Sunday, March 16, 2014

Short Stay Sunday: Paul Schramka

Welcome to the 2nd edition of the weekly feature "Short Stay Sunday."  Please make your way to your seats as the feature presentation is about to begin.

Today's profile will be on one Paul Schramka.  His short stay on the northside was really short; it lasted all of three days, April 14th-16th in 1953.  As a bright-eyed, 25 year old prospect, you really think he would've been around longer.

Athletics ran in the Schramka family blood, as his brother Gene captained the basketball team for Marquette University from 1951-1952.  Basketball, too, was a love of Paul and he excelled at both sports as a high schooler in Milwaukee.

But, it was his skills on the diamond that caught the attention of a Cubs scout, who signed him to a minor league deal out of high school. Paul had other ideas though.  Namely, playing hoops at the University of Notre Dame and he was granted his release in order to pursue that dream before actually appearing in a game.

It was not to be though, having failed to impress the Notre Dame basketball coach during tryouts, Paul transferred out after just one semester.  He landed at the University of San Francisco in 1946, where he was to receive a scholarship for basketball and baseball.  But, he soon dropped basketball to focus exclusively on baseball as his playing time on the court diminished.

The tiny school (1,800 enrolled) didn't even have athletic fields and didn't belong to an athletic conference.  However, it offered him the opportunity to play and he made the most of it, regularly batting over .330.  He even became good friends with future NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle. That opportunity lead him right back to where he started, the Chicago Cubs.

He re-signed with the club in 1948, who out-bid 13 other teams for his services.  However, just 5 days after signing, while running up some steps on his way to church, he tripped and fell.  He injured his right shoulder enough to require surgery.  Ahhhh, Cubs prospects just never change do they?

Then, after regaining his health and playing in A-ball, Paul was drafted into the Army.  Instead of going to Korea, he was luckily shipped off to Germany.  But, it seemed as if he would never make it to the bigs.

A few bumps in the road wouldn't stop Paul though and he impressed upon his return stateside in 1952 during spring training. He got the call to open the season as the 7th (!!!) outfielder.  He only saw action as a pinch runner and substitute left fielder, never getting a plate appearance in 2 games.

He was sent right back down and never re-emerged.  After eventually being demoted back down to single-A, he was released 1953.  At age 85, he is back living in Milwaukee after a long career as an undertaker and playing baseball in industrial leagues.

But the real significance of Paul's career was his jersey number:  14.  He was the last person to wear the number before "Mr. Cub" Ernie Banks came along.  It was Paul's telegraph to Ernie shortly after the latter was first called up that makes for one of the funniest moments in Cubs history.  It read, "I left all the base hits in the jersey for you."

The card I have to honor Mr. Schramka's short stay is from baseball card merchant Larry Fritsch's fascinating "One Year Wonder" set.  Another particularly useful collection of cards as this set spotlight's ball players who's stays were so short, that they never had a major league card.  As an added bonus, it's even autographed!

There you have it folks, the story of Paul Schramka.  I hope you enjoyed this week's edition of Short Stay Sunday.  Please kindly make your way to the exit and we hope to see you back next week to learn about another, more recent, local boy.

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