A season of Red: 5 things to know about Schoendienst as Cardinals announce yearlong tribute | St. Louis Public Radio

A season of Red: 5 things to know about Schoendienst as Cardinals announce yearlong tribute

Apr 17, 2015

The Cardinals will be seeing Red tonight, as they honor their beloved No. 2.

A tribute to Hall of Famer Red Schoendienst will be held at 7 p.m. before the game — the 70th anniversary of his first major league appearance — and will continue throughout the season with a social media campaign.

Credit Courtesy St. Louis Cardinals

Schoendienst, 92, was the Cardinals All Star second baseman who later managed the team to National League pennants in 1967 and 1968 and a World Series championship in 1967.

The Cardinals retired his number in 1996, although Schoendienst was still wearing the uniform as a coach for the team. He wore the birds-on-the-bat for 45 years as a player, manager and coach and now has the title of special assistant to general manager John Mozeliak.

Ron Watermon, vice president of communications, hopes the celebration will be a season-long group hug for Schoendienst.

“This is Red’s 70th year in the game of baseball, which is a remarkable feat. He’s still very much a part of this team and in many ways is the heart of the team,’’ Watermon said. “Our goal starting on April 17th is to show the world that we love Red. And most importantly to show Red that we love him.”

Videos of Cardinals players will kick off the social media campaign, and they will wear commemorative patches that say "70 Years in Uniform and Counting." The team is also asking fans to post videos of themselves saying that they love Red, too, with the hashtag #LoveRed2 to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Youtube. More information is available on the Cardinals website at cardinals.com/lovered2.

Friday night’s game, by the way, is a matchup between the Cardinals and their division rivals, the Cincinnati #LoveRed2s.

Perfect.

Here are five things to know about Red:

Credit Photo courtesy National Baseball Hall of Fame

1. Seventy years ago, he came out swinging.

Here are the stats from Red’s first game in the majors on April 17, 1945:

* It was the season opener at Wrigley Field and Schoendienst was playing left field.

* The Cards lost to the Cubs 3-2; Schoendienst had one hit in four at-bats — a triple. He scored one run and made an error.

* The Cards starting lineup that day: Augie Bergamo RF, Johnny Hopp CF, Schoendienst LF, Walker Cooper C, Ray Sanders 1B, Whitey Kurowski 3B, Marty Marion SS, Emil Verban 2B, Ted Wilks P.

* Schoendienst, 22, was a replacement for Stan Musial who was still in the Navy. He would play 10 more years for St. Louis, including the 1946 world championship season. He was traded to the New York Giants in 1956 and one season later, to the Milwaukee Braves.  He played his last major league game with the Cardinals on July 7, 1963.

Here are more Red numbers, courtesy of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Baseball-reference.com:

* He played in 2,216 games in 19 seasons, collecting 2,449 hits with a lifetime batting average of .289.

* In 1948, he hit eight doubles during three consecutive games, a major league record that still stands.

* In 1950, Schoendienst handled 320 consecutive chances without an error, and in 1956 he set a National League record with a .9934 fielding percentage at second base. That record stood for 40 years, eventually broken by Ryne Sandberg in 1996.

* He hit .300 or higher seven times and finished his career with a .983 fielding percentage.

* In 1957, Schoendienst led the National League with 200 hits

* He was elected to 10 All-Star Games

* After injuries in 1958, he missed most of the 1959 season while battling tuberculosis. He signed as a free agent with the Cardinals in 1961, where he finished out his career.

2. Germantown, Ill., is “first base”

Schoendienst’s given name is Albert Fred. He was born on Feb. 2, 1923, in Germantown, Ill., a village in Clinton County that was one of the first German settlements in the state.

In his induction speech to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Schoendienst referred to his hometown as his “first base” in life.

“I could find a ballgame and play every day,’’ he said. “Everybody played in Germantown. My sister, my five brothers. Pop would come home from work in the coalmines and then go play ball. And mom was just great. She went along with all this baseball commotion.’’

Schoendienst’s father was a catcher with the Clinton County League, and his mother used to help her sons make baseballs out of rags.

