The only pain
connected with tuberculosis is caused by pleurisy, but as anyone who has
experienced it knows, it is enough. By the time the Series was over, Red could
barely make it home to bed, and the doctors had pretty well satisfied
themselves that Schoendienst's trouble went deeper than pleurisy. But there was
one complication: Mary Schoendienst was going to the hospital for her fourth
Caesarean. Red had not wanted to worry her earlier about his condition, and now
he insisted that the doctors delay his entrance to the hospital until Mary had
had her baby.
When his son was
born, Red was photographed at the hospital, looking through the glass. When the
cameramen wanted Red to hold the baby, he hastily begged off. "I got a
cold," he explained.
The following week
Schoendienst was in the sanitarium. One day Dr. William Werner came into the
room. "Red," he said, "I've got great news for you. You've got
looked at him. "Doc," he asked gently, "how do you figure that's
"We know what
it is," Dr. Werner explained. "And we know where it is. Now we go after
the surprise of many, turned out to be a model patient. A man of action whose
recreation was hunting, not reading, Red was also a man accustomed to
discipline. "Red never complains," his wife says with quiet pride. He
played his ailment the same way he played opposing hitters in County
Stadium—smartly and doggedy. He was almost overconscientious. If the regimen
called for him to get out of bed only twice a day, Red got out once. In bed he
rarely stirred from a supine position. His reading he confined to the sports
pages, his televiewing only to football games and fights. He was already saving
his eyes for a return to baseball at a time when the doctors were hoping only
to return him to normal life.
The mail poured
in. To his considerable surprise, Red Schoendienst found that he was more
famous as a sick man than he had been as a ballplayer. One letter had an almost
unnoticeable inscription in an upper corner. Red thought he remembered an order
of Catholic brothers whose seminary was known as The White House. Could be, but
in this case the President of the United States had sent a get-well note
addressed affectionately to "Dear Red."
cooperation with the medical staff was so complete and his recovery so rapid
that after four months of bed rest and care, the doctors were able to consider
surgery. Fortunately, Red's tuberculosis had been discovered at a fairly early
stage, when TB is most readily curable, and the hospital rest had stalled any
further advance of the disease. Dosages of streptomycin, isoniazid and
para-aminosalicylic acid had even reduced the damaged area somewhat. Surgery
would excise it completely.
Thus, at the time
when other major league players were heading south for 1959 spring training,
Red Schoendienst was in the operating room in St. Louis, undergoing a skillful
back-to-front incision by Dr. Joseph Lucido for the removal of the diseased top
segment of the right lung.
The operation was
a complete success. There was, of course, some postoperative discomfort, but
after a few weeks Red came home to his family. Healthy again, he plunged into
public relations work for the National Tuberculosis Association. By September
he was back in uniform, making almost everyone uneasy except himself. This
spring he was back in the starting lineup, fielding like a genius, hitting as
well as he ever did.