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Card Corner: Paul Schaal and the No. 9

Posted By Bruce Markusen On April 28, 2009 @ 11:51 am In Bronx Banter,Bruce Markusen | Comments Disabled

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This week’s “Card Corner” has no connection to the Yankees. In fact, this man may be the most obscure player ever profiled in this feature. But he was important to us as kids in 1974, if only because he had such a weird name. And he has become a record-breaker among major league players.

As young fans growing up in Westchester County, we found it both foolishly fun and humorously cruel to repeat the quirky names of certain ballplayers over and over. One of those players was Paul Schaal (pronounced PAWL SHAWL), one of the few big leaguers whose last name rhymed with his first. Along with Lu Blue, Mark Clark, Don Hahn and Greg Legg, Schaal must have taken his share of verbal abuse about that as a child.

A couple of other intriguing facts come to mind when thinking about Paul Schaal. He was the Kansas City Royals’ last regular third baseman before a fellow named George Brett burst onto the major league scene. A certified Hall of Famer and the owner of the most attractive batting swing of the late 20th century—I’ll put him just ahead of Ken Griffey, Jr. in that regard—Brett made most Royals fans forget all about Schaal. Still, Schaal was not a bad ballplayer. Schaal was certainly a better player than most of the third sackers the Yankees were trotting out at the time, an illustrious group that included Bobby Cox and Jerry Kenney. While with the LA and California Angels in the mid-1960s, Schaal established a reputation as one of the game’s finest fielding third baseman. One member of the Angels even called Schaal the equal of Brooks Robinson, generally regarded as baseball’s most divine defensive third baseman of all-time.

Offensively, Schaal showed promise as a youngster, until he was hit in the head by a pitched ball during the 1968 season. The injury left the Angels understandably worried about his future, so they left him exposed in the expansion draft that winter. As one of four new teams entering the major leagues, the Royals snapped up Schaal, hoping that he would recover fully from the beanball incident.

After initially clashing with Royals skipper Charlie Metro, Schaal settled in nicely as KC’s cornerman. In 1971, he used remarkable patience at the plate, walking 103 times to formulate a .387 on-base percentage, while playing in every Royals game that season. He slumped to a .228 average in 1972 before rebounding to hit .288 with eight home runs the following season. Unfortunately, Schaal’s game fall off badly in 1974, prompting a trade back to California, where he finished out his career with the Halos. In the meantime, Mr. Brett staked permanent claim to Kansas City’s “hot corner.”

While Schaal never achieved much more than temporary stardom with the Royals, he has managed to become one of the most successful of ex-ballplayers in his post-playing days. After owning a chain of pizza shops, Schaal went into the unrelated field of chiropractics. (From pizza to ‘practics.) Schaal became Dr. Schaal, which sounds an awful lot like Dr. Scholl, the foot doctor. But it’s Dr. Schaal, practicing back specialist. The good doctor now runs the Schaal Health & Wellness Center in Overland Park, Kansas, and is considered an expert in network spinal analysis. As the doctor’s website points out, “At Schaal Health Center, we use Young Living Essential Oils daily to diffuse the air with their therapeutic aromas.” As a child of the seventies, that sounds pretty good to me.

Here’s something else that you might find interesting about Paul Schaal. He has been married nine times. (That’s got to be a record for a major leaguer. Nine times!) It would be most appropriate for Paul Schaal to be interviewed on CNN by Larry King. How great would that be?


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