One of, if not the nutiest character in baseball history, Schaefer will probably best be remembered for actually helping to institute a rule change because of one of his base running stunts. Schaefer was the master of the "stealing" of first base. I know this may sound wacky at first but there actually was a method to the Schaefer madness with this play. Let me explain!!
One summer day not so long ago, (or maybe it was) Detroit was playing the Indians. The Tigers had the speedy Davy Jones on third base and Schaefer on first in the ninth inning and tried a delayed double steal, but Cleveland 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. Clarke became undone and threw down to second while Jones scored the winning run. Schaefer tried the play a couple of more times before it became outlawed.
"Germany" or "Dutch" or "Schaef " as he was known to his friends, was a ruddy faced, good-natured gent with a heart of gold. A free spirit in a time of free spirits, he befriended a young Ty Cobb and became one of his closest friends on the team. Schaefer was a low average hitter, but a jack of all trades in the infield. Sort of an early day super-sub. His fielding versatility kept him in the majors for 13 seasons.
A hard partying, two fisted drinker, his dream was to one day own a saloon where all his former teammates would come to hang out. His Detroit Manager, Hugh Jennings once said of him; "Schaef can always be counted on to pick up the spirits of the boys"...."nothing rattles that bird."
The Tigers starting second baseman in his first two years with the club, he led the AL in putouts in 1905 and in total chances per game in 1906. He had only one more season where 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.
By 1912 he began to spend more time on the coaching lines, where he teamed up 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.
In 1919 Schaefer became a scout for his friend John McGraw. On Friday, May 16th, 1919, he caught a New York Central train bound for Lake Placid, NY. While on board, as the train approached Saranac Lake, he suffered a hemorrhage. He was rushed to a hospital in Saranac, but died within the hour. He was only 42 years old.
When he died, eyewitnesses at the hospital said that there was a hint of a grin on his face! If that story is true, then Germany Shaefer died just as he had lived, with a smile on his face!