Red Schoendienst could do it all.
Spending most of his baseball career in the city of St. Louis, Mr. Albert Fred Schoendienst became Mr. Cardinal and earned his rightful spot on the left field wall at Busch Stadium.
Despite his legendary life on the field as a baseball player and as a manager, Schoendienst’s career almost wasn’t.
Joining the Civilian Conservation Corps at the age of 16, he suffered an injury to his left eye while building fences. Suffering from constant headaches, many doctor’s suggested that the eye be removed surgically. Schoendienst eventually found a doctor who aided him in non-surgical treatment for the eye, including rehabilitation.
The eye injury posed a problem batting as a right-handed hitter against right-handed pitchers and breaking balls. Luckily, Schoendienst had taught himself in school how to bat left-handed.
He would go on to participate in open try-outs for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1942 with approximately 400 other men looking for a chance to play. He was not signed at the try-out, yet the Cardinals’ chief scout Joe Mathes changed his mind and drove to Germantown to sign him for just $75 a month. Now remember that is a $1k salary a month in today’s society.
His professional career began with the Albany Cardinals and then with the Union City Greyhounds. While in Union City, he racked up eight hits in his first eight AB, earning a .407 in just six games. He would play with the Lynchburg Cardinals in 1943 and grabbed 17 hits in 36 AB.
Earning a promotion to the International League’s Rochester Red Wings, he batted .337 in 136 games with 21 doubles, 20 SB, and six HR. His average was the league best, allowing him to gain the title of a top prospect and won the MVP for the International League.
Mr. Cardinal was drafted during the 1944 mid-season and received a medical discharge by January 1945 due to his eye injury and trauma sustained while shooting bazookas. Yes, bazookas.
Everything began to take shape in the spring of 1945 in Cairo, Illinois during spring training for the St. Louis Cardinals. Despite being a shortstop in the minor leagues, the Cardinals moved him to left field. In 137 games during his rookie year, he had a league-high in stolen bases with 26 and batted .278.
He was one of the most beautiful individuals you would ever want to meet. In every way, he was beautiful.Tony La Russa
In 1946, he would be moved to second base and won the off-season home run derby which was televised. By 1950, he led the Nation League as a second basemen and went without an error at his position.
Despite his popularity in St. Louis and the displeased opinion of his best friend Stan Musial, the ‘birds traded him to the New York Giants in 1956. His stint with the Giants did not last long, being traded to the Milwaukee Braves the next season.
With the Braves, Mr. Cardinal batted .309 and finished in third place for the National League MVP vote. The Braves would go on to defeat the New York Yankees in the 1957 World Series — their only title in Milwaukee. In 1958, Milwaukee lost in the World Series rematch, Schoendienst would fly out to Mickey Mantle for the final out.
Schoendienst’s health problems continued, being diagnosed with tuberculosis during the off-season going into 1959. He underwent a partial pneumonectomy that February and returned to play for the Braves in 1960. Once again, Schoendienst defied the odds and went against being told that he would never play baseball again. Spoiler, he continued to play until 1963.
By 1965, Mr. Cardinal would take over the managerial position for the St. Louis Cardinals. During his time as a manager in 12 seasons from 1965-1976 and then returning for 1980 and 1990, his record was 1,041-955.
In 1982, he returned to the Cardinals as a coach and special assistant to the general manager Whitey Herzog. By 2017, Mr. Cardinal had completed his 72nd consecutive season as a Major League Baseball player, coach, and manager.
Red was one of the greatest Cardinals of all time, and a beloved member of the Cardinals organization for over six decades.Bill DeWitt Jr.
He was a member of five winning World Series teams and was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989. His number with the St. Louis Cardinals was retired in 1996, inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame and was inducted into the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame Museum in 2014.
Additionally, he worked with the Oakland Athletics in 1977 and 1978.
The Milwaukee Braves Historical Association inducted Schoendienst into the Milwaukee Braves Honor Roll in 2015.
In 19 seasons, Mr. Cardinal had a .289 batting average, 84 HR, 773 RBI, 1,223 runs, 2,449 hits, 427 doubles, 78 triples, and 89 stolen bases in a whopping 2,216 games played. Defensively as a second baseman, he had 4,616 putouts, 5,243 assists, 1,368 double plays and only 170 errors in 10,029 chances. He finished his career with an impressive fielding average of .983.
Mr. Red Schoendienst passed away at the age of 95 on June 6, 2018. He was the oldest living member of the Hall of Fame and the oldest living manager of a World Series winning team. Also the last living member of the 1946 World Series St. Louis Cardinals.
Photo Credit: Robert Cohen