COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – He was born 88 years ago this week, before the St. Louis Cardinals had won even one National League pennant. But Albert “Red” Schoendienst was destined to help build in the Cards into an NL powerhouse – both as a player and manager.
Along the way, Schoendienst became one of the most popular figures in St. Louis baseball history – and earned a Hall of Fame plaque.
Appearing in a Cardinals uniform in six decades, Schoendienst – born Feb. 2, 1923 – first starred for the Redbirds at second base, where he was voted to nine All-Star Games and led the NL in fielding percentage on five different occasions.
Defensively, Schoendienst is considered as one of baseball’s best second basemen. He once handled 320 chances without an error in the 1950 season.
Stan Musial, another Cardinals Hall of Famer and roommate of Red’s when they played together, once regarded his second basemen as “having the greatest pair of hands I’ve ever seen.”
After 12 seasons with the Cards – which included a World Series championship in 1946 – Schoendienst played a season and a half for the New York Giants, earning his 10th All-Star Game appearance in 1957. During the 1957 season, he was traded from Giants after 57 games to the Milwaukee Braves in a deal involving Bobby Thomson – leading the National League in hits that season with 200.
Along with fellow future Hall of Famers Eddie Mathews and Hank Aaron, he helped lead his club to a 1957 World Series Championship followed by a second National League crown the next year. The Braves lost to the Yankees in the 1958 World Series, but Schoendienst once again led the National League in fielding percentage.
Schoendienst returned to St. Louis in 1961 playing two more seasons before calling it a career in 1963 after 19 seasons in the big leagues. He finished with 2,449 hits and a .289 batting average, including seven seasons where he hit .300 or better.
Red, however, was not ready to hang up the Cardinals’ uniform just yet. He took over the managerial reins in 1965 and did not surrender them for another 12 seasons.
In his time on the bench, he directed the Cards to a World Series victory in 1967 followed by a National League pennant in 1968. His 12 years as manager for St. Louis is the second-longest in Cardinals history, surpassed by Tony La Russa in 2008.
He remained with the Cardinals as a coach after stepping down as manager following the 1976 season, and served as St. Louis interim manager during the 1980 and 1990 seasons.
A Veterans Committee selection to the Hall of Fame in 1989, Schoendienst is one of only nine St. Louis Cardinals players to have his number (2) retired.
Matt Kramer was the 2010 public relations fall intern at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum