Albert "Red" Schoendienst, who spent 72 years in baseball as player, manager and coach, died at his home Wednesday at the age of 95.
The red-headed native of Germantown, Illinois, came up with the Cardinals in 1945 and stayed on as their starting second baseman. He spent 67 of his next 72 seasons in baseball wearing a Cardinals uniform.
Schoendienst went on to play in 10 All-Star Games and amass 2,449 hits before retiring as a player in 1963 at the age of 40. Along the way, he was roommates with fellow Hall of Famer Stan Musial, who said his lifelong friend had "the greatest pair of hands I've ever seen."
His No. 2 is retired by the team. Word of his death at Busch Stadium on Wednesday, where the Cardinals were playing the second game of a three-game series with the Miami Marlins, brought the crowd to its feet for a moment of silence, then a sustained ovation.
“Red was one of the greatest Cardinals of all time and a beloved member of the Cardinals organization for over six decades,” said Cardinals principal owner and Chief Executive Officer William O. DeWitt Jr. “His influence on this organization cannot be overstated.
"Red was a great player, a great manager and a wonderful mentor to countless players, coaches and members of the front office. He was also a fan favorite who connected with millions of Cardinals fans across multiple generations. He will be sorely missed.”
Schoendienst was the picture of consistency both in the field and at the plate. His most impressive statistic: In 9,224 career plate appearances, Schoendienst struck out just 346 times and never more than 32 times in a single season. In the 1950 All-Star Game, it was Schoendienst's walk-off home run that won the game for the National League in the 14th inning.
His tenure with the Cardinals was interrupted only by two things.
The first was a 1956 trade to the New York Giants, who then flipped him to the Milwaukee Braves. The following year, he helped lead the Braves to their first pennant in nine seasons, batting .309 and finishing third in the NL MVP vote.
The second was a 1958 diagnosis of tuberculosis that he was told would end his career. Schoendienst made it back to the Braves in 1960, only to be released at season's end. He rejoined the Cardinals in 1961, hitting over .300 in his two final seasons as a player-coach.
In 19 seasons as a player, Schoendienst compiled a .289 batting average with 84 home runs, 773 RBIs, 1,223 runs, 2,449 hits, 427 doubles, 78 triples and 89 stolen bases in 2,216 games played. His defensive statistics as a second baseman included 4,616 putouts and 5,243 assists for a .983 fielding average.
In 1965, he became the Cardinals’ manager and, over the next 12 seasons, won more than 1,000 games, including a National League pennant in 1968 and a World Series championship in 1967. That team, defined by MVP first baseman Orlando Cepeda, was known as "The El Birdos."
His record as a manger was 1,041-955.
Even after yielding the manager job to Vern Rapp in 1976, Schoendienst stayed on as bench coach through five managers, hitting infield fungos well into his 80s. The team continued to employ him as a special assistant to Mike Matheny, though arthritis and neuropathy limited his time around Busch Stadium in the past year.
Upon the death of Bobby Doerr in November, Schoendienst became the oldest living Hall of Famer. He had been inducted in 1989.
“Sleek, far-ranging second baseman for 18 seasons,” reads his plaque in Cooperstown.
He was married to Mary Eileen O’Reilly Schoendienst for 53 years. She passed away in December 1999.
Schoendienst is survived by his four children, Colleen, Cathleen, Eileen and Kevin; eight living grandchildren (he had 10 total grandchildren); and seven great-grandchildren.