The pastor at Norman's St. Joseph's Catholic Church described such a heavenly scenario Wednesday morning at Willard Schmidt's funeral. The longtime area resident, former car dealer and major league baseball pitcher died March 22 after a lengthy illness.
Mr. Schmidt, a Kansas wheat farm boy with a talent for pitching baseballs, played on minor league teams, then hit the majors with stints for the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds between 1952 to 1959.
He was half of the Schmidt-Tullius Dodge dealership and Schmidt Bicycle and Lawnmower Center. Mr. Schmidt was an avid devotee to baseball his entire life. The Kansas Baseball Hall of Fame inducted him in 1989. At the funeral, the Rev. Edward Menasco said in that heavenly game he sees Mr. Schmidt on the mound throwing only strikes the entire game. It's a no-hitter and the crowd gives the young pitcher a standing ovation.
That's exactly what his family and friends did during the funeral Wednesday. Well done, Mr. Schmidt. Well done.
Schmidt, 78, of Newcastle died Thursday, March 22, at his home surrounded
by his wife and children.
Mr. Schmidt was born May 29, 1928, in Hays, Kan., to Raymond and Dorothy (Leikam) Schmidt.
His four grandparents were among the first German-Russian settlers in the area, arriving in 1876. German was Mr. Schmidt's first language.
He attended Fort Hays State College for one year before joining the Beloit, Kan., farm club of the St. Louis Cardinals. He quickly progressed through professional baseball minor leagues as a pitcher playing for teams in Ontario, Canada; Rochester, N.Y.; Houston, Texas; and Omaha, Neb., before playing major league baseball from 1952-1959 for the St. Louis Cardinals and then the Cincinnati Reds. He retired from major league baseball in 1959 but continued for many years to coach little league and American Legion teams.
He was inducted into the Kansas Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989 and continued throughout his life to correspond with fans and students of baseball all over the world.
After retiring from professional baseball, he continued in the car business full-time in the Norman and Oklahoma City areas. Many Norman residents will remember Schmidt-Tullius Dodge and Schmidt Bicycle and Lawnmower Center.
moved to a small farm in Newcastle in 1991 and transformed an old dairy
farm into a cherished site for many family events from wedding receptions
to barn parties.
Family said Mr. Schmidt will be remembered as a loving husband, father, grandfather and uncle and will be missed for his sense of humor, strength of spirit and commitment to his faith and family.
He was preceded in death by his parents, six brothers and three sisters.
Mr. Schmidt is survived by his wife of 57 years, Margaret Schachle Schmidt; children Layne Evans and husband Deane of Norwalk, Conn., Paul Schmidt and his wife Sheryl and their daughter Kathryn of Norman, Lisa Schmidt of Norman, Kent Schmidt and his wife Lisa and their son, Zachary of Norman and their daughter Sarah of Sacramento, Calif., Meg Schmidt of Norman and Madeline Schmidt of Oklahoma City.
He also is survived by sisters Frances Parker of Hays and Lillian Bennett of Augusta, Ga.; sister-in-law Beth Hufnagel and husband Harry of Okarche; and many nieces, nephews and godchildren.
Memorial contributions may be made to the St. Joseph Parish Building Fund.