Broadway Bill Schuster, whose antics with the Los Angeles Angels made him a popular attraction in the Pacific Coast League, died Sunday at the age of 73. Schuster, a shortstop, had a brief stint in the major leagues, and played on the Chicago Cubs' last World Series team, in 1945. But he is best remembered for his stunts with the Angels.
Called the Poor Man's Al Schacht, the Clown Prince and Madman Muntz II, Schuster delighted fans with his clowning. Schuster, the league's Most Valuable Player in 1944 and 1946, was known to slide back into home plate when he knew he would be a sure out at first, or to cut across the diamond instead of running into second on a sure double play. He often climbed screens to scare hecklers or jumped into the stands to applaud plays. Once, after being called out on a close play, Schuster pretended to faint.
In a 1949 Times story, Schuster declared that his clowning days were over, that his "screwball rep" was being discarded so he could be taken seriously. However, the writer noted, in a game several days later, after nearly being beaned at the plate, Schuster began digging frantically into the dirt, as if excavate a trench. That done, he crawled on hands and knees behind the catcher, peeking out to wave a handkerchief at the pitcher.
A funeral service will be held Thursday at Nativity Catholic Church in El Monte.