Red Schoendienst

Why Red Schoendienst returned to St. Louis in 1961

The Los Angeles Angels offered a starting job in a new franchise. In Milwaukee, where he had won the World Series in 1957, there was an offer to join the coaching staff.

At age 38, however, Red Schoendienst was eager to return home to St. Louis. After receiving his unconditional release from Milwaukee and turning down a guaranteed contract from Los Angeles, Schoendienst accepted an offer from Cardinals general manager Bing Devine to try out for the St. Louis roster.

In accepting the offer, Schoendienst knew the Cardinals wouldn’t offer him the same salary he could have received from the Angels.[1] With Julian Javier stationed at second base, the Cardinals were looking for Schoendienst primarily as a pinch hitter and utility fielder.

“I feel that Red can be of definite help to us,” Devine said. “If Red doesn’t come with us, there would be more pressure on one of our young prospects as a fill-in for second base.”[2]

After participating in the early weeks of camp, Schoendienst signed a contract that was believed to be worth about $25,000 on March 7, 1961.[3]

“I’m convinced, entirely,” Cardinals manager Solly Hemus said after the team’s workout on Sunday, March 5. “My one concern was Red’s health. No man could be ill and work the way he has the last two weeks. Why, he’s the youngest-looking, youngest-acting guy on the squad.”[4]

Schoendienst made his major-league debut 16 years earlier in 1945. With Stan Musial and others serving in World War II, Schoendienst made the move from shortstop to left field and led the league with 26 stolen bases during his rookie campaign. In 1946, Schoendienst took over the Cardinals’ second base job and kept it until 1956, when general manager Frank Lane traded him to the New York Giants.

During Schoendienst’s 11+ seasons in St. Louis, he appeared in nine all-star games and hit the game-winning home run in the 1950 showcase. He enjoyed arguably his best season in 1950, when he hit .342 with 15 homers and 79 RBIs to place fourth in the National League MVP race. He finished just two points behind Brooklyn’s Carl Furillo for the batting title.

In 1957, which he split between the Giants and Braves, Schoendienst led the league with 200 hits. He finished the year with a .302 batting average and finished third in the MVP vote behind Henry Aaron and Musial. Schoendienst and the Braves won the World Series that year, then won the National League pennant again in 1958 before falling to the Yankees in that year’s fall classic.

After batting .300 with three doubles and a triple in 20 World Series at-bats in 1958, Schoendienst was diagnosed with tuberculosis. After undergoing surgery, Schoendienst spent four months in bed rest and missed almost the entire 1959 season.

In 1960, Schoendienst slumped early and was benched. After the season, he was offered a coaching job, but declined it and instead asked for his release.

“He’s extremely grateful to Bing Devine for having taken a chance on him when, he feels, Milwaukee’s voluble Charley Dressen gave all of baseball the impression last year that he was washed up,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports editor Bob Broeg wrote. “The Ol’ Redhead is bitter at Dressen, for whom he refused to coach.”[5]

In a separate story, Broeg described the scene at Al Lang Field, the Cardinals’ spring training home, when Schoendienst was announced as the team’s second baseman for that day’s game, noting that “the grandstand gaffers who had sat silent throughout the batting order suddenly cheered as though William McKinley had been elected again.”[6]

 “The old folks are saluting one of their own,” quipped Jim Toomey.[7]

Appearing primarily as a pinch hitter, Schoendienst hit .300 in 133 plate appearances in 1961, then hit .301 in 153 plate appearances in 1962. Though Schoendienst’s days as an all-star were over, he still had plenty to offer the Cardinals as a coach. When Johnny Keane resigned after winning the World Series in 1964, the Cardinals named Schoendienst the new manager, a position he held until 1976. Over that span, he won 1,010 games and lost 925 for a .522 winning percentage. He also served as an interim manager in 1980 and 1990, giving him a career record of 1,041-955.

After two seasons as a coach with the Athletics in 1977 and 1978, Schoendienst again returned to St. Louis, where he won his fifth World Series as a coach for the 1982 Cardinals.

In 1989, Schoendienst was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

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[1] Jack Herman, “Schoendienst Turns Down Angels’ Offer,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, January 15, 1961.

[2] “Schoendienst Turns Down Angels’ Offer,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 15, 1961.

[3] Bob Broeg, “Schoendienst, Beauchamp Stand Out in Cards’ Squad Game,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 7, 1961.

[4] Bob Broeg, “Schoendienst to Be Signed to Contract,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 6, 1961.

[5] Bob Broeg, “Their Boy, Red,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 8, 1961.

[6] Bob Broeg, “Their Boy, Red,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 8, 1961.

[7] Bob Broeg, “Their Boy, Red,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 8, 1961.

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