Happy Birthday, Dutch Schirick!

That’s The Honorable Justice Harry E. Schirick, who for 15 years was a New York State Supreme Court Justice representing the 3rd District.

Born 15 June 1890, Shirick went to Cornell, where he was was a smallish (5 – 8, 160) catcher but named captain of his team. Hughie Jennings coached him and recommended Schirick to Branch Rickey, who was the manager of the St. Louis Browns.

Rickey took the kid in, gave him a contract, and Schirick sat on the bench during the games but got to practice with the pros. Toward the end of the season, in a game that was woefully out of reach, Rickey let Schirick pinch hit against Washington lefty Jack Bentley. Schirick drew a walk and took second and third base – he is credited with two stolen bases but it is equally likely that it was defensive indifference. No matter – he was stranded on third base when the game ended.

Offered a chance to go to the minors, Schirick heeded the advice of his parents and took up the law. Within years, he was an active member of the Democratic Party, moved to the bench and eventually was named a state supreme court justice.

He never lost his love for baseball, though. In 1921, Schirick organized a semi-professional baseball team in his home town of Kingston. The Colonels were initially stocked with local talent, but the shrewd, clever, and persuasive lawyer would hire players from all over to join the team – college stars or other semi-professional players who happened to have good days in Kingston. To help defray expenses, he would have players (and himself) walk around the park with a hat to collect donations.

Schirick Kingston Colonels 1924

Harry Schirick and his Kingston Colonels in 1924 before facing Burleigh Grimes in an exhibition game.  Schirick is standing at the top left.

In time, the reputation of the Kingston Colonels (and their manager) was such that major league teams would schedule exhibitions in Kingston. Ed Walsh, the Hall of Famer, was running a team in Oneonta and pitched against Kingston in 1921 – one of the last times Walsh pitched. If a Colonel had a good day against the pros, he might be signed to a contract. For example, Bud Culloton had a fine outing against the Pirates and wound up spending four years in the Pittsburgh system. The Colonels, however, didn’t survive the 1920s, and Schirick’s involvement in baseball was then surpassed by his requirements as a city judge.

Schirick was remembered as a firm but fair man on the bench – able to make good decisions based on both the law and his own humanity. He passed away on November 12, 1968.

Tiano, Charles J. “Tiano’s Topics”, Kingston Daily Freeman, 10 December 1968, Page 19.

“Original Colonels – A Kingston Baseball Legend”, 18 October 1971, Page A-4 (46).


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