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He replaced Mickey Mantle. Now baseball's oldest living major leaguer is turning 100

Art Schallock poses for a photo in Sonoma, Calif., on Thursday, April 18, 2024.  (Wendy Cornejo, Cogir on Napa Road via AP) Art Schallock poses for a photo in Sonoma, Calif., on Thursday, April 18, 2024. (Wendy Cornejo, Cogir on Napa Road via AP)
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SAN FRANCISCO -

Whether at home or on the road, Art Schallock would begin each day by taking the elevator down to the lobby and collecting the latest comic books for roommate Yogi Berra.

“Every morning,” Schallock recalled, chuckling at the thought decades later.

Schallock never minded. It was all worth it.

Just part of being the new guy back in the day, a rite of passage for the latest big leaguer getting promoted. Schallock got the call in 1951, replacing future Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle when the New York Yankees optioned the then-19-year-old to Triple-A. Schallock, then 27, roomed with Berra and was tasked with picking up Berra's daily delivery of "funnies" as they called them.

The oldest living former major leaguer, Schallock turns 100 on Thursday and is being celebrated in the Bay Area and beyond as the milestone approaches.

The baseball memories are still plenty fresh.

“That was quite a thrill, quite a thrill playing with those guys,” Schallock shared in a video call. “I roomed with Yogi Berra when I got up there and he knew all the hitters. We went over all the hitters on each team. Besides that, I had to run down to the lobby and get his funny books. Every morning. Yogi knew all the hitters, how to pitch to them, whether it's low, high or whatever, he knew how to pitch to them. And I had to learn from him.”

The Bay Area native went to Tamalpais High in Mill Valley then College of Marin before becoming the 10,823rd major league player when he debuted on July 16, 1951. He pitched 2 2/3 innings for the Yankees that day at Detroit, then earned his first career win exactly one month later at Washington.

The left-hander won three World Series rings from 1951-53, although he only pitched in the ‘53 Series, retiring Brooklyn’s Jackie Robinson during a two-inning outing in Game 4. He went 6-7 with a 4.02 ERA over five seasons in 58 games and 14 starts with the Yankees and Orioles.

He still wears one of those World Series rings regularly on his pitching hand.

“Here’s a game that I loved, I really enjoyed it and loved the game of baseball and they pay you for it. What more can you ask for?” Schallock said. “I wish I was playing today and getting the salaries that they get, but that’s the way it goes.”

Schallock shakes his head and smiles about the money. He signed with the Dodgers for US$5,000, and if he lasted past June 1 he received another $5,000 payment.

“When I got out of the service, I went to junior college for a couple of years and pitched baseball there and then I pitched semi-pro in San Francisco and made a name for myself and Brooklyn signed me,” he shared.

Schallock still has some years to go to set any kind of age records. Negro Leagues pitcher Si Simmons of the 1926 New York Lincoln Giants lived to 111, while another ex-Yankees pitcher, Red Hoff, reached 107.

Though Schallock has a hard time hearing these days, he relishes every chance to chat about baseball. And he offers no real secrets to his longevity — no strict exercise regimen or special diet.

“Stop having a drink, have two,” he said, laughing. “That's all I was allowed to drink before dinner, that was it, my wife cut me off. Vodka over the rocks with a little splash of water, vodka and water and a little ice. Only two. I also had a few beers.

"(Yankees manager) Casey Stengel always had beer in the clubhouse after the game. He'd rather see you drink in the clubhouse rather than some bar. ‘Cuz two or three of you go in the bar and sit down, the fans think you’re a drunk because you're sitting in a bar, so you drink in the ballpark.”

Of course, there's been some good fortune along the way to make it to 100.

Serving for the U.S. Navy in the Pacific Ocean during World War II after enlisting in 1942, Schallock narrowly escaped harm when the neighbouring aircraft carrier USS Liscome Bay was sunk by a Japanese torpedo in November 1943 and 644 were killed — accounting for the majority of the casualties in the Battle of Makin.

“I never thought I would get back to the highest level. I wanted to play baseball, yes," he said. “I did it in junior college. In those years, the Bay Area was full of baseball. When I say full of baseball, semi-pros. Every town had a team.”

Schallock has been signing his share of baseballs leading up to joining the rare centenarian club. They will throw him a party at his assisted living facility, Cogir On Napa Road Assisted Living and Memory Care.

Perhaps find him an agent now given all the fanfare?

“It’s too late,” Schallock said, laughing, “it’s too late.”

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