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Schauer first from ND to play in pro baseball

The pitching skills of a young man from North Dakota were so good that he made it all the way to the major leagues in his first year of professional baseball.

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The pitching skills of a young man from North Dakota were so good that he made it all the way to the major leagues in his first year of professional baseball.

In 1912, Al "Rube" Schauer was playing for a semipro team in his hometown of Garrison. By the end of the 1913 season, he was pitching for the pennant-winning New York Giants.

Many who saw Schauer pitch compared him to the great Christy Mathewson. Giants' manager John McGraw was so impressed with Schauer that he employed the highest-paid scout in the major leagues to make sure he was signed by the Giants. When Schauer signed, the team shelled out a record amount of money for someone playing in Class C baseball.

Alexander John Schauer was born March 19, 1891, in Kamenka, Russia. His father, Johann, better known as John, was of German descent. He decided to move the family to the U.S. because of a new edict from Russian Czar Nicholas demanding that citizens become members of the Russian church. After a

10-day voyage across the ocean, the Schauer family arrived in New York on May 19, 1900, and then took a train to Eureka, S.D., where they stayed for the next two years.

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In 1902, John Schauer took possession of 160 acres of homestead land seven miles north of Turtle Lake in McLean County, N.D. After the Soo Line Railroad built a track through Garrison, the Schauers moved there and John built a grain elevator. He later opened a general store and was elected mayor of Garrison.

Al Schauer attended school and excelled in sports. John wanted his son to become a pastor, so Al attended Wartburg College, a Lutheran university in Waverly, Iowa. But Al's heart was in baseball. In 1912, he played for his hometown's semipro team.

In 1913, the Northern League was reconstituted after being out of existence for five years. Schauer was approached by one Northern League owner, but he declined the offer when management refused to pay for his training expenses. W.J. "Joe" Sommer, the owner of the Superior Red Sox, recognized Schauer's talent, agreed to Schauer's terms and signed him to a contract.

Schauer acquired the nickname "Rube," a term for a country boy. With Superior, Schauer soon became the best player in the Northern League. In his first 11 starts, he pitched two one-hit games and led the league in strikeouts. The Chicago Cubs tried to sign him to a contract on May 21, but Sommer kept raising the asking price. Five other teams got into a bidding war over Schauer.

Convinced that "Schauer's stuff rivaled (Grover) Alexander," one of the best pitchers in the major leagues, Giants' manager John McGraw sent Dick Kinsella, a successful Illinois political boss and special Giants' scout, to sign Schauer. Sommer agreed to sell Schauer for a record $10,000, but only on the stipulation that Schauer remain with Superior until Aug. 15.

On Aug. 16, Schauer left the Superior team with a 28-6 won-loss record. Schauer made his first appearance with the Giants on Aug. 27 and pitched a perfect inning against the Reds, becoming the first person from North Dakota to play major league baseball. Schauer pitched 11 more innings in two games during 1913, giving up 10 earned runs.

In 1914, he was used sparingly by McGraw, appearing in only six games. In 1915, Schauer pitched in 32 games. After appearing in only 19 games in 1916, he was sent to the Giants' Louisville farm team in July.

Connie Mack, manager of the Philadelphia Athletics, desperately needed another starting pitcher and signed Schauer when he was released by the Giants. In 1917, Mack used Schauer in 33 games. He pitched more than 200 innings, recording a 7-16 record for a last-place team. In 1918, Schauer refused to sign a contract offered by Mack and played with a shipyard team out of Washington, D.C.

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In order to play professional ball, Schauer convinced Mack to give him his release. He signed with the Minneapolis Millers. Minneapolis was the hometown of his wife, the former Martha Chicken, whom he married in 1916. In 1919, Schauer won his first nine games with the Millers, ending the season with a 21-17 record. He remained with the Millers for four years.

During the offseason, Schauer worked in the auditor's office at the Hennepin County Courthouse. He was released by the Millers after the 1923 season, and pitched for semipro teams in Rochester and Cold Springs, Minn.; Huron and Watertown, S.D.; and Madison, Wis.

Schauer must have been a modest man about his baseball past. I recently contacted a niece, who recalled visiting the Schauers when she was young. She was completely unaware that "Uncle Al" had played major league baseball. Schauer died on April 15, 1957.

"Did You Know That" is written by Curt Eriksmoen and edited by Jan Eriksmoen of Fargo. Send your suggestions for columns, comments or corrections to the Eriksmoens at cjeriksmoen@cableone.net

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