The United Cardinals Bloggers’ project for the month of January is to write a blog post about Red Schoendienst. Our deadline was today, because today is Red’s 91st birthday. Red is now the longest living Cardinal. Amazingly, Red is still quite active in the Cardinals’ organization. Baseball obviously keeps Red young. Let’s take a look at Red’s life and career.
Albert Fred “Red” Schoendienst was born on February 2, 1923 in the small town of Germantown, Illinois, 40 miles from St. Louis. I know that Germantown is a small town because we’ve driven through there on our way to Carlyle Lake to go camping. His dad was a catcher in the Clinton County league and later became an umpire. Red’s mother stitched up baseballs for Red and his friends to play ball with. Red grew up during the Great Depression and times were tough. Red didn’t care for school very much; he liked baseball more.
Back when Red was growing up, ballgames weren’t broadcast on the radio. They had to wait to read about who won when the St. Louis newspaper was delivered the next day. That’s kind of hard to imagine now when we can now follow games play by play on the Internet. Red and his brothers played on teams in Germantown and learned the fundamentals of the game.
When Red turned 16, he dropped out of school and got a job in the CCC, the Civilian Conservation Corps. Each CCC camp had a baseball team and Red played on his camp’s team. The accident that almost ended Red’s career before it started happened while Red was working at the CCC camp. Red and his good friend Joe Linneman were building fences. Joe was attempting to hammer a nail to a post, but it flew off of the post and into Red’s eye. Red was rushed to the Marine hospital in St. Louis, where he remained for 5 weeks while the doctors figured out what to do about his eye. Finally, one doctor decided that Red’s eye could be saved but he had to do treatments to get rid of the double vision and spots he was experiencing.
Red and his friend Joe heard about the Cardinals holding a tryout camp in St. Louis and decided to go. They hitched a ride to St. Louis on a Pevely Dairy truck. After the tryouts, which included Red, Joe Garagiola and Yogi Berra riding with Branch Rickey to Forest Park for a workout, Red headed back to Germantown. When Joe Mathes, the Cardinals’ head scout, got back into town, he asked why Red hadn’t been signed. Since Red was only 16, his father had to sign his contract. Red then headed to Bowling Green, Kentucky to play with the Union City, Tennessee farm team in the Kitty League.
The Kitty League eventually disbanded, so Red went to play with the Albany Cardinals in Georgia. Red stayed with Albany until 1943, when he was promoted to the Rochester Red Wings. In 1943, Red enlisted in the Army. However, Red injured his shoulder playing ball in the Army and the shoulder and eye injuries were enough for Red to be discharged.
Red joined the major league club in 1945. Red was unsure what position he would be playing, until one day when he had Mike Gonzalez, the team’s pitching coach, hit some fungoes to him in left field. Gonzales excitedly told Billy Southworth, the Cards’ manager, about how good Red was at fielding the ball in left field, so that’s where Red played, unless an infielder needed a day off. The problems with Red’s bad eye got worse, so he went to an doctor and he was given exercises to do. Red also met Mary, his future wife, on a streetcar in 1945. (Single girls, stay alert – you never know where you’re going to meet the man of your dreams!)
In the winter of 1945, Billy Southworth left the club to manage the Boston Braves and Eddie Dyer became the manager. Since the war was over, all the stars were coming back. Dyer told Red in spring training in 1946 that he would be a reserve rather than a starter. When Whitey Kurowski didn’t show up on time to spring training because of a contract dispute, Red started at third. When Whitey finally showed up, Red moved over to shortstop, then ended up at second base when Lou Klein defected to the Mexican League. In 1946, Red played in the All-Star Game for the first time and the Cardinals went to the World Series and defeated the Red Sox.
Red ended up being roommates with Stan Musial, which started a life long friendship. Red also married his girlrfriend Mary in 1951. Red played for the Cardinals until 1956, when he was traded to the New York Giants. In 1957. the Giants traded Red to the Milwaukee Braves, where he led the team to their first pennant in 9 years.
During the 1958-59 off season, Red was diagnosed with tuberculosis. He had to stay in a sanitorium away from his family and eventually had surgery to remove the diseased part of his lung. Red wasn’t well enough to join the Braves until September 1959. Red returned to the Braves in 1960, but Red was 37 by then and the Braves were wanting to use younger players. Red then signed a contract to bring him back to the Cardinals in 1961. Red started as a pinch hitter, but became a coach after Solly Hemus left the team and Johnny Keane took over. Keane left the team after the Cards won the 1964 World Series and Red became the manager.
Red was the Cardinals manager from 1965 to 1976 and again as an interim manager in1980 and 1990. He was a coach for the Oakland A’s in 1977-1988, after which he returned to the Cardinals as a coach and a special assistant to the general manager. Red’s title is now Special Assistant Coach.
Red was a part of 5 winning World Series teams: as a player in 1947 and 1957; as a manager in 1967; and as a coach in 1964 and 1982. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1989 by the Veterans Committee. In 2014, Red was elected to the inaugural class of the Cardinals Hall of Fame.
So happy 91st birthday, Red! May you live many more years!
Thanks for reading! See you next time!
Red: A Baseball Life by Red Schoendienst with Rob Rains, Sagamore Publishing (January 7, 1998)
Wikipedia entry for Red Schoendienst: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Schoendienst