Freddy Schmidt, a rookie pitcher for the 1944 Cardinals, was a testament to the talent and depth produced by the St. Louis farm system.
Schmidt, 96, died Nov. 17, 2012. Until his passing, Schmidt and Stan Musial were the last surviving players from the 1944 World Series championship club.
A right-hander, Schmidt contributed seven wins and five saves to a Cardinals team that dominated the National League with a 105-49 record, finishing 14.5 games ahead of the runner-up Pirates.
Discovered by the Cardinals when he attended one of their tryout camps in his hometown of Hartford, Conn., Schmidt joined the St. Louis organization with Class D Shelby of the North Carolina State League in 1937.
It was the first of seven consecutive seasons in the Cardinals’ minor-league system for Schmidt. He was a 19-game winner for Class B Allentown (Pa.) in 1942. The next year, Schmidt was 13-10 for a Class AA Rochester (N.Y.) club managed by former Cardinals Gas House Gang standout Pepper Martin.
At 28, Schmidt made the Cardinals’ Opening Day roster in 1944. Initially used in relief, Schmidt earned the confidence of manager Billy Southworth and was given occasional starts.
His first big-league start was an eye-opener to the degree of difficulty in the major leagues, even during the war years. Starting for the Cardinals in the second game of a Sunday doubleheader on June 4, 1944, at Philadelphia, Schmidt held the Phillies to an unearned run and four hits in seven innings. But Schmidt was the losing pitcher (his first big-league decision) because his counterpart, veteran Bill Lee, shut out the Cardinals on two hits and the Phillies won, 1-0. Boxscore
Schmidt earned his first big-league win in his next appearance, a relief stint on June 14, 1944, against the Cubs at St. Louis, when the Cardinals scored three in the bottom of the eighth and won, 10-9. Boxscore
In August, Southworth used Schmidt as a starter more frequently _ and the rookie responded, pitching a pair of shutouts in an 11-day stretch.
On Aug. 16, 1944, at St. Louis, Schmidt pitched a five-hitter in the Cardinals’ 5-0 victory over the Giants. The win was the Cardinals’ fifth in a row and enabled them to achieve their 80th victory on the earliest date in National League history. (The 1942 Dodgers had won their 80th on Aug. 19.) Boxscore
Schmidt used his arm and his bat to lead the Cardinals to a 4-0 victory over the Pirates in a cold drizzle on Aug. 25, 1944, at St. Louis. Schmidt pitched a six-hitter and struck out nine. He also produced two singles and two RBI. Pirates manager Frankie Frisch twice ordered intentional walks to the Cardinals’ No. 8 batter, shortstop Marty Marion, and Schmidt foiled the strategy each time with a RBI-single, the Associated Press reported. Boxscore
The Rookie of the Year Award didn’t exist in 1944. (Jackie Robinson of the Dodgers won the first, in 1947.) If it had, Schmidt likely would have been a contender. He finished the regular season with a 7-3 record, five saves and a 3.15 ERA in 37 games, including nine starts.
In his lone appearance in the 1944 World Series, Schmidt pitched 3.1 innings of scoreless, one-hit relief in Game 3, a 6-2 victory for the Browns. Boxscore
Two months later, Dec. 8, 1944, Schmidt was drafted into the Army. The Sporting News reported Schmidt was the ninth Cardinals pitcher to enter military service, following Johnny Beazley, Howie Pollet, Murry Dickson, Al Brazle, Johnny Grodzicki, Ernie White, Howie Krist and Red Munger.
Schmidt rejoined the Cardinals in 1946. He was 1-0 with a 3.29 ERA in 16 relief appearances, helping St. Louis to its fourth pennant of the decade. (Schmidt didn’t pitch in the 1946 World Series, won by the Cardinals against the Red Sox.)
After appearing in two games for St. Louis in 1947, Schmidt and outfielder Harry Walker were traded to the Phillies for outfielder Ron Northey on May 3. In September, after he posted a 5-8 record for Philadelphia, the Phillies placed him on waivers and Schmidt was claimed by the Cubs. He pitched in one game for Chicago _ and never appeared in the big leagues again.
Schmidt had a career major-league record of 13-11, 8-3 as a Cardinal.