90th birthday: Red Schoendienst

Today, a Hall of Famer celebrates a birthday. It’s a birthday we all hope to make it to, though few of us will. Today, Red Schoendienst turns 90.

He’s an interesting Hall of Famer in that he’s more an overall career accomplishment person than someone in for a specific achievement. Officially, that isn’t true. He’s in the Hall of Fame as a second baseman. That’s his main claim to fame, but that’s only part of the reason he’s in Cooperstown.

Schoendienst could play. He racked up 2,449 hits with a .289 average over 19 seasons. He didn’t have much power and never drew many walks, but he was a great fielder, could hit, and lasted a long time.

That got him into the Cooperstown conversation, but what happened after his career helped push him over. As a rule of thumb, maintaining a visible presence around the game after his playing days helps a man’s Cooperstown case. If nothing else, it prevents people from forgetting about you.

Schoendienst last played in 1963, and in 1965 became the manager of the Cardinals. It was a fortunate place to be; the team had won the world title the year before. Initially, the the Cardinals under Schoendienst had a rough time. In 1965-66, they were a .500 team, far from what you’d expect of a recent world champ. Schoendienst’s place couldn’t have been too secure.

But in 1967, they won a world title under Schoendienst. The next year, they won a pennant. They never did much else, but that was plenty. Schoendienst lasted in the St. Louis dugout until 1976.

He didn’t totally fade away even then, taking positions in the St. Louis front office and twice serving as interim manager. The second time he did it, in 1990, he was already a Hall of Famer. He got the call in 1989. One way or another, he worked in major league baseball during his entire Cooperstown candidacy.

It helped. Schoendienst debuted on the BBWAA ballot in 1969—right after taking St. Louis to its second straight pennant. He started out with only 19 percent, but soon rose over 30 percent, eventually peaking at 42.6 percent.

Quick comparison time: When Schoendienst appeared on the BBWAA ballot for the first time in 1969, so did fellow player-turned-manager Gil Hodges. In fact, Hodges did better in 1969, getting 24 percent of the vote. That year, Hodges managed the Miracle Mets to a stunning world title—and his vote skyrocketed to 48 percent.

Unfortunately, Hodges died young, in April 1972. He stayed ahead of Schoendienst due to his big lead, but neither got in via the BBWAA. By the time it went to the Veterans Committee, Schoendienst still had his St. Louis backers pulling for him, but Hodges was a dead man. Schoendienst made it in, but Hodges is still outside.

Even now, Schoendienst is something of a St. Louis mascot. When I went to Busch Stadium for the only time in 2007, the team’s program had Schoendienst on the cover. Not bad—especially given that the team was defending world champion at the time.

He’s become the eternal Cardinal. And today Red Schoendienst celebrates his 90th birthday.

Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that occurred X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim through things.

Day-versaries

1,000 days since Dallas Braden throws his perfect game.

2,000 days since the Padres release what’s left of David Wells.

2,000 days since Phil Rizzuto dies.

3,000 days since the Nationals agree to sign free agents Vinny Castilla and Cristian Guzman. This works out as badly as you’d expect.

5,000 days since the Indians sign amateur free agent Willy Taveras.

6,000 days since Todd Walker makes his big league debut.

9,000 days since Jim Rice enjoys his 35th and final multi-home run game.

Anniversaries

1876 The National League is formed.

1881 Orval Overall is born. He’ll pitch for the Tinker-Evers-Chance Cubs and win 23 games in 1907 and 20 in 1909.

1900 Willie Kamm is born. He’ll play third base for 13 years and lead the AL in walks in 1925.

1908 Wes Ferrell is born. He’s a pitcher who arguably belongs in the Hall of Fame.

1918 Jack Crooks dies at age 52. The infielder had three straight seasons of 100-plus walks, leading the league in it in 1892 (with 136) and 1893 (with 121).

1919 The Reds trade star first baseman Hal Chase to the Giants.

1933 The White Sox release veteran first baseman Lu Blue.

1936 The first inductees into Cooperstown are announced: Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson. It’s still the only time the BBWAA put in five guys in one year.

