Central Illinois has had many major league baseball players in history. Let’s look at them from the 12 counties that we have selected to become Central Illinois. (Logan, McLean, DeWitt, Woodford, Fulton, Peoria, Mason, Tazewell, Cass, Morgan, Menard, Sangamon)
Check out all of the biographies HERE.
FIRST- I did not write this article as it is from the State Journal Register in Springfield upon the death of local sports hero Johnny Schaive. I thought it told everything that needed to be said.
John Schaive, one of the founding fathers of the Springfield Sports Hall of Fame and a charter member in 1991, died Monday. He was 75.
Schaive was hospitalized Monday morning and died about 1 p.m. because of a brain hemorrhage, his wife, Lesa Schaive, said in an e-mail.
John Schaive, a Lanphier High School graduate, signed with the Chicago White Sox in 1952, was released and later caught on with the Washington Senators organization. He was a minor league terror, and in 1955, he led a Class D league in four offensive categories. The next season he was in spring training with the big club.
But he spent two seasons in military service, and when he got back to baseball, he contended he wasn’t the player he once had been.
“I was a third of the ballplayer when I got to the big leagues,” Schaive said in a 1991 interview.
Nevertheless, Schaive spent five seasons in the big leagues, from 1958-60 with the original Senators (who became the Minnesota Twins in 1961) and from 1962-63 with the expansion Washington Senators.
His best major league season came in 1962 when he played 82 games and batted .253 with six home runs and 29 runs batted in. For his major league career, Schaive batted .232 in 114 games.
But there was more sitting than playing. That’s why at one point in his career, Schaive went to Senators manager Mickey Vernon and made an unusual request: He wanted to go back to the minors, where he could swing the bat.
“I was a utility player in the big leagues,” Schaive said in 1991. “I wanted to play. The guys all got a big kick out of that.”
Playing mostly in the days when there were eight teams in the American League and eight teams in the National League, Schaive spent 12 seasons in the minor leagues. He was a career .291 hitter in more than 1,100 minor league games. He hit .293 on the Class AA level and .282 in five Triple-A seasons.
Schaive even did some pitching. He was 2-3 in 13 appearances as a 20-year-old for Decatur of the Mississippi-Ohio League in 1954. Then in 1963 with York of the Class AA Eastern League, he was 2-1 in eight appearances.
Playing baseball was Schaive’s passion. He grew up a New York Yankees fan on Springfield’s north end, but his favorite player was Ted Williams. He made his big league debut in 1958 as a 24-year-old infielder at Boston’s historic Fenway Park.
“I was awed,” he said. “My first game was in Fenway Park against the Red Sox. Ted Williams was my idol. And I still remember walking into Yankee Stadium for the first time.”
Eventually, injuries caught up with Schaive, who ended his career in 1966 as a player-manager in Monterrey, Mexico. He hurt his knee, dislocated his elbow and suffered other injuries. It never lessened his love for the game.
“The highlight for me was getting up every day knowing I was a ballplayer, to have the opportunity to play every day,” Schaive said.
When his playing days were over, Schaive came back to Springfield, where he helped raise his family. He coached the Springfield Caps of the Central Illinois Collegiate League in the 1970s and was the coach when Sangamon State University fielded a baseball team.
Although he never officially worked as a scout for any professional organization, Schaive served as an area scout for his many friends in baseball. He played a role in getting professional baseball contracts for local players such as Roger Erickson (Twins), Mike Mathiot (Twins), Jerry Fry (Expos), Dan Callahan (Padres), Myron Hunter (Cubs), Loren White (Expos) and Bill Lamkey (Twins).