Red Schoendienst

The deal that angered Stan Musial: Why the Cardinals traded Red Schoendienst to the Giants

It took a lot to make Stan Musial visibly angry. But when the legendary Cardinals outfielder learned just before boarding the team’s train to Pittsburgh that the Cardinals had traded Red Schoendienst, his roommate for more than a decade, Musial made his displeasure clear.

“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,” he wrote in Schoendienst’s 1998 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.”[1]

Sportswriter Jack Herman, who was traveling on the train with the Cardinals to their next series in Pittsburgh, wrote, “Reaction of Cardinal players to the trade ranged from uncomfortable silence to downright shock. In the early hours of the train trip to Pittsburgh, most of them had little or nothing to say.” He added, “Musial, Schoendienst’s best friend and long-time roommate and usually available for quotes, maintained the same tight-lipped silence he had all day.”[2]

Even members of the St. Louis media took the news hard.

“Maybe, as we said, the deal will look better next week or the week after for the Cardinals,” wrote Robert L. Burnes, sports editor for the Globe-Democrat. “For the sake of St. Louis fans, we hope it does. But nobody in the deal is going to assume the place in the hearts of Cardinals fans that Red Schoendienst held and that’s what hurts. We’re gonna miss him and if that’s the wrong attitude, it’s just too doggone bad.”[3]

On June 14, 1956, Cardinals general manager Frank Lane traded Schoendienst, catcher Bill Sarni, outfielder Jackie Brandt, and pitcher Dick Littlefield to the Giants for shortstop Alvin Dark, outfielder/first baseman Whitey Lockman, catcher Ray Katt, and pitcher Don Liddle.

The day before the deal was announced, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat and St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the Cardinals were exploring a three-team trade that would send Phillies first baseman/catcher Stan Lopata and the Giants’ Dark to St. Louis for Schoendienst or left fielder Rip Repulski, who was leading the league with a .378 batting average.[4][5]

“I certainly don’t foresee anything lavish and, in fact, there’s only the slight possibility of our trading at all,” Lane said.[6]

If reporters were skeptical of Lane’s claim, that certainly was to be understood. Since replacing Dick Meyer as the Cardinals’ general manager in October, the man known as “Trader” Lane had entirely rebuilt the Redbirds’ roster with a series of deals, including:

However, none of Lane’s previous trades included a player as popular as Schoendienst, a 12-year Cardinals veteran and nine-time all-star who hit the game-winning homer in the 1950 all-star game.

“We let Schoendienst go with great reluctance, naturally, but to get a star like Dark you’ve got to give a star,” Lane said. “I don’t say Al is as great as he was five years ago. No one is, not even Red. (Manager Fred Hutchinson) and I were certain, though, we didn’t have a chance to stay in the pennant race with our defense at first base and shortstop. I believe we’ve helped our pitching a bit by getting Liddle and, frankly, Hutch had been figuring on Smith taking over as No. 1 catcher on the strength of his showing so far. Sure, Brandt could come back to haunt us, but, again, we’re concerned about 1956 and not the future.”[7]

The trade allowed the Cardinals to rearrange their defense. Wally Moon, a career outfielder, could now move from first base to center field with Lockman taking his former position. Additionally, shortstop Don Blasingame returned to his natural position at second base, with the former Giants captain Dark taking over at shortstop.

“Blasingame has been uncertain at shortstop,” Lane said. “In his normal position at second and with the experienced Dark to help him, I think we’ll be better off. Lockman will help us at first base. Moon will be a better player in the outfield. He gave it a great try at first base, but he was the first to admit he was out of his element.”[8]

In another interview, Lane added, “I thought Moon gave first base a courageous battle, but his failure to come up with low throws, even more than his unfamiliarity with other mechanics of the position, had a doubly tough effect on the rest of the infield,” Lane said. “Dropped throws cost outs, but more important, they caused the rest of the infield to press in an effort to make sure throws.”[9]

The trade also meant that rookie catcher Hal Smith would take over the backstop duties for Katt.

“Hutch is high on Smitty, especially his throwing arm, which he says is the best in the league,” Lane said.[10]

In Dark, the Cardinals received a veteran infielder with three all-star selections and a Rookie of the Year trophy to his credit. The Giants’ longtime captain, Dark also brought significant winning experience to the club, having won the pennant with the Braves in 1948 before leading the Giants to NL title in 1951 and finally winning the World Series in 1954.

“I think we’ll be stronger with Dark and Blasingame than with Blasingame and Schoendienst,” Hutchinson said. “I’ve been hoping to give Smith more chance to catch and this is his opportunity.”[11]

While the trade rebuilt the Cardinals’ infield, Lane said the cornerstone to the deal was the lefthander Liddle, a native of Mount Carmel, Illinois. Liddle had won 10 games for the Giants in 1955 and was 1-2 with a 3.92 ERA at the time of the trade.

“They didn’t want to give up any pitching,” Lane said. “For an hour or so this morning, the deal was off. (Giants vice president Chub Feeney) called me and said that (team president) Horace Stoneham didn’t want to give up Liddle. I said if we couldn’t improve our pitching staff then the deal was off. They called back later and said okay and we made it.”[12]

Meanwhile, the Giants insisted on the 22-year-old Brandt, who hit .305 with 12 homers, 70 RBIs, and 24 stolen bases the previous season for Triple-A Rochester.

“We’re very excited about getting Brandt,” Feeney said. “We wouldn’t have made the deal without him. He can run, he can throw, and he can hit. He gives us what we needed most – a good, young, righthanded hitter. Frankly, we were surprised that the Cards would let him go.”[13]

New York manager Bill Rigney liked the deal because he believed the trade would improve the Giants’ glovework.

