At Samuel’s, a haberdashery located on High Street in Jefferson City, if you look to the left as you walk in, you will see an autographed picture of Al Schoendienst similar to the one pictured below. The average person will ask, “Who is Al Schoendienst?” He is known to the many citizens of Cardinal Nation as Red Schoendienst.
Born in Germantown, Illinois on February 2, 1923, Red was invited to a St. Louis Cardinals open tryout with 400 others trying to make their way to the big leagues in the Spring of 1942. He was signed after the tryout for $75 a month and was assigned to the Cardinals Class D farm club in Albany, Georgia. This began an association with professional baseball that continued until his death. There would, however, be a brief interruption due to service in the U.S. Army during World War II.
Red went to Spring Training with Cardinals in 1945, which was being held in Cairo, Illinois due to wartime travels restrictions that were still in effect. Red broke camp with the big team and was assigned to be the starting Left Fielder. He became a fan favorite almost immediately. In 1946, he was installed as the starting Second Baseman as the Cards won their sixth World Championship and their third in five seasons. Red remained a fixture at Second for the next decade. On June 14, 1956, Schoendienst was traded to the New York Giants with Jackie Brandy, Bill Sarni, Dick Littlefield and Bobby Stephenson for Alvin Dark, Whitey Lockman, Ray Katt and Don Liddle. This move was extremely unpopular with Cardinal fans. He would be gone from New York a year later, being traded to the Milwaukee Braves for Bobby Thomson, Ray Crone and Danny O’Connell on June 15, 1957. The return of Thomson to New York was a largely a sentimental move as the Giants were in the middle of their lame duck season in New York before moving to San Francisco. Red helped lead the Braves to two National League Pennants and a World Championship before returning to St. Louis for the 1961 Season as primarily a pinch hitter and then as a player-coach. He hit for a .300 for better average in 1961 and 1962 and made a few token appearances before calling it quits for good as a player following the 1963 Campaign. in 15 seasons wearing the Birds on the Bat, Red compiled 1980 hits with 651 RBI’s and a .289 lifetime batting average.
During the 1964 Season, while the Cardinals were in a dogfight for the National League pennant, there was much speculation surrounding the futures of General Manager Bing Devine and Manager Johnny Keane. It was believed that Keane was going to be replaced by former Gas House Gang Shortstop and Team Captain Leo “The Lip” Durocher. The Cardinals were six games behind the Philadelphia Phillies with 12 games to go. The Cards rallied to capture the NL Flag on the last day of the season with an 11-5 victory over the Mets. They would go on to win their seventh World Championship in seven games over the aging New York Yankees. Keane resigned the following day and, instead of Leo Durocher, Red Schoendienst was named the Cardinal skipper for the 1965 Season.
In a six year stretch from 1963 to 1968, the Cardinals battled the Los Angeles Dodgers for supremacy in the National League. In that stretch the Cardinals and Dodgers won 3 National League Pennants and 2 World Championships each. The Dodgers won the pennant in 1963, 1965 and 1966 and the World Championship in 1963 and 1965. The Cardinals won the pennant in 1964, 1967 and 1968 and the World Championship in 1964 and 1967. The Cardinals did it with the base running of Lou Brock (who had been acquired from the Cubs for pitcher Ernie Broglio in 1964), the power pitching of Bob Gibson, the defense provided by Curt Flood, the power provided by Orlando “The Baby Bull” Cepeda and clutch hitting from former New York Yankee legend Roger Maris. The Cardinals would win their second World Championship of the 60’s over the Boston Red Sox in seven games, but they would fall short the following year, losing to the Detroit Tigers Tigers also in seven games after being up three games to one.
There would be some lean years following the Cardinals’ 1968 pennant. Major League Baseball would be split into four six team divisions with a round of league playoffs starting with the 1969 Season. The Cardinals would experience a long pennant drought, which lasted until 1982. However, there were a few years in which Cardinals were legitimate contenders. They finished Second in the National League East to the eventual World Champion Pittsburgh Pirates in 1971 with a record of 90-72. In 1973, they would also finish Second in the East. This time, to the eventual National League Champion New York Mets. During this period, Cardinal fans experienced a very unpopular trade that sent future Hall of Fame pitcher Steve Carlton to the Phillies for fellow pitcher Rick Wise. The Cards also contended in 1974 when they once again finished Second to the Pittsburgh Pirates with a record of 87-75. That same year, Cardinal fans experienced the thrill of Lou Brock challenging the all-time single season Stolen Base record of 104, set by Maury Wills of the Dodgers in 1962. “The Base Burglar” stole 118 bags that year. A record that stood until Rickey Henderson of the Oakland A’s swiped 130 in 1982. The 1976 Cardinals finished the season with a record of 72-90, their worst record in sixty years! On October 5, 1976, Red Schoendienst was fired. He would become a coach for the Oakland A’s for the 1977 Season and stay until the following year.
In 1979, Red would return to the Cardinal organization and would serve in a variety of capacities for the rest of his life, including two more brief stints as manager. In 1980, he briefly took over for Whitey Herzog and posted a record of 18-19 as the Cards finished with a record 74-88. In 1990, he, again, took over for Whitey Herzog and posted a record of 13-11 before giving way to former Cardinal player Joe Torre. That year, the Cards finished with a record of 70-92. The 1990 season was noteworthy because Red would join a handful of others (including the aforementioned Leo Durocher and Joe Torre) in becoming a four decade manager. He had an association with the Cardinals that began during the Administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and ended during the Administration of Donald Trump. In 1989, he was elected by the Veterans’ Committee to the Baseball Hall of Fame and in 2014, he joined 21 others in the inaugural class of the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame. In 14 seasons as the Cardinal skipper, he posted a record of 1041-955 for a .522 winning percentage. His 1041 wins places him Second to Tony LaRussa on the all-time St. Louis Cardinals’ managerial wins list. Sadly, on June 6, 2018, Red Schoendienst passed away at the age of 95.