Publish date:

RED SCHOENDIENST 1923-2018

Author:

IN APRIL 1943, Red Schoendienst, a small 20-year-old infielder, reported for duty with the Rochester Red Wings, the Triple A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals. Wings manager Pepper Martin was in the midst of reaming his underperforming charges when Schoendienst knocked on the clubhouse door. Sizing up the redhead, Martin screamed, "We don't need any batboys!" and slammed the door shut. When Schoendienst announced he was a player, Martin said, "I need men and they're sending me babies."

By the time Schoendienst had finished the season—with a league-best .337 batting average—Martin had a nickname for him: the Team.

It was a fitting moniker. For the next seven decades (save for a few years in exile with the Giants and the Braves), Schoendienst was a mainstay in the Cardinals organization, first as a second baseman (10 All-Star appearances), then as a manager (the 1967 World Series championship), and then as a coach and consultant.

He broke into the organization at age 16, attending a tryout camp at Sportsman Park, 40 miles from his home in Germantown, Ill. He hitched a ride down on a milk truck with a friend, thinking he'd get to see a few free major league games; he returned with a job, but only after spending a night sleeping on a park bench across the street from the train station.

Schoendienst was still in uniform—hitting fungoes and giving tips to fielders—more than 60 years later, long after he was elected to the Hall of Fame by the veterans' committee in 1989. When he finally got the call to Cooperstown, his wife reminisced on his time in the sport. "I think the baseball game is a boy's game," said Mary, to whom Schoendienst was married for 52 years, until her death in 1999. "And I don't think Red has ever grown up."