Jasper graduate pitched one year in pro ballMay 1, 2020
By COREY STOLZENBACH
Jasper residents are well aware of former Wildcat Scott Rolen going on to star in the major leagues, and another, Phil Kendall spending four seasons in the Milwaukee Brewers organization. But decades before both happened, the Wildcats had another one of their very own make it to pro ball.
Jerry Schneider was a standout left-handed pitcher for Jasper back in his day. He began playing baseball when he was about 8 or 9 years old. Schneider didn’t rely much on his off-speed stuff, preferring to use his four-seam fastball when he pitched.
“I was always trying to strike them out,” Schneider said.
Velocity is a different story, because Schneider told about speed guns not being used back then. His recollection of how hard he threw dates back to one story he told to The Herald.
“One time when I was out in Iowa playing, I went to a county fair or something like that, and the guy had a speed gun there, and I threw into that and I was hitting about 93 [miles per hour], but that’s the fastest I can ever remember throwing a ball,” he said.
He tallied eight strikeouts on April 27, 1954, when he faced Tell City. The southpaw also had three walks, and an error was charged to Jasper. However, the Wildcats won 2-0, and the Marksmen went a combined 0 for 20 against him. It was the first no-no of his career.
He did it again on June 8 that year for Jasper’s Junior Legion team. Schneider took the hill against Petersburg, mowing down the opposition with 12 strikeouts. Jasper won, 11-0, and it was the second one of his career. Schneider escaped any and all trouble by working around the Petersburg players who reached base that day.
Schneider graduated from Jasper in 1955. He recalled having a tryout at Indiana University, and then-coach Ernie Andres gave him a scholarship after his tryout. Schneider didn’t stay long, though. He came back home after about three weeks, but went to Victory Field for a tryout.
Jack Sheehan who worked for the Cleveland Indians at that time, helped organize the tryout when it happened. Schneider said Indians legend Rocky Colavito was there working out that day, but he didn’t get to interact with him. He was in a different part of the park.
“You pitched about 15 minutes and that was it,” Schneider said.
Sheehan joined the Chicago White Sox organization not long afterwards, and he signed Schneider to a contract in February 1956. He said the White Sox were the only team that was interested in signing him, and he got a good contract despite no bonus.
Schneider told of going to Spring Training that year, which primarily consisted of him running down in Florida.
“The humidity down there, whew, I remember that, good God,” he said.
He was assigned to the Dubuque (Iowa) Packers in Class D in the Midwestern League. The organization took him to Chicago for 10 days and put him in lodging before joining the Holdrege (Neb.) White Sox in the Nebraska State League. Schneider recalled throwing, running and working out at the original Comiskey Park before going to Nebraska.
His brief experience in Chicago included an encounter with Hall of Famer Nellie Fox.
“One night, they asked if I wanted to throw batting practice, I said, ‘Sure, I’ll throw batting practice,’” Schneider said. “I got out there and I couldn’t hit the red side of a green barn. Nellie Fox came over to me. He says, ‘Hey kid.’ He says, ‘Did you go to Legion Ball?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ ‘What did they tell you to do? Throw strikes, throw strikes, throw strikes.’ So, I went out there and I don’t think I threw another ball the rest of the night, just strikes, strikes, strikes.”
Schneider remembers pitching out of the bullpen in Decatur, Ill., and that he wore glasses. He told of not being able to see the catcher’s finger signals, so the catcher signaled with his glove.
Some of his Holdrege teammates included future major leaguers Gary Peters, J.C. Martin, Alan Brice and Cam Carreon. Schneider spent time between the bullpen and starting rotation. He appeared in 17 games that season, making nine starts. Schneider compiled a 1-6 record and 5.10 ERA in 67 innings of work.
Schneider did not return in 1957. He said the reason he did not go back was because he had a girlfriend at the time who said she was going to break things off if he did. They broke up not long afterward.
“She told me that I shouldn’t expect her to wait around for me to come back from playing ball,” Schneider said.
He said, though, he doesn’t have a lot of regret about that decision. Schneider was happy with what he was doing. He pitched for the Jasper Reds before he signed, and continued doing so when he came back. The White Sox didn’t immediately release him from his contract, but he had no interest in playing professional ball again by the time it happened.
Schneider did roofing and later electric work before he retired. He’s been retired since 2002.
“What have I done since I’ve been retired?” he said. “No more than I had to.”
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