This article was published in the Summer 2016 issue of The Baylor Line.
To former players and students, legendary baseball coach Dutch Schroeder is a walking history book, mentor & friend
There’s a simple reason that Rick Hawkins ’69, MBA ’70, who pitched only one year for the Baylor baseball team, decided with his wife to donate $500,000 to name the Dutch Schroeder Plaza at the Baylor Baseball Stadium.
“I was thinking about transferring here from Southern Illinois University and when I came to visit Baylor they called Dutch. Five minutes later, he jogged over to talk to me. I came to Baylor because I met Dutch. I met my wife here, and I became successful enough that I could retire at age 56. I asked myself why all that happened, and the answer was Baylor and Dutch. He’s a disciplined man with a tremendous work ethic and he taught me that the one thing you can control is effort: to play hard, to be a good teammate, and to get an education.”
At some point we all wonder how we’ll be remembered. We ask ourselves what people will say about us when we’re gone, and we hope that all that we’ve built and the love we’ve given will outlast us.
The renowned Dutch Schroeder ’49 doesn’t need to worry about his legacy, but he has given it some thought.
“I’d like people to think of me as a Christian who was put on this earth to do good things for everyone,” Dutch says simply as he tears up a bit. “[My players and students] still call me…and they come to see me…and they let me know I meant something in their lives.”
Best known for his love and loyalty to Baylor University, many fondly know this incredible man simply as “Mr. Baylor.” His passion for the university touched many lives through his decades of service. Ask his former players about his contributions to the school and you’ll hear how he:
- Was an early leader in the equality movement, working tirelessly to earn letterman status for women, who had to that point only played club sports and to encourage females and minority athletes to join the Baylor “B” Association and to serve as leaders of the organization.
- Hit the road in 1970 — despite no fundraising experience whatsoever — to secure $50,000 in pledges before the university would begin construction on a letterman’s building on campus across from Martin Hall. He did it in just three months, proving President Abner McCall wrong in his prediction that the lettermen wouldn’t support the project. And he did it with no budget, traveling around the state in his bullet-nosed Studebaker, sleeping on couches and eating with former Baylor players. “I knew that lettermen would give back; they just needed to be asked,” he says today.
- Worked tirelessly to help build the Baylor “B” Association with no salary, starting with the move of the letterman’s lounge to what would become Floyd Casey Stadium; raising money to renovate the “B” Lounge in 1978; and leading the charge for the addition of an Athletic Hall of Fame and a Wall of Honor to celebrate lettermen’s achievements after graduation, spending hours researching what the former athletes were doing.
- Earned the loyalty of hundreds — maybe thousands —of varsity letterman who fondly remember his encyclopedic memory, passion for Baylor, and desire to help older lettermen network with younger ones.
- Set an example with his love for the university that has resulted in many of the Baylor “B” Association members also ranking among the university’s top donors.
- Schroeder has spent a lifetime tirelessly serving Baylor, its students, its alumni, and his dedication has earned the respect and affection of many.
- In interviews conducted in mid-April at the 50th reunion of his 1966 Southwestern Conference championship team (and Dutch’s 92nd birthday), former players and fans were eager to explain their love for the man who has given 6o years of his life to the university.
Bill Bain ’66, who organized the April reunion, was one of many people who spoke about Dutch’s incredible memory. “I remember sitting with him at a B function a few years ago and a guy came up to him and said ‘I’ll bet you don’t remember me.’ Dutch knew his name, his position on the football team, the years he played, his wife and family’s names, and where he lived. The guy’s mouth was wide open. Dutch doesn’t miss much. If there’s anyone who should have the Mr. Baylor title, it’s Dutch.”
“Dutch Schroeder IS Baylor University to me,” says Chip Hubbard ’73, the 2007 “B” Association president and the manager of Schroeder’s last team in 1973. “He is a fine Christian gentleman, a man of character and integrity. I also think of him as the “Host” of the “B” Lounge, standing at the front door and greeting everyone who walked through the door.”
Football letterman Jerry Marcontell ’58 experienced the Schroeder memory firsthand this past season when he shared a pregame meal with niece Shari Lippe ’87, who lettered in basketball. “He remembered her and called her by name. Shari told me she was in a badminton class with him in the mid-8os. And he remembered her. He has an encyclopedic knowledge and recall of Baylor athletics dating back to the 19405 and 1950s.”
Dr. Nancy Goodloe ’68, MSEd ’69, dedicated her 2014 book, Before Brittney: A Legacy of Champions, to Schroeder and says “Boy, he helped me tons, setting up get-togethers and interviews, providing me with great stories and facts, and promoting the book.”
After Ryan Sprayberry ’83 of the Texas Sports Hall of Fame wrote a profile on Grant Teaff for the Fall 2015 issue of The Baylor Line, he received a number of calls from readers recommending future subjects. Each and every one of them recommended Dutch Schroeder.
