Yet another Hall of Fame birthday and reminiscence
by Bob Timmermann
Hall of Famer Red Schoendienst is celebrating his 85th birthday today. Schoendienst was born in the small Illinois town of Germantown. As you might guess, it was founded by Germans. It's the home of the Spassfest!
My father was born in the neighboring city of Breese, Illinois (which has weird music on its municipal website) and the farm he grew up on was on the road between the two cities. My father was six youngers than Red, who was likely called Albert when he was growing up as he came from a large family and the majority of the boys had red hair. One of the photos from my dad's high school reunion shows another Schoendienst who had a full head of red hair. My father told me that there were enough Schoendiensts for them to field a full baseball team, although I was skeptical of that just because of the age differences involved.
Last year when I was in St. Louis for the SABR convention, a guy from New York told me, "Once you cross the river there, you find that they're all Cub fans." I was too stunned to say anything in return. If you took a map of Illinois and colored in each county as being Cardinal fans (red counties) and Cub fans (blue counties), you'd find that the red counties would take up a lot more territory, although the Cubs would win in total number of fans because not that many people live downstate.
Schoendienst broke into the majors with the team he grew up rooting for, the Cardinals in 1945. He played second base for the Cardinals World Series winner in 1946. In 1956, Schoendienst was dealt to the Giants, who shipped him on to the Braves in 1957 and helped Milwaukee win the World Series.
Red's career was slowed down when he came down with tuberculosis in 1959, but he did recover and returned to the Cardinals in 1961 and finally retired as a played in 1963 and became a coach for the Cardinals.
Schoenienst became the Cardinals manager in 1965 and led the team to two pennants and one World Series win (1967). He held that job through the 1976 season and then served two interim spells in 1980 and 1990.
Since then, Schoendienst has become the Cardinals version of Jimmie Reese. He still puts on a uniform in spring training and hangs around the batting cage and hits a few fungoes from time to time. He remains one of the most beloved figures in Cardinals history. And he's come a long way from the dairy farms and coal mines of Clinton County, Illinois.