He came of age during the Great Depression and quit school at age 16 to join the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Batting practice at Sportsman's Park.
Credit Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

In 1942, he signed with the Cardinals after hitching a ride on a milk truck with a couple of buddies from Germantown to attend a tryout at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis. He had no money and no place to stay, so on his first night in St. Louis, he slept on a bench outside Union Station.

Schoendienst played in the minors in 1942 and 1943 until he was drafted into the Army in 1944. He trained as an infantry soldier and was assigned to a camp in New York, which housed Italian prisoners of war. He was discharged in 1945.

Schoendienst’s ties to Germantown remain deep, and a contingent of family and friends attended his induction ceremony at Cooperstown in the summer of 1989. On his birthday the following February, schoolchildren in Germantown held a celebration in his honor.

There’s a delightful home movie of the event on the website of the Germantown Historical Society. Here's a  telling snippet:

At the nudging of his wife Mary, Schoendienst told the students that when he was young he wanted to be a doctor.

“Baseball came along, and it was easier than being a doctor,’’ he said. “I wanted to help people. That was the biggest thing.”

Schoendienst said that one of his regrets was that he hadn’t completed his education. He told the kids to stay in school and to listen to their teachers.

Credit Photo courtesy National Baseball Hall of Fame

3. He was Stan the Man’s roommate

Schoendienst and the late Cardinals great Stan “The Man” Musial were close friends, both on and off the field.

Musial admired his pal’s fielding skills and was widely quoted as saying that Schoendienst had the “greatest pair of hands I’ve ever seen.”

We found that quote in an Associated Press story published on March 1, 1989. Musial was asked about his roommate's election to the Hall of Fame:

 “Red had an outstanding career and the greatest pair of hands I’ve ever seen in baseball,’’ said Musial, a Hall of Famer and a member of the veterans committee.

“He loved to play and never got too high or too low. He was always on an even keel. He was a great second baseman, but you put him on third base and you said he was a great third baseman. You put him in left field and said he was a great left fielder.”

At his induction ceremony, Schoendienst repaid the compliment.

“The luckiest break for me was when I became Stan Musial’s roommate,’’ he said in his speech. “We had great games and good times together. Stan and Lil are dear friends, and I’m glad once again we will be roommates here in the Hall of Fame.''

Credit Photo courtesy National Baseball Hall of Fame

4. He managed the Cardinals for 12 years

Schoendienst was a coach with the Cardinals when they won the World Series in 1964 and was named manager at the end of the season when Johnny Keane resigned. Under his leadership, the team won the World Series again in 1967.

He managed the Cardinals for 12 years, the longest tenure until Tony LaRussa held the job for 16 seasons.

On the Germantown birthday video, Schoendienst told the school kids that as manager he expected his players to always give 100 percent. As a coach, he wanted to help young ballplayers.

Orlando Cepeda, a star of the 1967 world championship team, said this about his manager, “He is quite a human being. He treats us like men, lets us play our game and gives our young players confidence.”

5. Baseball was his only job

Schoendienst has a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame and a statue in the Plaza of Champions outside Busch Stadium. Earlier this month, he was inducted into the Milwaukee Braves Honor Roll by the Brewers and Milwaukee Braves Historical Association. After being traded to the Braves in 1957 he helped them win consecutive pennants -- and the World Series in 1957.

But the biggest honor of his life -- he called it "crossing home plate" -- was entering the Hall of Fame. According to the AP story about Schoendienst's election, he was reached for comment at his apartment in St. Petersburg, Fla., where the Cardinals were in spring training and he was working as a coach:

“My wife thought I should be in a long time ago, but that’s wives,” said the 66-year-old native of Germantown, Ill. “She asked me, ‘When is the announcement?' I said, '3 o’clock.' She said, ‘I’m not going shopping.’

“Anytime you can stop a gal from going shopping, that’s pretty big news.”

At his induction, Schoendienst told the audience that his best memories were of being a St. Louis Cardinal.

“Baseball’s been my only job,’’ he said. “I still get a thrill putting on that uniform and to hear those wonderful words of `Play Ball.’ ’’

Here's his Hall of Fame speech: