February 28, 1989: Red Schoendienst is elected to the Hall of Fame

After 33 years, Red Schoendienst and Stan Musial were roommates once again – this time in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

On February 28, 1989, Hall of Fame president Ed Stack called Schoendienst to share the good news that the 10-time all-star had been elected to the Hall of Fame by the veterans committee.

“All I ever wanted was to be on that lineup card every day and become a champion,” Schoendienst said at the induction ceremony that July. “My best memories are being a St. Louis Cardinal … the luckiest break for me was when I became Stan Musial’s roommate. I’m glad once again we can be roommates here in the Hall of Fame.”[1]

Schoendienst, who starred for the Cardinals for 15 years before managing the team for another 12 and remaining with the franchise as a coach, was inducted into the Hall of Fame alongside Johnny Bench, Carl Yastrzemski, former Cardinals and Cubs broadcaster Harry Caray, and writers Bob Hunter and Ray Kelly.

After retiring following the 1963 season, Schoendienst made his debut on the Hall of Fame ballot in 1969. He reached as high as 42.6% in 1980, but was not elected in his 15 years on the ballot.

“A lot of times you go quail hunting and you can’t find those quail,” Schoendienst said. “You go duck hunting and they’re not flying. If it doesn’t happen, what can you do? You don’t think it’s going to happen, but I wasn’t going to give up.”[2]

Enos Slaughter, who was elected to the Hall four years earlier in 1985, said, “I think it’s long overdue. Red was out there, every day, to win for the Cardinals. Red would have to rank with any second baseman, bar none, that I played with. He was a switch-hitter, a clutch hitter. He had it all. I don’t know how they could keep him out all those years.”[3]

Schoendienst’s road to the Hall of Fame was as unlikely as it was long. Born and raised in Germantown, Illinois, as a 16-year-old he was struck in the left eye by a staple while a friend tried to drive it into a dry hedge post at a Civilian Conservation Corps camp.[4]

Schoendienst convinced doctors to save it, but the accident left him with 20/200 vision in that eye.[5]

“I didn’t even know he had a bad eye until right this very moment,” said Marty Marion, Schoendienst’s onetime double-play partner, said in July 1989. “You sure couldn’t tell, could you?”[6]

Schoendienst didn’t show any ill effects when he and two friends hitchhiked on a milk truck to a Cardinals tryout (Joe Garagiola and Yogi Berra attended the same tryout).[7] Schoendienst thrived in the minors, batting .373 in Double-A Rochester before the Cardinals called him up in 1945. Though he was primarily a shortstop in the minors, Schoendienst played left field during his rookie season, filling the spot vacated by Musial, who was serving in the Navy.

As Schoendienst was making his first appearance with the Cardinals, Caray was making his debut as a Cardinals broadcaster.

“He was playing left field and he came running in for a wicked line drive that he caught right at his knees,” Caray recalled. “Then he nonchalantly returned the ball to the infield. That’s the way he was – a great player and a winner. No hollering. No fake stuff. Going into the Hall of Fame had to happen.”[8]

In 1946, with players like Musial back from the war, Schoendienst filled a variety of roles before finding his home at second base. He opened the year at third base as Whitey Kurowski held out, then moved to shortstop to fill in for the injured Marion. When Lou Klein jumped to the Mexican League, Schoendienst became the second baseman on a World Series champion Cardinals team.

“I was pretty fortunate coming up when I did,” he said. “You had Musial, you had Slaughter, you had Terry Moore, you had Marion, Kurowski, all your good pitchers. They had been through it, the pennant and the World Series in ’42 and those other years. It was kind of a break for me to come up with guys who had been through all that, and to play with Marty Marion, who was a great shortstop.”[9]

Schoendienst earned the first of 10 all-star appearances in 1946, then ran off eight consecutive all-star seasons from 1948 through 1955, including the 1950 contest in which he called his shot and hit the game-winning home run in the 14th inning. In Schoendienst’s best season, 1953, he hit .342 with 15 homers and 79 RBIs, finishing two points behind Brooklyn’s Carl Furillo for the batting title.

In 1956, Cardinals general manager Frank “Trader” Lane dealt Schoendienst to the New York Giants.

“The rest of us got the word that Red had been traded just as we were boarding a train out of St. Louis for an eastern trip,” Musial wrote in the forward to Schoendienst’s autobiography. “It was the saddest day of my career. I slammed the door to my train berth shut and didn’t open it for a long time.”[10]

One year later, the Giants traded Schoendienst to the Milwaukee Braves, where he won the second World Series of his career in 1957.

“When he joined my ball team, I introduced myself right away,” Braves shortstop Johnny Logan said. “I told him, ‘You take care of second base and I’ll take care of shortstop and we’ll win it all.’ I had played with 15 or 20 second basemen and always worried about who was playing there. I didn’t worry with Red.”[11]

In 93 games with the Braves that season, Schoendienst hit .310 with 23 doubles, six homers, and 32 RBIs. In the five-game World Series against the Yankees, he hit .278 with a double and two RBIs.

“He was the sparkplug,” Logan said. “We had a good ball team, but the only thing we needed was a second baseman. Once we got Red, he gave us the confidence we didn’t have before.”[12]

Schoendienst’s batting average fell to .262 in 1958, though in the World Series rematch against the Yankees he hit .300 with three doubles, a triple, and five runs scored. When the season was over, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. The life-threatening ailment required surgery followed by four months of bed rest.

“When they decided to operate on him, they had to get him up to build up his strength,” his wife Mary Schoendienst said. “The first day they got him up after he was on the flat of his back for four months, I went down there and the bat company had sent him some bats and they were over in the corner. When the nurses got him out of bed once again, I thought he would come over and shake my hand or do something, but he went over to the corner and picked up a bat. From that moment on, I figured this guy was going to play ball again. He was going to play that ball and to heck with me and the rest of the world.”[13]

After missing all but five games in 1959, Schoendienst went on to play three more seasons – one with the Braves and two back in St. Louis as a player-coach. He retired with 2,449 hits and a .289 career batting average across 19 major league seasons.

“Despite the bug in his chest that wore him down every season, Red hit over .300 seven times,” longtime St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports editor Bob Broeg wrote. “If he hadn’t been fighting a tubercular infection, take Dr. Broeg’s word for it, that lifetime .289 average would have been .310 to .315.”[14]

Defensively, Schoendienst led National League second basemen in fielding percentage seven times, including a .993 fielding percentage in 1956 that set a record. He retired with a .983 fielding percentage.

“Besides Jackie Robinson, for 10 or 15 years there, Red was the best second baseman in the league,” Musial said.[15]

“Red wasn’t a guy that made a lot of news,” Marion said. “He wasn’t flashy, not like a guy like Ozzie Smith and diving all over the place. Red was just always in the right place at the right time. He didn’t make many mistakes.”[16]

With his playing career over, Schoendienst immediately moved into the coaching ranks. He was on Johnny Keane’s coaching staff for the world champion 1964 Cardinals, then was named the new manager when Keane left to become manager of the Yankees.

Schoendienst managed the club from 1965 through 1976, winning the World Series in 1967 and the National League pennant in 1968. Including his stints as interim manager in 1980 and 1990, Schoendienst went 1,044-955 as the Cardinals’ manager, good for a .522 winning percentage. Two years after his 12-year run as manager ended, he returned to St. Louis as a coach.

By the time the veterans committee named him to the Hall of Fame, the 66-year-old Schoendienst was in his 48th season in professional baseball.

“I think he has lasted so long because of his love affair with baseball,” Warren Spahn said. “There’s not a heck of a lot Red hasn’t done in the game.”[17]

At his induction ceremony that July, Schoendienst compared his life to a baseball diamond. He referred to his childhood in Germantown, Illinois, as first base.

“I never thought that milk truck ride would eventually lead to Cooperstown and baseball’s highest honor,” he said.[18]

Second base, he said, was making the major leagues. Third base was meeting his wife, Mary.

“She asked for my autograph,” he said, “and two years later I signed her up.”[19]

For Schoendienst, the Hall of Fame represented the final stage of his baseball journey.

“Baseball has been my only job,” he said. “I still get a thrill putting on that uniform and to hear those wonderful words, ‘Play ball.’ Baseball has given me recognition throughout the world, and now it is rewarding me with this, its greatest honor of being inducted into the Hall of Fame. I guess I’ve crossed home.”[20]

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=utjPsGPssZM

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[1] Mike Eisenbath, “Red Schoendienst Makes It To Home,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 24, 1989.

[2] Rick Hummel, “Fame Calls On Cardinals’ Schoendienst,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 1, 1989.

[3] Veterans Panel Picks Schoendienst For Hall,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 1, 1989.

[4] Red Schoendienst with Rob Rains (1998), “Red: A Baseball Life,” Sports Publishing, Champaign, Ill., 16.

[5] Red Schoendienst with Rob Rains (1998), “Red: A Baseball Life,” Sports Publishing, Champaign, Ill., 16.

[6] Mike Eisenbath, “Hall of Famer,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 23, 1989.

[7] Red Schoendienst with Rob Rains (1998), “Red: A Baseball Life,” Sports Publishing, Champaign, Ill., 20.

[8] Rick Hummel, “More Disturbances By Strawberry Are Likely,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 5, 1989.

[9] Mike Eisenbath, “Hall of Famer,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 23, 1989.

[10] Red Schoendienst with Rob Rains, “Red: A Baseball Life,” Sports Publishing, Champaign, Ill., 1998, Page VII.

[11] Mike Eisenbath, “Hall of Famer,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 23, 1989.

[12] Mike Eisenbath, “Hall of Famer,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 23, 1989.

[13] Rick Hummel, “Fame Calls On Cardinals’ Schoendienst,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 1, 1989.

[14] Bob Broeg, “‘Natural’ Made Trek From Cowfield to Cooperstown,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 2, 1989.

[15] Mike Eisenbath, “Hall of Famer,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 23, 1989.

[16] Mike Eisenbath, “Hall of Famer,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 23, 1989.

[17] Mike Eisenbath, “Hall of Famer,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 23, 1989.

[18] Mike Eisenbath, “Red Schoendienst Makes It To Home,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 24, 1989.

[19] Mike Eisenbath, “Red Schoendienst Makes It To Home,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 24, 1989.

[20] Mike Eisenbath, “Red Schoendienst Makes It To Home,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 24, 1989.

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