In the catacombs
below the Los Angeles Coliseum, Red Schoendienst tugged at the belt of his
baseball pants, reached over to grab his glove and was ready to run out onto
the field. But first he had to dispose of the visitor in his dressing room. A
flicker of resentment passed over his freckled face and lingered in his green
he said, "I have heard so damn much about this TB now, I don't want to hear
about it any more. It's great to have so many people pulling for you, and I'm
grateful. But as far as writing any more about it, I'm sick of it."
He tapped the
manuscript on the bench before him. "For over a year now it's been TB, TB,
TB. I'm a ballplayer, not a doctor or a patient. This story you wrote here is
too dramatic for me.
wasn't that tough...."
And with that, Red
Schoendienst, ballplayer, strode out into the bright sunlight of the California
day to play ball. At the base line he paused a moment and thumped his mitt
emphatically. "I had something to overcome and I overcame it. I'm just like
anybody else that's got rid of it, and we may as well forget it."
Then he raced out
to second base for infield practice, where he presently began to short-hop
ground balls, pirouette around the bag and whirl into the split-second
entrechats of the relay man on the double play.
In the game that
followed, his performance was just as sleek. It more than emphasized his
contention that he was nobody's sick man any more. To the delight of the Los
Angeles fans, who cheered no other Milwaukee player, he cracked out two
hits—one batting right-handed, the other left-handed—and he started two double
plays and was the middleman in two others. He played the hitters with uncanny
perfection. He turned one "hit" into a double play, and he snatched up
another ground ball so far to his left that he had to whirl in a complete
circle to make the throw.
was back with a vengeance—at the age of 37 and after having won a battle with
an illness that still kills thousands of Americans every year and invalids
thousands of others. It was hard to believe that only a year and a half ago
this man had lain gravely ill in Mount Saint Rose sanitarium in St. Louis. The
question then was not whether he would ever play ball again but whether he
would ever be able to return to a completely normal life.
It is little
wonder that Schoendienst, a man who conceals a monumental drive beneath one of
the sunniest dispositions in the game, would like to forget the unpleasantness
of his ailment. The world of baseball is alive with hypochondria. But the
ailments are usually lusty and orthopedic-aching legs, pulled muscles, sore
arms. A ballplayer fears things like a cold draft on his arm, or stones in the
base paths. He never gives a thought to microbes.
Once back in this
atmosphere of healthy animalism, Red Schoendienst, second baseman for the
Milwaukee Braves in the spring of 1960, cannot identify himself with the Red
Schoendienst of Mount Saint Rose's in the fall of 1958.