January 12, 1878 January 24, 1958
Major League Career
1904 - 1911
Time as a Red
1904 - 1908
catcher and first base
On June 18, 1907, Admiral Schlei became the first Reds catcher to wear shinguards, putting them on for the ninth inning of a game against the New York Giants in Cincinnati. Like most pioneers, Schlei took some abuse, as fans jeered the newfangled equipment. The Giants’ Roger Bresnahan had debuted shinguards earlier that season, and most catchers eventually followed his lead.
George “Admiral” Schlei grew up in the East End, attending St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church on Eastern Avenue (now Riverside Drive) and St. Xavier High School, then located downtown. The son of German immigrants, Schlei played ball during his youth, mainly as a catcher, says his grandson Bill. After a few years in the minors, he came to the Reds on April 24, 1904, at age 26. He played seven years to the day in the majors. Not much of a hitter, he compiled a tepid .237/.307/.296, though in 1906 he led the Reds in RBI (54) and tied for the lead in homeruns (4). In the deadball era, a catcher’s main concern was fielding and keeping runners from stealing, and Schlei was considered a very able backstop. The Reds traded him after the 1908 season to St. Louis, who traded him the same day to the Giants, who sent him to the minors early in 1911 and he never made it back to The Show. He ended his career at the age of 38 in 1916 with the Memphis Chicks.
He lived in Cincinnati until virulent anti-German sentiment swept the country as
America entered World War I. He then moved to Huntington, West Virginia, where he lived for the rest of his life, working in the printing business until his mid-70s. He remained a Reds fan, says his grandson, who recalls Admiral listening announcer Waite Hoyt on the radioeven when they were televised.
By then people knew him simply as George. How he came by ‘Admiral’ remains a mystery. Most sources say it came from the similarity of his last name to a hero of the Spanish-American War, Admiral Winfield Scott Schley. George told his grandson that he got the nickname while filling in as a coach for the Navy. However he got it, he was called ‘Admiral’ during his careerexcept, perhaps, on the day the crowd made fun of the contraptions he’d strapped on his shins. He heard a few even more colorful names on that day.