“I know one thing, it’s going to help us defensively,” he said. “Especially up the middle. We needed a second baseman like Schoendienst.”[14]

The timing of the trade was unfortunate for Schoendienst, who was out of the lineup with a shoulder injury. He and his wife had heard trade rumors the previous year and held off on buying a new home in southwest St. Louis. By the time the 1956 campaign started, however, they believed they were safe to purchase the home.[15]

While Schoendienst was good-natured about the trade in the press, reportedly saying, “That’s the way the ball bounces,” and “New York’s money is as good as St. Louis’s,”[16] he was frustrated that he didn’t learn about the deal until he heard it on the radio.

“One day I picked up (Stan Musial) on the way to the ballpark like I always did and he was upset,” Schoendienst wrote in his 1998 autobiography. “I asked him what was wrong, and he said, ‘I think I’m going to be traded and I’m not going to go.’ I thought to myself, ‘Well, I imagine I’ll be traded soon.’ The team hadn’t won in a while and some of us were getting older. I knew they wanted to bring in some younger players, and that would require trading some of the older guys. I never heard any specific rumors, but I still kind of prepared myself for the news.

“What made me mad, however, was how I found out I had been traded to the Giants – I heard it on the radio. I guess Lane’s secretary tried to call after I already had left for the ballpark, but I didn’t appreciate getting the news that way.”[17]

If the trade did improve the Cardinals’ defense, it didn’t show up in their results on the field. Though the Cardinals were 29-24 and half a game out of the National League lead at the time of the trade, they slumped to a 76-78-2 finish for fourth place.

Over the parts of three seasons, Dark played 258 games with the Cardinals, batting .289 with nine homers and 106 RBIs over that span. In May 1958, the Cardinals traded him to the Cubs for Jim Brosnan.

Katt played just 47 games for the Cardinals before he was traded to the Cubs that December as part of another eight-player trade. Lockman’s tenure wasn’t much longer, as he was traded back to the Giants in February 1957.

Liddle, whom Lane had considered key to the deal, went 1-2 with an 8.39 ERA in 24 2/3 innings in St. Louis. He spent the entire 1957 season in Triple-A Omaha before retiring.

The players the Giants received had mixed results in the years to come. Brandt missed the 1957 campaign due to military service but went on to win a Gold Glove in 1959 and was an all-star with the Orioles in 1961. He went on to enjoy an 11-year major-league career.

Littlefield went 4-4 for the Giants during the remainder of the 1956 season before they traded him to the Dodgers for Jackie Robinson. When Robinson refused to report to his new team, the trade was voided and Littlefield was subsequently traded to the Cubs.

Sarni played 78 games for the Giants in 1956. The following spring, at age 29, he suffered a heart attack that ended his playing career.

Schoendienst hit .296 with the Giants for the remainder of the 1956 season. The following June, the Giants traded him to the Braves for Ray Crone, Danny O’Connell, and Bobby Thomson. In Milwaukee, Schoendienst won the second World Series of his career and finished the season with a league-high 200 hits. He placed third in that season’s NL MVP vote behind Henry Aaron and Musial.

In 1958, Schoendienst was diagnosed with tuberculosis. The life-threatening condition required surgery and four months of bed rest, costing him the entire 1959 season. He played a reserve role for the Braves in 1960 before requesting his release and returning to the Cardinals in 1961. He played the final three years of his career in St. Louis before hanging up his cleats to begin his coaching career.

Schoendienst managed the Cardinals from 1965 through 1976, guiding the team to the World Series championship in 1967 and the NL pennant in 1968. After two years as a coach for the Athletics, Schoendienst returned to St. Louis once again, this time as a coach and special assistant to the general manager. He remained with the Cardinals organization until his passing in 2018.

He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989.

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[1] Red Schoendienst with Rob Rains (1998), Red: A Baseball Life, Sports Publishing, Page VII.

[2] Jack Herman, “Uncomfortable Silence Marks Cardinals’ Trip,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, June 15, 1956.

[3] Robert L. Burnes, “The Bench Warmer,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, June 15, 1956.

[4] “Cards Reported Planning 3-Way Deal,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, June 13, 1956.

[5] Bob Broeg, “Lane Tones Down Trade Talks After 3-Way Meeting,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 13, 1956.

[6] Bob Broeg, “Lane Tones Down Trade Talks After 3-Way Meeting,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 13, 1956.

[7] Bob Broeg, “Schoendienst Goes To Giants in 8-Player Trade; Cards Get Lockman, Dark, Katt And Don Liddle,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 14, 1956.

[8] Robert L. Burnes, “Schoendienst Traded to Giants in 8-Player Deal,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, June 15, 1956.

[9] Bob Broeg, “Tighter Defense Cardinals’ Chief Gain in Trade, Lane Thinks,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 15, 1956.

[10] Jack Herman, “‘Team Couldn’t Win’-Lane,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, June 15, 1956.

[11] Robert L. Burnes, “Schoendienst Traded to Giants in 8-Player Deal,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, June 15, 1956.

[12] Robert L. Burnes, “Schoendienst Traded to Giants in 8-Player Deal,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, June 15, 1956.

[13] Milton Richman, “We Get Brandt or No Deal, Giants Told Trader Lane,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 15, 1956.

[14] “Rigney Happy, Says Brandt May Be ‘Sleeper’ in Deal,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 15, 1956.

[15] Robert L. Burnes, “The Bench Warmer,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, June 15, 1956.

[16] Bob Broeg, “Tighter Defense Cardinals’ Chief Gain in Trade, Lane Thinks,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 15, 1956.

[17] Red Schoendienst with Rob Rains (1998), Red: A Baseball Life, Sports Publishing, Page 82.