Schacht, Alexander

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SCHACHT, ALEXANDER (Al ; "The Clown Prince of Baseball"; 1892–1984), U.S. baseball player and entertainer who performed in a battered top hat and a tattered tuxedo with tails, wielding a catcher's mitt that weighed 25 pounds. Schacht was born on the Lower East Side to Russian immigrants Ida, daughter of a rabbi, and Samuel, son of a prominent farmer and a skilled locksmith, who once made a set of iron doors for the White House for Teddy Roosevelt. Schacht was a pitcher for Commerce High School, but was expelled for accepting $4 to pitch a semi-pro game. He then started his career in 1910 playing for Walton in upstate New York. Schacht played for Cleveland in the outlawed Federal League, and in the International League for Newark and the Jersey City Giants, for whom he pitched 10 shutouts. Schacht was drafted into the army in World War i before making his Major League debut for the Washington Nationals on September 18, 1919, at the age of 26. At spring training the following year, he met Nick Altrock, himself a baseball clown, and the two formed a clowning partnership, though they did not like each other and later in their partnership never spoke to each other. A sore arm curtailed Schacht's career in less than two years, and he retired from playing with a record of 14–10 with a 4.48 era in 53 games. He continued as a coach and clown with Altrock, until Schacht left for Boston in 1934, and afterward he performed alone in an act that was part pantomime and part anecdotes. During rain delays he would plop down in a mud puddle with two bats, and pantomime rowing as if he were in a boat. He was also known for staging mock boxing and tennis matches on the field. Schacht performed at 25 World Series and 18 All-Star Games, and by his estimation entertained more than 70 million fans in his nearly five decades as an entertainer. During World War ii, Schacht made three trips overseas with the USO, entertaining thousands of troops in Europe, Africa, and Asia. After the war, Schacht gave up touring and opened a restaurant on East 52nd St. in New York. He was the author of Clowning Through Baseball (1941); Al Schacht Dope Book: Diamond Facts, Figures And Fun (1944); gi Had Fun (1945); and My Own Particular Screwball (1955).

[Elli Wohlgelernter (2nd ed.)]