Although Tinker, Evers and Chance get all the accolades when the old Chicago Cubs dynasty is mentioned, their better players often get overlooked. Their pitching staff, and not their infield, was their bread and butter and their offense was not carried by the fabled trio, in fact, the muscle of the batting order was supplied by one Wildfire Schulte.
Wildfire joined the Cubs for a brief spell in 1904 but was handed an everyday job in 1905–the year Frank Chance replaced Frank Selee as skipper. Schulte was the youngest fellow in the lineup but hit a nifty .274 as a rookie. By 1906, Wildfire began to show signs of power when he led the National League with 13 triples. The left-handed clouter finished third in the homeruns department while leading the Cubbies to the first of their three straight NL pennants. In the World Series, Schulte led the Cubs in RBI and doubles but his squad couldn’t stop the crosstown Hitless Wonders.
Wildfire played briefly in 1907 but still helped the Cubs repeat as NL champions. He hit a modest .250 in the World Series, leading the Cubs over the Detroit Tigers of Cobb and Crawford. His Cubs repeated as the lords of baseball in 1908 when they again topped Detroit as Wildfire hit a robust .389 in that Fall Classic. When catcher Johnny Kling held out the 1909 season, the Cubs failed to capture the pennant but Schulte led his team in RBI and slugging average.
When Kling returned in 1910, the Cubs won their fourth pennant in five years. Wildfire supplied the thunder in the Cubs lineup by leading the league in homeruns. He paced his right field peers in slugging average and runs scored while leading the Cubs to a Fall Classic showdown with the A’s of Connie Mack. The Mackmen beat the Cubs in the 1910 World Series, but Wildfire’s bat was ablaze; he hit .353 for the series.
But it was the 1911 season when Wildfire Schulte gained everlasting fame. The heavy-hitter clubbed 21 homeruns to lead the league, thus becoming the first player since the two league platform was adopted to reach 20 homers. wildfire also led the NL in RBI, slugging average and total bases making him an easy winner for the MVP Award. That year was a season for the ages; Wildfire reached 20 homers, 20 triples and 20 steals while also hitting .300 with 100 runs scored–this has rarely been since.
Following that amazing season, Wildfire finished second in homeruns in 1912 and third in 1915 after a sluggish 1914 campaign. The Cubs had an enviable, slugging outfield in 1915. Wildfire teamed with Cy Williams to give the Cubs 25 homers (an immense amount in The Deadball Era) between them; more than the combined total of six other National League teams. Despite still hitting heavy, the Cubs shipped Wildfire off to Pittsburgh for Otto Knabe and Art Wilson during th 1916 season and his career came to a quick halt. He lost his power stroke, finishing his career with the 1918 Senators, hitting a nifty .288 but not swatting a single homer all year.
Wildfire had a career World Series batting average of .321; better than the career World Series marks of Tinker, Evers and Chance.
G 1,805/R 906/H 1,766/2B 288/3B 124/HR 93/RBI 792/BB 545/SB 233/BA .270/SA .395