SI Vault
James Murray
June 06, 1960
Winner over tuberculosis, Red Schoendienst wants to forget it now and concentrate on his job—playing the best second base in the National League
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June 06, 1960

Return Of The Redhead

Winner over tuberculosis, Red Schoendienst wants to forget it now and concentrate on his job—playing the best second base in the National League

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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 tuberculosis."

Schoendienst looked at him. "Doc," he asked gently, "how do you figure that's good?"

"We know what it is," Dr. Werner explained. "And we know where it is. Now we go after it."

Schoendienst, to 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."

Schoendienst's 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.

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