If you look at Paul Schreiber’s Yankees career alone, nothing seems especially weird about it. He pitched in two games in 1945, allowing two runs in 4.1 innings. Now, yes, he was 42 years old at the time. While even now that’s old for a baseball player, a 40+ year old playing in the majors wasn’t totally unheard of.
However, when you zoom out and look at the rest of Schreiber’s baseball career, those two games suddenly look very weird.
After being discovered by the then-Brooklyn Robins in amateur ball, Schreiber signed a deal with the team in 1919. He was born in 1902 and would have been 16 or 17 when he was signed, so Schreiber went into the minor leagues.
Schreiber’s professional baseball career started as a 17-year-old, playing for the Lakeland Highlanders of the Florida State League in 1920. He pitched 206 innings that year, finishing with a 2.06 ERA. After spending the following year with the Jacksonville Scouts of the FSL, he spent spent most of 1922 with the Saginaw Aces. He had another decently impressive season in Saginaw and found himself in the majors by the end of 1922.
On September 2, 1922 with the Robins losing 5-2 to the Giants, Schreiber was brought in to pitch the eighth inning. He allowed two hits, but threw a scoreless inning while making his major league debut as a 19-year-old.
The following season in 1923, Schreiber remained with Brooklyn, getting sporadic playing time. After giving up three earned runs in his first appearance on April 20th, he gave up just four more in the rest of the season. He pitched 15 innings in 1923, finishing with a 4.20 ERA.
Despite putting up decent results that season, Schreiber didn’t make it back to Brooklyn. Sometime in 1924, He began to have arm troubles. He played in the minor leagues from 1924 to 1928, but no one came calling
Schreiber left the minors after 1928, but did attempt a comeback two years later. He played another two minor league seasons with Allentown of the Eastern Leauge in 1930 and ‘31, before seemingly retiring for good.
A couple years later, he was playing semi-professionally when the Yankees came looking for a batting practice pitcher. Schreiber was playing locally, and the team decided to go with him. They went on to win the World Series that year, and Schreiber stuck around in the role for several years after that.
Eight years later, Schreiber was still around on the Yankees staff. Near the end of the 1945 season, the Yankees’ roster was not only dealing with the general wear and tear of the season, but also World War II. Rosters across the league were dealing with losing players to service, and the Yankees were no different.
On September 4th, Yankees starter Al Gettel gave up 10 runs in 5.2 innings to the Tigers. Down 10 and seemingly out of the game, manager Joe McCarthy went to the bullpen. He brought in Paul Schreiber. At 42 years old and nearly 22 years to the day after his last big league appearance, Schreiber pitched in a major league game. The 22-year gap is the major league record for longest between games played.
Schreiber walked two batters, but gave up no hits in 3.1 innings that day. Four days later, he was again called on, giving up two runs on four hits in one inning. He would not appear again that season as the Yankees ended up finishing in fourth in the American League. This time, it actually was the end of his major league career.
Schreiber worked for the Yankees for another couple years after, and eventually went to the Red Sox organization, where he held a variety of roles.
Yes, it wasn’t a long stint. Yes, it took some unusual circumstances. None of that makes a 20+ year gap between major league appearances any less crazier. It’s something that we likely won’t see anyone else match anytime soon.