The greatest defensive catcher of his day, Ray Schalk found a variety of ways to help his teams win. Schalk relied on hitters’ weaknesses and hurlers’ strengths to create his plan of attack for pitch-calling.
Schalk was also outstanding fleet-footed for a catcher. He posted double-digit totals in stolen bases in ten seasons. In 1916 he swiped 30 bases to establish an MLB record for men at his position. The White Sox catcher held the record for 66 years until it was broken by John Wathan in 1982.
The Hall of Fame is built primarily on the production on offense. In this category, Schalk’s numbers do not stand out. A lifetime .253 hitter with a .340 on-base percentage, Schalk hit just 11 home runs in his 18 years in the bigs.
The Deaball Era star finished with a .656 OPS and a below league-average OPS+ of just 83. His career stats include 1,345 hits, 573 runs scored, and 593 RBI.
Despite his lack of production at the plate, Schalk was respected throughout baseball. He received votes in MVP balloting four times, including a third-place finish in 1922.
The Veterans Committee selected Schalk for induction to the Hall of Fame in 1955.
Pastor Erwin Gerken of Puyallup, Washington was a prolific autograph collector. Using his church letterhead, Gerken wrote to many athletes and esteemed people of his time.
When Gerken died in 2007, his vast collection entered the market. Shown here is one piece from that collection, a letter to Schalk requesting the catcher’s autograph.
Schalk as obliged the pastor with a nice long note at the bottom of Gerken’s letter.