Obituaries

Red Schoendienst, St. Louis Cardinals star and oldest Hall of Famer

NEW YORK — Red Schoendienst, the St. Louis Cardinals’ Hall of Fame second baseman, manager, and coach who had a major league career of more than 70 years, died Wednesday night at his home in Town & Country, Mo., outside St. Louis. He was 95 and the oldest living member of the Hall.

The epitome of the baseball lifer, Mr. Schoendienst became a revered figure in St. Louis. He first donned a Cardinals uniform at a tryout camp in 1942 — a red-haired, freckle-faced teenager from the Midwest who was later likened in the press to a latter-day Huckleberry Finn. He hit fungo grounders to fielders in his 80s; he was listed as a special assistant to the general manager a decade later.

Playing second base, his position for nearly his entire playing career, Mr. Schoendienst teamed with shortstop Marty Marion in a superb double-play combination, most notably on the 1946 Cardinals team that defeated the Boston Red Sox in a seven-game World Series. Bobby Doerr, Boston’s second baseman in that Series, had been the oldest surviving Hall of Famer, ahead of Mr. Schoendienst, when he died at 99 in November.

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“He wasn’t flashy, not a guy like Ozzie Smith and diving all over the place,” Marion told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 1989. “Red was just always in the right place at the right time. He didn’t make many mistakes.”

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Mr. Schoendienst’s Hall of Fame plaque quotes Stan Musial, his longtime teammate, as saying he had “the greatest pair of hands I’ve ever seen.”

With Mr. Schoendienst’s death, the oldest living Hall of Famer is Tommy Lasorda, the former Los Angeles Dodgers manager. He is 90.

In 1999, the Cardinals honored Mr. Schoendienst with a bronze likeness outside the old Busch Stadium depicting him in midair, pivoting on a double play. When the Cardinals played their final game at the stadium, in September 2005, Mr. Schoendienst caught the ceremonial first ball. His likeness now stands at the new Busch Stadium along with those of fellow Cardinals stars through the years.

The Cardinals announced his death before the third inning of their game against the Miami Marlins Wednesday. A photo was shown on the video board with ‘‘1923-2018’’ written below. Fans gave a standing ovation, while players stood and applauded.

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“To Red Schoendienst, baseball was pure joy,” Red Smith once wrote in The New York Times. “He loved every minute of it, even those hit-and-run barnstorming tours that teams used to make on a two-week trip home from spring training.”

Playing in the National League from 1945 to 1963 — 15 of those seasons with the Cardinals — Mr. Schoendienst was a 10-time All-Star.

A switch-hitter who set the stage for Musial in the lineup, Mr. Schoendienst hit .300 seven times and had 2,449 career hits. His most memorable at-bat came in the 1950 All-Star Game at Comiskey Park in Chicago, when he connected for the game-winning home run in the 14th inning. His best season at the plate came in 1953, when he hit .342; he was the runner-up for the batting title to the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Carl Furillo, who hit .344.

After serving as a Cardinals coach, Mr. Schoendienst succeeded Johnny Keane as manager only days after Keane took St. Louis to a seven-game World Series victory over the New York Yankees in 1964, then quit to replace Yogi Berra as the Yankees’ manager. Mr. Schoendienst managed the Cardinals from 1965 to 1976, then had stints as an interim manager in 1980 and 1990. He managed the Cardinals to a thrilling seven-game victory over the Boston Red Sox in the 1967 World Series, then lost an equally exciting seven-game series the following year, to the Detroit Tigers.

He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1989 by the Veterans Committee.

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Albert Fred Schoendienst was born on Feb. 2, 1923, in Germantown, Ill., some 40 miles east of St. Louis. His father, Joe, was a coal miner but caught for a sandlot baseball team. His mother, Mary, was a homemaker.

He signed a $75-a-month contract with the Cardinals’ minor league system in 1942 and made his major league debut in April 1945 after being discharged from stateside Army service because of eye and shoulder problems. That year, playing left field, he led the National League in stolen bases with 26.

Mr. Schoendienst remained a key figure for the Cardinals until June 1956, when he was traded to the New York Giants in a multiplayer deal also sending Jackie Brandt, a young outfielder, to New York and bringing shortstop Alvin Dark and first baseman Whitey Lockman to St. Louis.

“Red was the toughest to give up,” Frank Lane, the Cardinals’ general manager, was quoted by the Associated Press as saying. “He’s the type of ballplayer who could go out and make five errors in a row and the fans wouldn’t be mad at him.”

A year and a day after that, the Giants dealt Mr. Schoendienst to the Milwaukee Braves.

He led the NL in hits in the 1957 season with 200, helping propel the Braves to a World Series victory over the Yankees.

“A lot of people credited that trade with being the difference that helped them win it,” Joe Torre told The Kansas City Star in 1993, when Torre was managing the Cardinals and Mr. Schoendienst was his bench coach. “He was a sparkplug kind of guy, a leader.”

Mr. Schoendienst felt poorly for much of the 1958 season, although he hit .300 in the World Series, this time a Yankees victory over the Braves. In November 1958, he was found to have tuberculosis, and the following February a portion of his right lung was removed. He was sidelined until September 1959.

Notwithstanding his affable ways, Mr. Schoendienst had a steel will. He had overcome a severe eye injury from an accident while working for the New Deal’s Civilian Conservation Corps as a teenager, and later surmounted a chronically sore shoulder. He was determined to continue playing upon recovering from tuberculosis.

He was a backup with the Braves in 1960, then returned to the Cardinals, playing sparingly but proving an effective pinch hitter and also serving as a coach. He retired as a player during the 1963 season with a career batting average of .289.

He leaves three daughters, Colleen, Eileen Schless, and Cathleen Reifsteck; a son, Kevin; a brother, Joseph; eight grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. His wife, the former Mary O’Reilly, died in 1999.

When Mr. Schoendienst was inducted into the Hall of Fame, he told of his long love affair with baseball.

“All I ever wanted was to be on that lineup card every day and become a champion,” he said. “Baseball has been my only job. I still get a thrill putting on that uniform and to hear those wonderful words, ‘Play ball.’”