Saturday, March 14, 2009

#67 -- Red Schoendienst

I have this card autographed and it's one of my favorites. Partly because Red is hit and miss through the mail and this was my one and only attempt. But it's partly because he looks a lot like one of my grandfathers. My grandpa was a redheaded of Irish and German ancestry and he was a ballplayer growing up in the 20's and 30's. He told of going to a Cardinal tryout camp on a damp and cold day and doing well. The scout told him there'd be a place for him if he'd come back the next day. Unfortunately, his knee had gone out and he couldn't make it. The only other time his knee ever went out was at his World War II draft physical, so that knee kept him out of the minor leagues and out of the Pacific Theater.

Red became the Cardinal manager when some internal wranglings led ownership to dump Johnny Keane, who had just won the World Series in 1964. This was a tough spot to step into because of the expectations, the Cards were just in their second year in the post-Stan Musial era and they played .500 ball the first couple of years. However, Red persevered and led the Cards to a World Series title in 1967 and within a flyball misjudged by the usually sterling Curt Flood of winning the Series in 1968.

The Cards stayed competitive through the early 70's, but when Bob Gibson started fading, the rest of the team followed. By the mid-70's, Red and Lou Brock were not enough to keep the team at the top of the league and they fell into the second division. Finally, management made a change and brought in Vern Rapp for the 1977 season. The team fell further.

Most of the time when a manager is let go, they move on to other organizations. There are exceptions. Billy Martin kept coming back to the Yankees. Danny Murtaugh had 3 separate stints with the Pirates in the 60's and 70's. Cito Gaston and Bobby Cox are both currently working on their second stints with their teams. Whitey Herzog kept Red close to the action when he was brought in. Whitey was hired in 1980 and given free rein by Gussie Busch. After running the team a few weeks, he stepped aside as manager and turned it over to Red for the rest of the year so he could concentrate on evaluating the team. When Whitey decided to step down in 1990, Red was named the interim manager. Even now, Tony LaRussa keeps Red around and values his input. This link is to a video of Red helping out at Cardinal Spring Training in 2008. Here he is this Spring with the owner and GM.

Red was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the old Veterans' Committee as a second baseman. No matter how much of a Red Schoendienst fan I might be, I have to admit that he wasn't a Hall of Fame player. His OPS+ for his career was 93. That was brought down a lot by his latter years. He does have 2 World Series rings as a player (1946 and 1957) and was a 10-time All-Star. There weren't many tougher than Red, who came back from a bout with tuberculosis to resume his career. TB killed people back then and everyone thought Red was done. Red proved he wasn't done.

Red still ain't done.

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