Our interview with the former big league catcher. Plus an update from 2023!
Pro Perspective: Jimmie Schaffer
- St. Louis Cardinals, 1961 - 1962, Chicago Cubs, 1963 - 1964, Chicago White Sox, 1965, New York Mets, 1965, Philadelphia Phillies, 1966 - 1967, Cincinnati Reds, 1968
From Small Town Pennsylvania to The Big Leagues
Jim Schaffer (also called Jimmie Schaffer) was born on April 5, 1936 in Limeport, Pennsylvania, a small town near Allentown, PA.
He was signed in 1955 by the St. Louis Cardinals after graduating from Coopersburg High School.
Jim spent six seasons in the minors before making his MLB debut for the Cardinals on May 20, 1961.
Jimmie jumped around during his big league career, playing catcher for six different big league clubs over the course of his eight year MLB career.
His best season came in 1963 while with the Chicago Cubs, when Jimmie appeared in 57 games and collected 7 home runs and 19 RBIs, good for a 1.4 bWAR that year.
In total during his pro career, Jim Schaffer played in 304 games, collected 128 hits and gunned down 46 base runners.
From Player to Coach
After his playing career ended, Jimmie got into coaching baseball. He coached at the minor league level in the Baltimore Orioles system and went back to the big leagues in the late 70's to serve as a coach for the Texas Rangers.
Jimmie then joined the coaching staff of the Kansas City Royals in 1980 and worked with the team for 10 seasons. He was a member of the 1985 World Series winning Royals.
Schaffer retired from baseball following the 1989 season.
Q&A with Jim Schaffer
Jimmie Schaffer is a former big league catcher with eight seasons of MLB playing time under his belt. He has played with many MLB legends - names like Stan Musial, Ron Santo and Pete Rose, just to name a few.
I wrote Jimmie Schaffer a few months ago looking to get his input on my normal questions for pro catchers. He kindly autographed my 1964 Topps card and responded to my questions, as shown below.
Like others in the Pro Perspective series, I wanted to share Jimmie's responses with my readers in the hope that his input will help catchers wanting to improve their game.
Here are Jimmie's responses to my questions, as you can also read in the image below.
Question 1: What is your favorite memory from playing in the major leagues?
Answer: My 1st time a(t) bat I hit a line drive single to center field off Dick Ellsworth. Also putting on a major league uniform on for a lot (of) years as a player and coach.
Question 2: What do you think is the most important skill that a catcher should have?
Answer: Work very hard at all parts of (the) game. Learn your pitchers and their favorite pitches. Block balls and keep everything in front of you. I see so many young catchers today that I call Retreivers not Receivers. (Yadier) Molina (Cardinals) I think is tops right now. You have to work at it, want to get better each day and by all means listen to coaches at all times.
Question 3: If you could give one piece of advice to young catchers hoping to play at the next level, what would it be?
Answer: Work at catching, pay attention. You can only improve by playing as much as possible and listen to your coaches. I had the pleasure of playing for Al Unser 3 of my 1st 4 years who was a catcher and learned by listening and playing to improve.
A couple of things stand out in Jim Schaffer's responses. First, the importance of receiving pitches and blocking. Keep the ball in front of you. Frame pitches. Remember, this is a man that not only played at the highest level, but coached at the highest level as well. He knows what he's talking about.
Also, his advice about the importance of listening to coaches. No one knows everything, and learning from others who have gone before you can really make the difference in moving from a good catcher to a great catcher.
I reached out to Jimmie Schaffer once again in February 2023 and asked him to sign his 1968 Topps for me, which he did. I also took the opportunity to ask him another question, this one focused specifically on his playing career in baseball.
See below for the question and his response.
Question: Who was the best pitcher that you ever had the opportunity to catch? What made them the best in your opinion?
Answer: I caught a lot of really good pitchers. A couple of Hall of Famers. I think Hoyt Wilhelm was one of the best and but I made a good living being able to catch knuckleball pitches.
Thanks for Reading
We have even more Pro Perspectives ready to share, and we will continue releasing them in the coming months. Keep your eyes peeled for them!