January 31, 1898: Webb Schultz
Born on this day 122 years ago, just before the turn of the 20th century, Webb Schultz grew up in rural Wisconsin where baseball competition was relatively scarce. It was hard for the youngster to tell if he was really talented or not, because being more talented than the other boys in town didn't mean a whole lot in the grand scheme of things. Without registering any professional appearances through age 25, it seemed that his baseball break was bound not to come.
That changed when the Chicago White Sox came calling in 1924 when Schultz was already 26 years old. They wanted to send him to their bullpen in August with the chance to actually appear in a game. On August 3 of that year, he got his chance against the Philadelphia Athletics, who were once again floundering, but only a few years away from yet another dynasty under Connie Mack.
Neither team was particularly good, but 20,000 fans loaded into Comiskey Park to watch Philly and Chicago square off as the stretch run began for both middling clubs. The Athletics got off to a hot start, scoring one in the first, four in the second and one in the third. Before the White Sox could blink, they were down 6-0. That was actually a good thing for Schultz. As one of the last arms in the bullpen, the further out of hand the game got, the more likely he was to come in as a reliever.
Starter Sloppy Thurston (aptly named on this day) was out of the game by the second inning, but then reliever Dixie Leverett took the baton for the next 5.1 innings. Leo Mangum was third out of the bullpen and tossed an inning. All of a sudden, there was only one inning left to eat up. Finally, that's when Schultz had his number called. The 5' 11" righty trotted to the mound for the first recorded professional baseball appearance of his life.
Schultz allowed just one hit, but also a run in his one inning of work, which put the White Sox in an even deeper hole, 9-3. With their last three outs, they were unable to dig out of it and Chicago lost by that same score. That was the last of the big leagues Schultz saw and he was back out of professional baseball the following year. In 1926, he attempted a comeback with the Class-D Dubuque Speasmen and went 6-5 in 15 games with an ERA (estimated) to be close to 6.00. That was the end of his professional baseball career.
Schultz lived a very full life and lived to be 88 years old. He passed away in Delavan, Wisconsin not far from Wautoma where he was born. It is there that he's buried at Spring Grove Cemetery. An accurate description for his headstone would be: "Played one game in the major leagues, fulfilling the dreams of young boys across the country."