The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
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Remembering the baseball career of former De La Salle and Loyola star pitcher Gerry Schoen

Perhaps the autographed baseball by the New Orleans Pelicans that Gerry Schoen possessed as a youngster provided the inspiration to pursue a professional baseball career. But more likely it was his success as a pitcher at multiple levels of amateur baseball in the New Orleans area that propelled him into the professional ranks. Even though Schoen ended up with only a proverbial “cup of coffee” in the major leagues, he is nonetheless remembered for his seasons as a dominant local pitcher in the 1960s.

Schoen was a fan of the game at an early age. He acquired an autographed baseball signed by members of the hometown New Orleans Pelicans minor-league team, while he was bed-ridden with spinal meningitis at eight years old.

He was a product of Wisner Playground in Uptown New Orleans. Coached by legendary NORD playground supervisor Ronnie Aucoin, Schoen was a member of two Wisner teams, 10-and-under and 12-and-under, that won city championships.

His childhood friend Johnny Arthurs also played on those teams and remembers Schoen striking out all fifteen batters in a five-inning game. Arthurs, a future two-sport athlete at Tulane University, later played with Schoen at De La Salle High School and on American Legion teams, He recalled, “Everyone had a nickname in those days, and Gerry’s was the ‘White Whale,’ because he was big, husky kid with light-colored hair.”

While Schoen had not played on varsity teams in his freshman and sophomore years, he became a standout in his junior season in 1963. The “White Whale” had developed into a six-foot-two, 200-pound fireballer. Jerry Burrage, long-time local high school and American Legion coach in the New Orleans area, recalled Schoen’s sensational season, “Gerry was a hard-throwing right-hander with great control. He was dominant in his breakout season in 1963.”

Burrage was referring to Schoen’s five prep starts in which he allowed just 11 hits and one run. He was named to the Times-Picayune and States-Item All-Prep teams, as well as the All-State team selected by the Louisiana Sports Writers’ Association. He followed with an 8-0 record in American Legion play that summer for the De La Salle-based team, earning him MVP honors for his district.

Schoen’s undefeated season at the combined prep and Legion levels marked one of the best in recent times in New Orleans. His performance was reminiscent of Jimmy Harwell’s (also a De La Salle alumnus) in 1956.

In 1964, De La Salle captured the Louisiana state high school championship, with Schoen pitching a three-hitter in the finals. The victory gave renowned head coach John Altobello his fourth state title with the school. Schoen was a repeat All-State performer.

Behind the pitching of Schoen, the De La Salle American Legion team won the state title and fought its way to the Little World Series, only to be eliminated after three games.

Following the Legion season, Schoen signed a baseball grant-in-aid baseball scholarship with Loyola University in New Orleans. There were two reasons he chose Loyola over other local colleges. He would be allowed to play on the varsity team as a freshman, and he wanted to play again under the tutelage of his former Babe Ruth coach, Rags Scheuermann, who was the Wolfpack’s head coach. Scheuermann told the States-Item, “We are real glad to get Gerry. He is definitely the No. 1 pitching prospect in the state.”

Schoen had a promising debut game as a freshman with Loyola in 1965. He recorded a strikeout for the first seven outs in a 3-0 win against Southwestern Louisiana (USL). He finished the season with a 6-0 record.

After posting a 2-3 record with Loyola in 1966, Schoen was selected by the Washington Senators in the 25th round of the MLB amateur draft. He decided to forego the rest of his college career and signed with the Senators for a bonus reported as being between ten and fifteen thousand dollars.

Only 19 years old, Schoen’s first minor-league assignment was at Class Geneva in the New York-Penn League in 1966. His best outing occurred on August 23, when he struck out 18 in nine innings.

His 1967 season with Class A Burlington of the Carolina League was interrupted when he enlisted in the Army National Guard in July. He was 7-2 with a 2.69 ERA at the time.

With Double-A Savannah of the Southern League in 1968, his 3-9 record was misleading since he posted a 3.20 ERA and struck out 95 in 118 innings. After four games with Triple-A Buffalo, Schoen was called up by the Senators for the final month of the season. On September 14, he made his major-league debut in a start against the New York Yankees at D.C. Stadium. But he lost control of the game early, as he gave up three runs on six hits in only 3 2/3 innings. The Yankees won, 4-1. The game would be the only major-league appearance in his career. (Players who make a limited number of major-league appearances, like Schoen, are said to be in the big leagues for only the time to drink a “cup of coffee.”)

The American League held an expansion draft in October 1968 for the new Seattle Pilots and Kansas City Royals franchises. Not protected by the Senators, Schoen was the 20th overall selection of the draft by the Pilots. It seemed like a good opportunity for him to land a spot on their major-league roster in 1969.

However, he was traded by Seattle to the Baltimore Orioles in a five-player deal in April, having never pitched for the Pilots. Interestingly, one of the other players involved in the trade was Lloyd Fourroux, who had also prepped at De La Salle and was a career minor-leaguer in the Orioles organization.

Over the next three seasons, Schoen bounced around to minor league teams in the Orioles, Yankees and Minnesota Twins organizations, filling both starter and reliever roles. His highlight during these years was helping Syracuse, a Yankees Triple-A affiliate, win its first International League pennant in 73 years.

Unable to see a clear path back to the big leagues, Schoen decided to quit baseball at age 24.

Schoen is one of three De La Salle alumni to reach the majors. Allan Montreuil and Frank Wills are the others.

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