One of the zaniest characters in baseball history, Schaefer is most famous for causing a rule change with one of his antics. Actually he had a practical reason for stealing first base. Playing Cleveland, the Tigers had the speed Davy Jones on third base and Schaefer on first in the ninth inning and tried a delayed double steal, but the catcher, Nig Clarke, didn’t throw. Schaefer ran back to first base on the next pitch, then shouted across to Jones that he was going to second base again. The catcher, rattled, threw down to second and Jones scored the winning run. That tactic was then outlawed.
Schaefer was a powerless hitter and rarely hit for a good average, but his versatility afield kept him in the majors for 13 seasons (not counting his last two years, when he played in only one game each). In his first two years with the Tigers, 1905-06, he was their regular second baseman, leading the AL in putouts in 1905 and in total chances per game in 1906. He had only one more season in which he played 100 games at a single position. His best season offensively was probably 1908, when he reached career highs with 96 runs (third in the AL), 40 steals (third), and 20 doubles as the Tigers won their second of three consecutive AL pennants (1907-09). Traded to the Senators in mid-1909, he had one more significant season, hitting a career-high .334 in 125 games in 1911, but thereafter spent most of his time on the coaching lines, teamed with fellow clown Nick Altrock. An earlier vaudeville act with Tiger teammate Charley O’Leary was the inspiration for the MGM musical “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” starring Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra. Schaefer’s friend John McGraw made him a Giant scout in 1919, and while on a scouting trip to Canada that year, Schaefer died of a massive heart attack.