Jun 17, 2016

1973 N.L. Champion Mets Top Prospect Who Never Made It: Dave Schneck (1972-1974)

David Lee Schneck was born on June 18, 1949 in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The five ten left handed Schneck was a star pitcher during high school years in the Lehigh Valley. He was 20-2 as a pitcher, winning three school titles in his four years there. In his senior year he was developing into a better hitter, batting .362 at the plate. He was then drafted by the New York Mets in the 38th round of the 1967 draft.  

He made it to Mets Spring Training in 1968 still listed as a pitcher but then injured his collarbone. When he returned he & farm director Whitey Herzog agreed he should convert to an outfielder. He was hitting well enough to get promoted to the AA Texas League, before breaking his wrist. That same year he got married in the off season & the day after his honeymoon, was drafted to into the Vietnam War. He spent 14 months in Vietnam, enduring a horrible conflict where he lost half his platoon in battle.  

After serving in the military, Schneck returned to the Mets system with an invitation to Spring Training in 1971.

He was sent to the A ball Visalia Mets of the California League, a hitter’s paradise where the Mets had six of the League’s top ten HR hitters. Schneck hit 26 HRs there getting promoted to AA Memphis where he hit another 8 HRs but only batted .200 in 57 games. 

By 1972 he had earned the reputation as a good power hitter, hitting another 24 HRs that season (two behind league leader Gorman Thomas) while batting .304.  

The Mets called him up in July 1972 and his career started out great. In his first game on July 14th, he hit clean-up, between Willie Mays and Rusty Staub at San Diego in a game against the Padres.

In the 6th inning of that game, he hit a his first career HR, a two run shot off pitcher; Steve Arlin, that ended up being the game winning run in the 3-2 win. The next day he made a great game saving catch on a late inning Jerry Morales fly ball preserving the Mets 2-1 win for Gary Gentry. The day after that he went 3-4 with his second HR and a double, driving in his third run in his first three games. He hit safely in his first six games and thirteen of his first sixteen games.

The press began to compare him with Willie Mays & of course that was the kiss of death. He went into a slump from there but hit safely in the last three games of the year. He finished off the season playing 37 games with 23 hits, 3 HRs and 10 RBIs batting .184. Schneck spent most of 1973 at AAA Tidewater, hitting 12 HRs with 71 RBIs & batting .240.

He got a cup of coffee late in the year during the Mets pennant run, batting .194 (7-36). He played in the first game of the final series at Wrigley Field, with the Mets playing to win the NL East title. Schneck got one hit going 1-4 but was not eligible for post season play. He did get to throw batting practice for the team during the 1973 World Series.  

In 1974, Willie Mays had retired and Schneck was penciled in as the teams main center fielder, having beaten out Don Hahn. He started out hitting like crazy; first with two hits & an Opening Day RBI against the Phillies Jim Lonborg. 

 Schneck had multiple hit games in his first four games of the season, including a big 4 -5 day in the first game of an April 11th double header. He had two multiple HR games where he drove in four runs each time that month. Both big games came on the road that month, at Montreal & in San Francisco.

He was second in the NL in batting by the middle of April, but slowly faded from there, eventually losing his starting job to Don Hahn. In May he hit a HR at Wrigley Field having a three hit day with two RBIs in a 7-2 Mets win.

On July 5th he singled twice driving in two of the Mets three runs helping Jerry Kooman to a 3-2 complete game victory over the San Francisco Giants. Later that week his 4th inning sac fly ended up being the game winning run in a 2-1 victory against the San Diego Padres.

Schneck continued to struggle falling to the .200 mark by August & was sent down to polish up his hitting. He returned when the rosters expanded in September & on September 11, 1974, Schneck went into the MLB record books. 

In the 25 inning epic vs. the St Louis Cardinals he tied a record with 11 at-bats in the game. In that game he got two doubles. On the 1974 season, he appeared in 92 games, batting .205 with 5 HRs 11 doubles 4 stolen bases & 25 RBIs. In the outfield he had five assists & posted a .974 fielding percentage.  

In 1975, he was involved in the Tug McGraw trade going to Philadelphia with McGraw and Don Hahn in exchange for John Stearns, Del Unser and Mac Scarce. Schneck played poorly in the minors in 1975, batting just .217 with six HRs at AAA Toledo. He then went to the Cincinnati Reds organization showing good power over the next two seasons hitting 33 homers at the AA level.

Schneck would never make it back up to the majors, finishing a brief three season career with a .199 average 82 hits 8 HRs 14 doubles 4 triples 35 RBIs & a .251 on base % in 143 career games. As an outfielder he posted a .979 fielding % with eight assists.  

Retirement: After retirement, Schneck ran a waterproofing company in Whitehall, Pennsylvania and later set up an amusement park and batting cage center.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Where did you learn all this information about Schneck... The Vietnam battle? The waterproofing company?