Hall of Famer Schoendienst dies at 95

Spent 67 of his 76 years in baseball with Cardinals

June 7th, 2018

ST. LOUIS -- Red Schoendienst, a fixture with the Cardinals and one of the organization's most beloved figures, died on Wednesday at the age of 95.

Few players across the history of Major League Baseball were as synonymous with a particular franchise as Schoendienst was with the Cardinals. The Hall of Famer spent nearly three-quarters of a century in uniform and more than six decades with St. Louis.

• Schoendienst connected with fans of all ages

The Cardinals announced his passing with a scoreboard tribute before the top of the third inning of Wednesday's 11-3 loss to the Marlins, prompting a standing ovation from players, coaches and a crowd of 40,109 at Busch Stadium. A 10-time All-Star, three-time World Series champion and the oldest living member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame at the time of his death, Schoendienst spent 67 years with the Cardinals and 76 in professional baseball.

"Red was one of the greatest Cardinals of all time, and a beloved member of the Cardinals organization for over six decades," Cardinals principal owner and chief executive officer William O. DeWitt Jr. said in a statement. "His influence on this organization cannot be overstated. Red was a great player, a great manager, and a wonderful mentor to countless players, coaches and members of the front office. He was also a fan favorite who connected with millions of Cardinals fans across multiple generations. He will be sorely missed."

Schoendienst, who was serving as a senior special assistant for the Cardinals, entered his 67th season with the Cardinals and 76th in professional baseball in 2018.

"I think you're always fortunate to meet some of the legends of the game," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said after the game, "but to actually get to know one of them like Red made himself accessible for us to know ... not just a great player and manager, but the kind of person he was. How he set the bar so high on how he treated people, I'll never forget it. He made a lasting imprint on us and how we communicate what it looks like to be a Cardinal."

Initially signed in 1942 from a tryout camp, Schoendienst debuted three years later in left field in place of Stan Musial, his former roommate and closest friend. He'd play the bulk of the rest of his 19-year playing career as a second baseman, amassing 2,449 hits and setting marks for fielding percentage that held for decades. His finest season came in 1953, when he established career highs with a .342 batting average -- second in the National League to Carl Furillo of the Brooklyn Dodgers (.344) -- 15 home runs and 79 RBIs.

Schoendienst made nine All-Star teams over parts of 15 seasons with St. Louis before going on to serve the organization in nearly every other possible role. He managed the club from 1965-76 and on an interim basis in 1980 and 1990, spent 17 seasons as a coach and had worked as a senior special assistant to the general manager since 1996. As a player, Schoendienst ranks fourth in franchise history in at-bats (6,841) and pinch hits (54), fifth in games played (1,795), sixth in runs scored (1,025), seventh in doubles (352) and eighth in total bases (2,657).

On June 14, 1956, Schoendienst was dealt to the New York Giants in a surprising trade along with outfielder Jackie Brandt, pitcher Dick Littlefield, catcher Bill Sarni and shortstop Bobby Stephenson in exchange for shortstop Alvin Dark, catcher Ray Katt, pitcher Don Liddle and outfielder Whitey Lockman. The following year, he was dealt to the Milwaukee Braves, helping them win the 1957 World Series and the 1958 NL pennant. He subsequently returned to St. Louis in 1961.

Schoendienst served as a coach on the Cardinals' 1964 world championship team (as well as the 1982 title team) and was named manager when Johnny Keane resigned at the conclusion of the season. Schoendienst piloted St. Louis to a World Series victory over the Red Sox in 1967 and another NL pennant in 1968 en route to a 12-year tenure as skipper, the longest in franchise history until Tony La Russa surpassed him in 2008. Schoendienst ranks second to La Russa in franchise wins with 1,041.

"The connection between Red and the fans of St. Louis spanned multiple generations and he was a wonderful ambassador for our game," Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. "On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my deepest condolences to Red's family, his many friends and admirers throughout our game, and Cardinals fans everywhere."

Former Cardinals first baseman called Schoendienst "one of the greatest mentors in the game" in a tribute on Twitter.

"It was a privilege to know and learn from one of baseball's best, Red Schoendienst," Pujols wrote. "He always made time for me and I will cherish the great times we spent together. My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family."

"He's going to be missed around here," Matheny said. "We've already been missing him, even though we've been staying in contact. We miss seeing him around and we're blessed to have been able to spend the time with him that we did."

The Veterans Committee elected Schoendienst to the Hall of Fame in 1989, when he was inducted alongside Carl Yastrzemski and Johnny Bench. Schoendienst was also an inaugural member of the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame in 2014. His uniform No. 2 was retired by the Cardinals in 1996. He was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 1987. The 2015 season marked Schoendienst's 70th in Major League Baseball, and the Cardinals honored the milestone with a season-long celebration that encouraged fans to demonstrate their affection for him via social media using the hashtag #LoveRed2.

"I think everybody has their own special memory," Matheny said. "For many Cardinal fans, so many former players, this was a very, very unique person. One whose legacy on the field is really impressive, but for us to watch how he continued to give to this game, that was something well never forget. And it puts him in a very rare class. The humility and the resume. You don't see that very often. A guy that truly loved this game and truly loved this organization and served people really well."

Born on Feb. 2, 1923, in Germantown, Ill., Albert Fred Schoendienst grew up approximately 40 miles east of downtown St. Louis. He suffered a serious eye injury as a teenager while working for the Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal public works employment initiative spearheaded by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The injury left Schoendienst with headaches for years after, but ultimately propelled his baseball career: it led to his discharge from the Army in 1945 and forced the natural righty to become a switch-hitter; he hit .286/.340/.391 across more than 5,000 plate appearances a left-handed batter.

He is survived by his four children, eight living grandchildren and seven great grandchildren. His wife of 53 years, Mary Eileen O'Reilly Schoendienst, passed away in December 1999.

"He had a life full of happiness for 95 years," the Schoendienst family said in a statement. "He inspired all that knew him to always do their best. Red was a great ball player, but his legacy is that of a great gentleman who had respect for all. He loves his family, friends, teammates, the community and his country. He will be greatly missed."