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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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 eyes.

"Listen," 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.

"It just 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.

Red Schoendienst 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.

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