dodgers. It was his third team on the season, and the Dodgers already had a capable shortstop in Maury Wills. However, third baseman John Kennedy was hitting around .200, and Jim Gilliam was near the end of his career and hitting just as poorly. In Schofield’s first start at third base on September 13, he banged out 4 hits in 5 at-bats and kept the job for the rest of the season. He batted .257 with Los Angeles to finish the year with a .194 overall batting average. He handled third base competently, considering he hadn’t played the position since 1962. He also broke up a no-hitter by Cubs pitcher Ken Holtzman by leading off the ninth inning with a single.
Over the offseason, the Dodgers moved Jim Lefebvre from second base to third base and made Gene Michael the starting shortstop in 1967. Schofield hit .216 as a backup infielder, but he earned some starts over the weak-hitting Michael at shortstop. In a series against his old team the Pirates in July, Schofield collected 4 singles, 2 doubles and a triple. He was released by the Dodgers and rejoined the St. Louis Cardinals for 1968. He hit .220 in 69 games and was traded to the Boston Red Sox for 1969. He spent 2 seasons in Boston, with a .257 batting average in 1969 and a .187 mark in ’70. The Red Sox then traded him back to the Cardinals for the 1971 season. Schofield struggled in his third tour of duty with the Cardinals and was even sent back to the minor leagues, for the first time since 1956. He was traded to Milwaukee in July of 1971 and finished his career with the Brewers. Between the two teams, he hit .182 in 57 games. The Brewers cut him in March of 1972, bringing his 19-year career to an end.
Over those 19 seasons, Schofield played in 1,321 games. He had a .227/.317/.297 slash line, with 699 hits that included 113 doubles, 20 triples and 21 home runs. He scored 394 runs and drove in 211. He played five different positions in the field but spent most of his time at shortstop. He had a .961 fielding percentage in 660 games there.
Schofield’s children carried on the family tradition of athletics. Dick Schofield had a substantial baseball career of his own and continues as a coach for the Louisville Bats. Kim Schofield was a track star in high school and competed in the 1976 Olympic trials. Her son, Jayson Worth, hit 229 home runs in the majors. Schofield loved being a cheerleader for his children and grandchildren. He, his father and two children are all members of the Springfield Sports Hall of Fame.
“God gave Dick everything he didn’t give me,” he said of his son. “I threw him a million baseballs and hit him a million grounders, but I couldn’t have made him a player if he hadn’t wanted to be one. And at no time did I try to change him, to make him a player he couldn’t be.”
Schofield was preceded in death by his wife, Donna, and daughter, Tami. He is survived by children Dick and Kim and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
For more information: The State Journal Register