Megdal: Red Schoendienst is more to Cardinals than a retired hero

From SABR member Howard Megdal at Sports on Earth on October 14, 2013:

Sure, there are some people who see Vin Scully’s tenure as a big deal. He’s been the Dodgers announcer since 1950, after all.

But Scully was still a college student at Fordham when Red Schoendienst played all seven games for the 1946 World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals. He’d already earned three All-Star selections at second base by the time Scully started calling games for the Dodgers.

And Schoendienst, like the relative neophyte Scully, is still an enormous part of the Cardinals’ success here in 2013. Sure, he threw out the first pitch prior to Game 2 of the NLCS, honored the way many teams recognize their legends.

But Schoendienst isn’t just around for the occasional honor. He’s here. Always. He was here to talk baseball when I visited in August, for a random weeknight series. He was around in March, when the Cardinals were training in Jupiter. And there he was prior to Game 1, chatting with hitting coach John Mabry behind the batting cage, discussing strategy with manager Mike Matheny, and still found himself at Busch Stadium ten hours later, into the early-morning hours — and back at it again early Saturday morning.

“The history of the Cardinals is they keep their players around – [Lou] Brock, [Bob] Gibson, they’re all really helpful. But the difference with Red is, he’s here for the first day of spring training,” former Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said of Schoendienst as the two sat together at a pregame press conference Saturday. “To the last — I mean, he was here until two o’clock this morning. He watches every pitch. And it’s amazing, his insights. And they can come from the hitting side, infield side, the pitching side.”

Seventy-one years after Branch Rickey signed Schoendienst, he hasn’t lost the evident pleasure he takes in the game of baseball. It’s fascinating to consider that it almost didn’t happen.

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Originally published: October 14, 2013. Last Updated: October 14, 2013.