In Memoriam: Red Schoendienst

In his Baseball Hall of Fame induction speech in 1989, Red Schoendienst spoke of the day he and two young friends hitchhiked to St. Louis to try out for the Cardinals: “I never thought that milk truck ride would eventually lead to Cooperstown and baseball’s highest honor.” He also spoke about his attitude toward playing the game: “I would play any position my manager asked. Whatever it took to win, I was willing to do. All I ever wanted was to be on that lineup card and become a champion.”

Schoendienst was a champion ambassador for the Cardinals and the game of baseball all his life, first as a Hall of Fame player in St. Louis and with the Milwaukee Braves, then as a World Series-winning manager, and as a coach and executive for parts of eight decades. The oldest living Hall of Famer died at the age of 95 on Wednesday, June 6, 2018.

“Red was one of the greatest Cardinals of all time, and a beloved member of the Cardinals organization for over six decades,” Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said in a statement.

“His influence on this organization cannot be overstated. Red was a great player, a great manager and a wonderful mentor to countless players, coaches and members of the front office. He was also a fan favorite who connected with millions of Cardinals fans across multiple generations. He will be sorely missed.”

As Kristen Lokemoen wrote in her SABR biography of the man affectionately known as Mr. Cardinal, Schoendienst was “an integral part of the Cardinals organization” for every World Series championship between 1946 and 2011. Officially listed as Special Assistant to the General Manager, “at heart he was still a coach, donning a uniform for pregame practice at home games, at which he routinely hit fungoes to infielders.” 

The switch-hitting second baseman finished his career with 2,449 hits, 10 All-Star Game appearances — he hit a game-winning home run for the National League in the 14th inning of the 1950 midsummer classic — and World Series rings with the 1946 Cardinals and 1957 Milwaukee Braves. Of the latter team, which starred Hank Aaron, Warren Spahn, and Lew Burdette, he said in a SABR Oral History interview in 1987 that the Braves were “the best ballclub I was ever affiliated with, as far as talent. We had everything. We had pitching, hitting, catching. No matter how you look at it, we had a great ballclub. And you can see it by looking at how many of those guys are now in the Hall of Fame.”

Schoendienst returned to the Cardinals in 1961 and wrapped up his 19-year playing career there in ’63 before moving into the coaching ranks under manager Johnny Keane. The 1964 Cardinals won a memorable World Series over the New York Yankees and then Schoendienst took over the managerial reins when Keane abruptly resigned three days after the fall classic ended. Schoendienst managed the Cardinals to two NL pennants in 1967-68, winning the World Series over the Boston Red Sox in ’67 before his tenure ended in 1976.

After a brief stint with the Oakland A’s, Schoendienst came back to St. Louis as a coach in 1979 and was on Whitey Herzog’s staff during the 1982 World Series-winning season. He stepped in to manage the team briefly in 1980 and in 1990, becoming the only manager in franchise history to serve in four different decades. He spent more than 65 years in the organization and was a beloved figure for generations of Cardinals fans spanning from the glory years of his teammate and good friend Stan Musial to Albert Pujols.

But Schoendienst was a Hall of Fame player and person in his own right, and Musial summed him up best when he said: “A lot of guys had the privilege of playing with or for Red over the years, and I’m proud I was one of them. He is one of the kindest, most decent men I’ve ever known in my life. Even more important than having been his teammate or roommate, however, is having been his friend for so many years. They don’t come any better.”

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Originally published: June 7, 2018. Last Updated: June 7, 2018.