“This wasn’t the first time there was an outpouring of support for this man,” Sprayberry says. “In 2014, Coach Schroeder was Baylor’s addition to our Southwest Conference Hall of Fame. We held the ceremony in Houston and the inductees included University of Houston Quarterback David Klingler, College Football Hall of Famer Chris Gilbert, and Texas A&M legend Jacob Green. Of all those athletes from those large schools, none were as well represented as Coach Schroeder, who attracted more than 100 people for an event that generally brought in 400 people supporting inductees from nine schools.”
Schroeder is a storyteller, and friends and players all have their favorites. You can’t sit back and just listen to Schroeder’s stories. They’re interactive. The four hours I spent with him taught me more about Baylor athletics than I had learned in my previous to months in Waco, and I quickly learned that when Schroeder asks a question and put his right hand to his ear it meant I had to provide the answer. It was not a relaxing interview by any stretch of the imagination.
One of those well-loved stories is about how Schroeder ended up at Baylor despite having grown up a Longhorns fan and even playing baseball there for two years. In 1946, he hatched a plan with his best friend and future basketball All-American and NBA All-Pro Slater Martin to hitchhike to Waco and transfer to Baylor. Unfortunately only Schroeder made the trip and the change, playing third base and left field for the Bears for the next two years.
Another oft-told tale recalls the time in 1970 when Texas football legend and pitcher James Street blindsided Schroeder near home plate, knocking out Schroeder as he left the third-base box to protest a call.
Schroeder later used Street’s knockout punch to raise the rest of the money for Letterman’s Lounge, which would open in 1972 debt-free. “I’d go in and ask for their thousand-dollar pledge and first they’d ask me what the university was going to do about that hit. They were sympathetic to me and wrote the check or signed the pledge.”
After playing for a number of minor-league baseball teams after graduation, Schroeder got his first coaching position at Austin Travis High School, winning a state championship in 1954. From there, he answered a call from Lloyd Russell to come to Baylor to teach and serve as assistant coach. He was hired as Baylor’s head coach in 1961 to replace Russell and would win 196 games over the next 12 seasons before returning to teaching physical education for the next 27 years.
Each individual interviewed for this story spoke about the relationships Schroeder built with players. Upon returning to Waco after his retirement from Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Rick and Peggy Hawkins ate Mexican food with Dutch and his wife Betty Lou every Wednesday night for six years.
“He KNEW each of us on the team,” says Hubbard. “Our grades, whether we were going to class, who we were dating, whether we were getting into trouble. He mentored us. He was hard on us but that’s because he had high standards. He talked to our professors and he talked to our parents when they came to watch us play. We knew that ‘Dutch was watch-ing’ and that we were expected to be a good student and be a good person. He told us we represented Baylor not only on the field, but off it. Some went off the path, and he held them accountable.”
Schroeder stressed the fundamentals with his teams; in fact, when you ask his former players what position they played, more often than not they’ll list multiple positions.
“I had a choice: Roll the ball out there or teach them some-thing,” says Schroeder. “On my teams, everyone did the same drills no matter where they played. The catchers sat next to me on the bench and I’d tell them they can’t learn anything on the field.”
The approach paid off. Take a look at the list of the most successful Texas high school and college baseball coaches and many of them sat next to Schroeder on that bench.
“I’ve never known a man of higher standards,” says catcher Butch McBroom ’66, who would go on to win more than 800 games over 26 years at the University of Texas at Arlington. “Everything was a teaching moment, and he loved ‘why’ questions. That became an invaluable tool for me as a coach, asking my players ‘why are we doing this?’ He always had a reason for what he did and he stood by what he thought was right. You could always talk to him and he would change his mind. We didn’t always agree with him, but we all respected him.”
“I owe him everything,” says Rick Butler ’69, who was an assistant coach for Dutch in 1969 and 1970 and then went on to win more than 650 games at McClennan Community College. “He taught me that everything was for the good of the team. I kicked one player (former major league star Jay Buehner) off the team twice in one day, but he did what he needed to do to come back. I loved them all to death, and I still do.”
“Coach Schroeder taught me more baseball in the parking lot than any other coach ever taught me on the practice field,” says Don Riddle ‘6o, 2006 “B” Association president, who never directly played for the coach but says Schroeder “has led an exemplary life, teaching so much by example. He was a fountain of great information concerning technique and strategy.”
Another trait that former players, lettermen, and fellow coaches talk about is Schroeder’s energy, his relentless desire to be helpful, and that he just seemed to be “everywhere.”
“I met him in the 19505, just after I got to Baylor, when I was standing looking at what I soon found out were the handball pits,” says Carroll Dawson ‘6o, who played basketball at Baylor and later coached for four years. “He asked me if I had ever played. When I said no, he said he’d show me. I think I broke every blood vessel in my hand. But it’s a game I played for a long time because of how it helped my quick-ness and reaction.”
“When I became a coach, I could never catch up with him on campus. He was like the Energizer Bunny. There has never been an athlete at Baylor who didn’t love Dutch. He would be on your side until you didn’t hustle. I can’t believe he’s still going strong. Any athlete that has gone through Baylor and needed to get something done has called Dutch.” However, Bill Bain, who played third base and shortstop for Schroeder in the mid-60s, says that his generosity is not only reserved for athletes.