1937 Don Buford is born. The infielder-outfielder will receive token support in MVP voting four times.

1938 Max Alvis is born. The Indians third baseman will twice lead the league in HBP.

1943 The Red Sox sign faded star Al Simmons.

1948 The White Sox release former Tigers slugger Rudy York.

1950 Dale Murray, reliever who led the 1976 NL in games pitched, is born.

1954 The Orioles release ageless wonder Satchel Paige.

1954 John Tudor is born. He’s the last man to throw 10 shutouts in one season. Unlikely, but true.

1954 Mickey Mantle enters a hospital in Springfield, Mo. for surgery on a cyst behind his right knee.

1958 Pat Tabler, god at hitting with the bases loaded, is born.

1960 Buddy Biancalana is born. He became an unlikely brief media star when David Letterman lampooned him once on Late Night. With Pete Rose bearing down on the all-time hit record, Letterman proposed the Buddy Biabcalana Hit Counter to track how close Buddy was.

1968 Scott Erickson, 20 game winner with 1991 Twins, is born.

1972 Melvin Mora, two-time Orioles All-Star, is born.

1977 Adam Everett, all-world defensive shortstop, is born.

1980 Gashouse Gang outfielder Jack Rothrock dies at age 74. With the 1934 champion Cardinals, Rothrock led the NL in games, at bats, and plate appearances.

1978 San Diego signs free agent pitcher Mickey Lolich, who didn’t pitch in 1977.

1983 The Angels release veteran pitcher Steve Renko.

1983 Ronny Cedeno, infielder, is born.

1987 Royals pitcher Dennis Leonard announces his retirement.

1999 The Padres and Reds have a five-player trade that sends Greg Vaughn to Cincinnati while Reggie Sanders and Damian Jackson go to San Diego.

1999 The Mets sign free agent Melvin Mora.

2005 The Skydome is rechristened the Rogers Centre.

2008 The Twins trade superstar pitcher Johan Santana to the Mets for Carlos Gomez, Philip Humber, Kelvin Mulvey, and Delois Guerra.

2008 Former player and ex-Tigers broadcaster Lary Sorensen found unconscious in his car with a blood alcohol content of .48.

2009 Baltimore purchases pitcher Rich Hill from the Cubs.

2009 The Cubs trade reliever Michael Wuertz to Oakland for two forgettable prospects.

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Comments

  1. abarnold2 said...

    One of the things that everyone, writer and commenter alike, said a few weeks ago about Stan Musial was 1) he was ubiquitous in the St. Louis community until the end of his life, and 2) if anything, after his retirement his identity as a Cardinal became even stronger. In St. Louis, Musial was Grandpa Baseball.

    Red Schoendienst, Musial’s teammate and friend, doesn’t quite share Musial’s community presence but his Cardinal identity is every bit as intense if not moreso because he’s never taken off his uniform. In St. Louis, he is beloved Uncle Baseball.

  2. Anon said...

    What would be the best way to determine the person employed longest by a single MLB team? Red has worn a Cardinal uniform for 60+ years.

  3. Andrew said...

    Must have been something in the St. Louis water supply during the 1940s: Schoendienst, Musial, Marion, Danny Litwhiler and Freddy Schmidt all lived past 90. And Harry Breechen made it until age 89. For a dominant club, that’s gotta be a record.

  4. Grandpa Boog said...

    To say that Red Schoendienst didn’t do much after 1968 needs clarification. I think that the author of this piece needed to do some research, either that or he is too young to know what Cardinal ownership and the front office did to the StL starting rotation.

    Keep in mind that Red Schoendienst lost a fella named Steve Carlton after the 1971 season because tightwad owner Auggie Busch would not give Carton the extra $10,000 that Carlton wanted. Carlton won 329 games, 252 of them after leaving StL.

    The Cardinals also traded away another developing lefty starting pitcher, Jerry Reuss, who ended up winning 220 games, 198 of them for other teams.

    Jim Bibby, a righthander, was traded away. He won 111 games, 110 of them after the trade.

    Mike Torrez, another big righthanded starter, was traded away. He won 185 games, but 164 of them were for other teams.

    Red still contended for several pennants and narrowly missed out on several in the 1970’s, without these three pitchers.

    Auggie Busch had the baseball brains of a rock.

    —Stay tuned.

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