In some ways, it’s quite appropriate that Red Schoendienst wore number 2.
After all, much of his playing career was overshadowed by a much more famous teammate and his managerial tenure would be behind two other Hall of Famers when you polled the casual fan. Trying to find some light in the shadows of Stan Musial, Whitey Herzog and Tony LaRussa is a fairly difficult task to manage.
And yet, unlike his storied teammate, he was able to be a part of teams going forward in a way Musial never was. He never stopped working, never got out of uniform. Musial and the other Hall of Famers were around, of course, but they weren’t part of the day-to-day rhythm of baseball like Red was. Even now, he’s often found helping out around the stadium.
It’s only been a couple of years since he was part of one of the best commercials we’ve seen out of the Cardinal marketing group in some time:
That’s Red right there. Even deep into his 80s, he still has that youthful approach and love of the game. Perhaps it’s his time around the clubhouse and the field that has kept him so young. Look at this picture that was in the Post-Dispatch last year, as he turned 90 just a couple of weeks after his good friend Stan passed.
Does that really look like a man with a nine in the front of his age? Everytime I see Red or hear him interviewed, I’m struck by how good he looks or how strong he sounds. We saw that the last few years of Musial’s life weren’t so kind to the legend, but Red–well, let’s just say he makes you believe he could hit that fungo over the fence.
With Musial, Whitey and La Russa’s shadow on him, Schoendienst doesn’t get all the recognition that he should. Since 1945, he’s spent just 4 1/2 years away from the Gateway to the West, meaning he’s a St. Louis institution like few others. He’s a Hall of Famer, even if he went in via the Veteran’s Committee, and deservedly so.
He had close to 2500 hits, hit .300 seven times and even played until he was 40, getting six hitless plate appearances in 1963. He finished in the top 10 in the MVP voting four times and was an All-Star 10 times.
And that doesn’t even take into account his managerial stints. He managed them for 12 years, including the 1967 World Champs and the 1968 runners-up. He then was the loyal soldier, filling in twice as interim manager in 1980 (when Herzog took part of the season off to focus on his GM role) and 1990 (after Whitey resigned). Red managed in 1999 games, which means that Mike Matheny needs to step aside sometime this season and let him get that nice round 2000.
In Cardinal lore, there are so many that have been around the organization and have left an impact, like Musial or George Kissell. Schoendienst is one of those men, a man that embodies the Cardinal Way more than anyone else involved with the organization today. The Cardinals are lucky to have him so embedded in the club and here’s hoping he’ll be that way for many years to come.
Happiest of birthdays, Red. May the lights from your candles help you step out of any shadow you might be in.