“He’s much, much, much more than a coach,” says Bain. “Professor, Educator, Humanitarian, Sunday School teacher, he has always taken the elderly to doctor appointments, picked up their medications, and just stopped by the hospital to visit with patients, even if he didn’t know them.”
McBroom, who has developed a close relationship with the man he says became a father-like figure when his own father passed away, describes Schroeder as a “caregiver” who was always there when Butch’s leg was amputated in 1983.
That doesn’t mean Schroeder hasn’t been known to get in a person’s face or two.
“He will call someone’s hand if he thinks they’re out of line or not doing what’s right – he tells it like it is,” says Bain. “He pulled the team off the field on a couple of occasions and it got him in a bit of trouble. So one day, he got a call from Texas Football Coach Darrell Royal to come see him. Royal saw him-self as the head of the Southwest Conference and Dutch was sure he was going to be scolded. Instead Darrell offered him a job. Even though he played at Texas for two years before going into the military, he didn’t spend much time thinking about the offer but instead recommended Cliff (Gustafson), who won 1,466 games at Texas over 29 seasons.”
Rick Butler was there the day Texas Quarterback James Street tackled Schroeder. “It was a squeeze play and their catcher bludgeoned our player on a rundown. Dutch was coaching third base and ran toward home plate to complain to the umpire when Street came off the pitcher’s mound and blindsided him. I played football and it was as hard as any hit I’ve ever seen.
Butler was also there in the late 196os when Schroeder pulled his team off the field in Fort Worth against TCU after a series of terrible calls. “The locker room was very quiet when he came in and Dutch said he was not going to put us in a position where we couldn’t compete on a fair playing field. `We’re going to the bus now and you won’t say a word. I will speak for us.’ That’s when we all knew he had our back.”
Ronnie Redman ’67 recalled at the reunion that as a newly arrived freshman he had a bad habit of throwing his bat or helmet in high school when he was frustrated. Schroeder took care of that very quickly, as he would with other players.
“After I learned how to use a rake and shovel…” Redman said, drawing a laugh from the audience who remembered the hours players spent getting the field ready for play. “I threw my bat and ran the stands for the next three hours pat-ting my helmet.”
Player after player stepped to the podium at the reunion to talk about the endless running, field maintenance, wondering whether “Coach liked me,” consistent discipline, and challenging conditions, like how the team changed clothes in a building that was charitably described as a “bomb shelter blockhouse,” where you knew you were a senior when you got a second nail for your clothes over a splinter-producing wooden bench, but they also spoke about his impact. “When I came to Baylor in the 196os, our society was falling apart,” says Bill Duncan ’70. “But each of us met an unstoppable force named Dutch Schroeder. He shaped and changed our lives forever. I didn’t always understand his ways, but I’m thankful for them and how it changed our lives.”
The procession of former players echoed a common theme: Schroeder made them ballplayers and men of integrity.
“I coached for 12 years,” Redman said. “Going in, I said I wouldn’t be like coach. That first day, a guy threw his helmet and I immediately had him running the stands, patting his helmet. As I looked back over my first week, there was not one thing I did that Coach didn’t do.”
Gale Galloway ’52 has spent many hours in recent years at funerals with Schroeder, who started the tradition of giving a member’s letterman pin to his widow to bury with him.
“He’s Mr. Baylor and epitomizes what Baylor alums should be. His primary interest was to make sure students got a good foundation. But he doesn’t take no for an answer, and the people who don’t like him don’t have Baylor’s best interest at heart.
Successful businesses know the most important thing is taking care of their customers. Baylor’s customers are the alumni and Dutch has never put up with those people who don’t understand that.”
“Dutch was a champion for women and has really worked hard to involve women’s in the letterman’s association,” says Debbie Mann ‘8o, who served as the 2015 Baylor “B” Association President and was also a member of Clyde Hart’s first track team. “He did a lot of research back in the day and found documentation that they did letter. It was a challenge because you couldn’t play as a freshmen and it required him to search the archives for records. He also worked to get the first scholarship that Baylor awarded to a female athlete, to Suzy Snyder Eppers, who was coached by my father. You can see his passion for Baylor when he speaks; he just knows so much. He’s really a walking history book.”
Faith Cederholm Beaty stepped onto campus as a fresh-man basketball player in 1978 not knowing anyone. “Dutch was the first person I remember. He was always in the corner of female athletes, always encouraging us to believe in our-selves, and he introduced us to everyone.”
Beaty left Baylor before graduation, but Dutch called her in 2003 to encourage her to return as a “B” Association board member. The wife of a Baylor grad and Letterman, and the mother of two Baylor grads, she says Dutch was “always look-ing for ways to get women involved” in the “B” Association in part because it helped our recruiting with female recruits’ mothers. Beaty would become the Baylor “B” Association’s first female president in 2005, and she says that “Dutch’s im-pact will live long after he’s gone.”
Galloway was one of the last interviews for this story and he summarized the symbiotic relationship between Dutch Schroeder, athletes and students, and the university:
“Baylor is a Do Right school, and Dutch is a Do Right individual,” Galloway says. “He doesn’t brag about the things he does. To him, it’s just the way you’re supposed to live your life.”