Year Inducted: 1989 (Veterans Committee)
A lot has changed in the world from 72 years ago. WWII was still going on. Several great players like Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays hadn’t begun their major league careers, while others like Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson weren’t even born yet. It’s rumored that telephones were wired to the wall and required the user to use a rotating dial in order to place a call. What a strange time. The strangest thing of all was that it was the last year that Red Schoendienst didn’t wear a Major League uniform.
As a player, Red was a solid second baseman. In his career he hit .289/.337/.387 for a wRC+ of only 94. He collected nearly 2500 hits, and was able to gather up 427 doubles and 84 home runs in his 19 seasons. His offensive production wasn’t spectacular (although a second baseman driving in over 700 isn’t too bad, especially since he would typically hit at the top of the order), it was limited due to injuries. When he was young, his left eye became damaged in an accident while building a fence with his brother. Most doctors feared that he would have to lose the eye, but he was eventually able to find one that worked with him to develop exercises and other non-surgical approaches to save the eye. It took him a long time to be able to function with it, but he never had it removed.
His eye injury caused serious problems at the plate, however. It became difficult for him to read a breaking ball from a right handed pitcher, so Red decided to take up switch hitting. While in the Minors, he was drafted into the Army. There, he was trained to fire bazookas (which doesn’t sound like a great idea for a little guy with an eye injury), but the recoils hurt his shoulder and led to a medical discharge.
While his early-life injuries would nag at him throughout his career (he also had issues with headaches due to the eye injury), he was able to put up solid numbers and helped contribute to two Championship ballclubs. However, he noticed that he would start to become fatigued in the second half of the season. It turned out that for years he was playing with a case of tuberculosis. He went through treatments for it, including having part of his lung removed, and eventually was able to return to the field, albeit in a more reduced role.
Red’s injuries definitely limited how well and often he could play the game, and derailed what could have been an excellent career. However, like with every obstacle that Red had in his career, he found a way. He became a coach and manager, mostly with the Cardinals, and was a part of several more pennant winning teams. And, to this day, Red is still highly involved with the Redbirds as a coach and instructor. It’s been 71 years since Red first put on a Major League uniform, and even in his 90s he won’t take it off. Live long and prosper Red-your life is definitely worthy of induction.
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On deck 7/23/16 before Bernie, before Mickey even before Joe D., this was the man in center field for the Yankees.