As St. Louis Cardinals fans, we are fortunate for a variety of reasons. Sure, that whole winning World Series championships thing is nice (ha!) but we’re also lucky to see so many Cardinals Hall of Famers who are around and still supporting the team regularly.
And there’s no one around as much as the man who celebrates his 89th birthday today, Red Schoendienst. Of course, there’s no Cards Hall of Famer who’s made a commercial as awesome as this either.
Red was the rare major league player with a 19-year career, and the rare manager who led the same team for 12 straight years. Plus he’s been involved in baseball for 70 years now. Not many men throughout baseball’s entire history have that same background.
How much do you know about his 70 years in baseball?
Albert Fred Schoendienst was born on Feb. 2, 1923, in Germantown, Ill., not far from St. Louis, and began playing baseball at an early age. At age 18, he went to an open tryout the Cardinals were having and was signed by the team.
His professional career began in 1942, and in 1943 he was the International League MVP. He served nearly a year in the Army during World War II before being discharged in 1945. Red made his major league debut with the Cardinals that season, playing left field and stealing a league-high 26 bases.
He moved to second base for the 1946 season, when he was named an All Star for the first time. Red also helped the Cardinals to win their third World Series title in five years, beating the Red Sox. Beginning in 1948, he was named an All-Star for eight straight seasons. And he made an impact — during the 1950 game, he hit a game-winning home run in the 14th inning for the National League.
Red’s skillful play at second earned him acclaim, as even his plaque at the Hall of Fame includes a quote from his teammate, roommate and friend Stan Musial. The Man said that Schoendienst had “the greatest pair of hands I’ve ever seen.” He set a league record in 1956 with a .9934 fielding average, which remained for 30 years until surpassed by Ryne Sandberg.
Yet Red wasn’t a Cardinal his entire career. During the 1956 season, he was traded to the New York Giants. The year after that, another mid-season trade brought him to the Milwaukee Braves. He was named an All-Star for the 10th time in 1957 as he batted .309 with 200 hits as the Braves won their first National League pennant in nine years. They also won their first World Series since 1914, as well as their only championship in Milwaukee. (That’s two World Series rings for Red thus far … if you’re counting.)
Red finished third in MVP voting that year, with his Braves teammate Hank Aaron winning the award and Stan finishing second. The Braves repeated as NL champions in 1958, but lost to the Yankees in a World Series rematch.
In 1959, Red was diagnosed with tuberculosis and only appeared in five games. He recovered and played again in 1960, then rejoined the Cardinals as a player-coach from 1961-1963 before becoming a full-time coach in 1964.
The day after the Cards won the 1964 World Series, manager Johnny Keane resigned. Red was named to replace as his replacement. (Three World Series championships.)
So Red’s Cardinals managerial career began in 1965, and he became — at the time — the longest serving Cards manager. (Tony La Russa has since surpassed him.) Under his direction, the Cardinals appeared in back-to-back World Series in 1967 (which they won over the Red Sox — fourth for Red’s baseball career) and 1968 (which they lost to the Tigers). Plus, in addition to serving manager through 1976, he served as acting manager in 1980 and 1990.
His career managerial record is 1,041 victories and 955 losses.
After coaching with the Oakland Athletics in 1977-78, Red returned to the Cardinals … and has never left. He’s been a coach and still serves as a special assistant to general manager John Mozeliak. (And starred in a great commercial.)
Red was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1989 and his number 2 was retired by the Cardinals in 1990.
Here’s wishing Red a wonderful birthday and a year ahead filled with happiness, good health and another victorious Cardinals season. (And, since all of us at Aaron Miles’ Fastball know Red’s granddaughter, she can pass along our wishes!)
Christine Coleman is the senior St. Louis Cardinals reporter for Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on Twitter, @CColeman802, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also follow @AMilesFastball for the latest updates.