98-year-old Sonoma County man, who pitched for the Yankees, is oldest surviving MLB player
Growing up in Mill Valley, Arthur Schallock didn’t much care for major league baseball. But he was a huge fan of the San Francisco Seals.
Schallock, who will be 99 in April, was a star pitcher at Tamalpais High in the early 1940s. He hoped to play for the Seals, of the Pacific Coast League. The club had been a way station for future Hall of Famers Paul Waner, Lefty Gomez and Joe DiMaggio.
But Seals manager Lefty O’Doul wouldn’t sign the 5-foot 9-inch, 160-pound left-hander, believing him too slight to succeed.
Schallock never did play for the Seals. He had to settle instead for the New York Yankees, who signed him in 1951. To clear a spot for him on the roster, the Yankees demoted a struggling rookie to the minors.
“They sent Mickey Mantle down to make room for me,” Schallock recalled with a chuckle during a recent interview at his house near the city of Sonoma, where he lives with Dona, his wife of 76 years. Mantle got his groove back, and rejoined the Yankees a few months later.
In his five seasons with The Pinstripes, Schallock earned three World Series rings. A pitcher with a nasty curve, a “sneaky fastball” and highly effective change-up — “that was probably my best pitch,” he recalls — Schallock was a foot soldier on teams with such household names as DiMaggio, Mantle, Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra.
But Schallock has earned added renown, in his twilight years, for his longevity. On July 7, 2022, a former St. Louis Browns outfielder named George Elder died at the age of 101. With Elder’s passing, Schallock became the oldest living former major league player.
The next oldest living big leaguer, born 131 days after Schallock, is Bill Greason, who in 1954 became the first Black pitcher to play for the St. Louis Cardinals.
“They’re both delightful”
Arthur and Dona are going strong, all things considered. They live an independent life at Creekside Village, near Sonoma.
A former club champion at Peacock Gap Golf Club in San Rafael, he gave up that sport a few years ago, because of “balance issues,” Schallock said. “I’m afraid to bend over — tee it up and fall flat on my face.”
He’s nearsighted now, so Dona does the driving. A spring chicken at 97, she’s also a gifted painter, and a regular at weekly meetings of the Creekside Art Group.
“They’re both delightful — very lively and great with the stories,” said Janice Best, a fellow Creekside artist and friend of the couple. “And she adores him. She’s so proud of Artie, and it’s just touching.”
The couple met on a blind date in Marin County, after Schallock returned from his three years of service in the Navy during World War II.
“Art has been lucky all his life,” said Dona, a native of Sausalito. “But he deserves it. He’s a very nice man.”
Schallock has been on this earth nearly twice as long as his father, who was killed in a car accident at the age of 51. A drunken driver hit him head on. Arthur, 11 or 12 at the time, was sitting in the passenger seat. He went through the windshield.
“They found me in some bushes,” he said. “I woke up three days later, in the hospital.”
Close calls in the Pacific
Two weeks after his high school graduation, he was drafted by the Navy, and shipped off to the Pacific Theater. “I didn’t see a baseball for three years,” he recalled.
Schallock spent most of those three years as a radio operator on an aircraft carrier called the USS Coral Sea — later renamed the USS Anzio.
On Nov. 24, 1943, the Coral Sea was steaming in the central Pacific alongside its sister ship, the USS Liscome Bay, when that escort carrier was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine. The torpedo hit the Liscome Bay’s starboard side, near the bomb magazine.
“Blew the elevators right out of the ship,” recalled Schallock. “It went down in about 20 minutes.” A total of 644 men were killed on the Liscome Bay that morning.
Schallock’s job was to man a kind of crow’s nest high up on the “the island” — the command center for flight-deck operations.
“When those kamikazes started coming around, I was like a sitting duck up there,” he remembered. “Thank God our gunners nailed ’em before they got to our ship.”
Life in the minors
Discharged in 1946, he signed the following year with the Brooklyn Dodgers organization. A year later, he made the roster of the Dodgers’ Triple A club in Montreal, where his teammates included future Hall of Famer Duke Snider, future Cy Young Award-winner Don Newcombe, and a rangy first baseman named Chuck Connors, who would go on to star in the television series “The Rifleman.”
UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy: