Baseball is many things, but funny is usually not among them. All experiences, of course, can be turned to humor with the right humorist and situation. Al Schacht was perhaps the greatest humorist to practice his trade primarily within (and with) the sport. The title “Clown Prince of Baseball” was his own invention, but the public quickly acclaimed him as such.
Comedy was not Al Schacht’s first career. He began as a ballplayer. In his professional debut with Cleveland of the United States League, Schacht struck out 11 of the first 15 batters. After a Giants’ contract, a sore arm, and World War I service, he finally received a break from the Washington Senators after he repeatedly sent letters to owner Clark Griffith about himself, signed “Just a Fan.” He pitched for the Senators from 1919 to 1921, winning 14 games and losing 10 while relying, appropriately, on a screwball. The highlight of his career came on July 5, 1920, when, subbing for the injured Walter Johnson, he beat the Yankees 4-3.
Schacht later coached in the minors and majors, but by the late 1930s he had turned to clowning, achieving his greatest fame in that venue. He performed at 27 World Series, affecting such props as a four-foot-wide catcher’s mitt and a bullfighter’s costume in which he did battle with goats. He would single out players, managers, and especially umpires for mock arguments. During World War II, the Clown Prince took his act abroad to entertain the troops at more than 300 performances, earning not only increased fame but the lasting gratitude of his audiences. His legacy endures in the antics of myriad mascots trotted out by today’s clubs to entertain fans at the ballpark.
See also: Griffith, Clark Calvin; War; “Who’s on
Kavanagh, Jack. The Heights of Ridiculousness:
The Feats of Baseball’s Merrymakers. South
Bend, IN: Diamond Communications, 1999.
Schacht, Alexander. My Own Particular Screw-
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City, NY: Doubleday, 1955.
The farm boy with a blazing fastball joins his favorite major league team; the city kid playing stickball moves into the fast