To the casual observer, business looks every bit as usual this Spring Training for the St. Louis Cardinals. Sure there are certain nuances and drills that have been changed, but to those who have been a part of the ritual before there is a glaring absence, Red Schoendienst.
“Where don’t we miss him?,” posed Mike Shildt, when asked about the void. “We actually had a moment of silence for Red at the beginning of Spring Training. You talk about a Mount Rushmore of Cardinals–you know, we miss him. Selfishly, I miss him like crazy.”
Schoendienst passed away last June at the age of 95. And since his first Spring Training back in 1945, there weren’t too many seasons the Hall of Famer wasn’t at Spring Training. Schoendienst spent the better part of eight decades with the St. Louis Cardinals organization. After his playing and managing days were behind him, Red was still a fixture at camp–and to start the mornings off for the Cardinals manager.
“Somehow, every year I’d just have breakfast ready and he’d come back to the minor league side and sit down,” Shildt shared. “I’d just sit there with him and I’d look over like ‘I’m having breakfast with Red Schoendienst’. So we miss him. He’s not forgotten.”
“I miss him in the clubhouse, driving around the outfield, shagging balls, and hitting fungoes,” Adam Wainwright said. “Laying on the training room table when you walk through and talking about hunting, fishing, and growing tomatoes. I miss all that stuff about Red. He was a great guy. A great Cardinal, obviously. But just a great man to be around.”
Schoendienst played in 1795 games for St. Louis and ranks second in franchise history with 1,041 wins as a manager.
“I liked talking to him about when he played,” said Minor League Field Coordinator Mark DeJohn, who is entering his 33rd season with the Cardinals. “You do miss him. You miss seeing him on the cart and riding around and introducing him to players and the stories he would tell you. I think of him. We see his picture there in the clubhouse everyday before we go in the coach’s room. You can’t help but think about him. People like him, that’s why they put their picture up. He’ll never be forgotten.”
Because of health issues, Schoendienst was unable to attend Spring Training last year–but he was still on the phone regularly with Mike Matheny and in contact with others at camp.
“He didn’t miss anything,” DeJohn said. “And you always wanted to know what he thought. He’d ask you some questions and he’d say ‘I like this guy, saw this guy. Where did he play last year?’ Health-wise, Red was not slipping in that area.”
“He was such a wealth of baseball knowledge,” Shildt echoed. “He could walk on the field and go to the Minor League camp and he’d walk around and he’d point out three guys in ten minutes who were the better players in the camp without even knowing anybody’s name. Beyond that, he was Red. He was genuine. He was authentic. He was humble and he was just about as fine a human being as you’ll ever know.”
photo credit: Brian Stull/STLBaseballWeekly.com