The Foundation recognizes Albert F. “Red” Schoendienst this week for his service during World War II and for his contributions to Major League Baseball as a player and manager.
Schoendienst was exposed to baseball at a young age when his father was a catcher in the Clinton County League. He soon began playing baseball as well, quitting school at the age of 16 and joining the Civilian Conservation Corps. Unfortunately, he sustained an eye injury from being hit by a nail while building fences with the CCC, which resulted in impaired vision.
The CCC was disbanded when the United States entered World War II, so he took another job as a supply clerk at Scott Field in Illinois and continued to focus on baseball. He hitchhiked to the Cardinals tryout camp in St. Louis in 1942 and was rewarded for his efforts by signing with them. He played for Union City in the Kitty League before going on to play for Albany in the Georgia-Florida League. Red also played in Lynchburg and Rochester before entering the U.S. Army.
Despite Red’s eye injury, he was called to service in 1944 and reported to Camp Blanding, Florida. He was then sent to Pine Camp, New York. Pine Camp was a prisoner of war camp for Italian prisoners, and Red helped to build ballfields to keep the prisoners entertained. While playing baseball at Pine Camp, he suffered a shoulder injury that granted him a medical discharge in 1945.
After resting and recovering from his shoulder injury, Schoendienst joined the Cardinals at their spring training camp that same year, filling in for Stan Musial who was still serving in the Navy. He made his Major League debut in April, leading the league with 26 stolen bases.
Red faced adversity again in 1958 when he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and had to have part of his infected lung removed. Many thought this would lead to the end of his playing career, but he was able to bounce back and return to playing in 1959.
Schoendienst played in the Major Leagues until 1963, appearing in 10 All-Star games with a career batting average of .289 and 2,499 hits. His career took him from the Cardinals to the Giants and Milwaukee, before rejoining the Cardinals to end his career.
After retiring from playing, Red became the Cardinals manager from 1965-1976, the longest tenure of any manager in Cardinal’s history. During that time, he led the Redbirds to the National League pennant in 1967 and 1968 and defeated the Boston Red Sox in the 1967 World Series. Red also coached the Oakland Athletics in 1977, before returning again to the Cardinals as coach and special assistant to the general manager. He was a member of five winning World Series teams as a player, coach, and manager. Red was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and the St. Louis Walk of Fame in 1989.
Red Schoendienst is honored for his ability to overcome adversity and his embodiment of the values that Bob Feller demonstrated.