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The following May, Schoendienst was hitting .373 when he was called into the Army. Because of the condition of his eye, he was discharged on New Year's Day of 1945 and went to spring training with the Cardinals at Cairo, Ill. as a highly regarded shortstop, a commodity the Cards did not need, since they had a slight, graceful man at the position named Marty Marion. Eventually Schoendienst ended up as the leftfielder and was the team's outstanding rookie.
When Stan Musial, Terry Moore and many other Cardinal heroes returned from service, it was doubted that Schoendienst would be a prominent man in the team's plans. How wrong the doubters were. Schoendienst remained to become one of the finest players of the modern era. He also became St. Louis' second most popular player. First was Stan Musial.
In a game often filled with petty jealousies, the relationship of Musial and Schoendienst was singular for its lack of ill feeling. On the road the two were roommates for 13 years, although as stars each could have roomed alone. If Red didn't drive Stan to the ball park during home stands, then Stan drove Red. When Musial is asked today what it was like, he laughs and says, "I guess we filled that room with hits."
Near the end of the 1947 season Red Schoendienst married Mary Eileen O'Reilly, a girl who attended church in the same St. Louis parish. There are few women with the strength, humor, talent—she has a rich and true singing voice—and forthrightness that Mary Schoendienst possesses.
The same day she married Red, Mary went to see him play, and Manager Dyer put him at third base. Early in the game a line drive almost took Schoendienst's head off. When Dyer congratulated Mary later, she said, "Thank you very much," and then with a smile on her face added, "Please get Red off third base before he gets killed."
In June of 1956 the Schoendiensts bought a house after Red, then 33, had assured his wife that he would continue to play in the majors until he was 40. He did not mention to her the fierce headaches he was suffering because of his bad eye, over which he occasionally was forced to wear a black patch. He also ignored an old shoulder injury that had become so bad that he secretly bought a glove for his right hand. He reasoned, stubbornly, that he could stay in the majors seven more years if he learned to throw left-handed.
Exactly one day after buying the new house and with his wife heavy with her third child, Schoendienst was traded to the New York Giants. He finished the season batting .302, but the next year Schoendienst was traded to Milwaukee, where he led both leagues in hits (200) and was the basic reason why Milwaukee won their first pennant.
The following season Schoendienst was dragging. Although he had hit .300 for the Braves during a losing World Series, he felt as if "someone was holding me back when I tried to get out of the batter's box." On November 3rd Mary had their fourth child, and five days later Schoendienst was admitted to the hospital himself. He had tuberculosis. Everyone in baseball said he would never play again, but they did not know Albert Schoendienst. He put his watch over the bedpost, let it run down and never asked what time it was again. As in any run-of-the-mill fantasy, Schoendienst was cured eventually, returned to baseball, hit .300 and .301 as a pinchhitter during his last two full years and quit at 40 to fulfill his promise.
In the spring of 1962 he became a Cardinal coach under Johnny Keane. Named manager of the world championship team for 1965, Schoendienst was on the spot. Matters were not made any easier by the then general manager, Bob Howsam, whose miserly salary offers had outraged the players. By April 25th the dispirited Cards were in 10th place. On that Sunday morning Schoendienst had to walk to church in Cincinnati because there was a cab strike. Naturally, he had a cold and was caught in a cloudburst. When he got to Crosley Field, he found himself under a leaky roof and drenched again. Later, on a plane to Milwaukee—late, of course—a sliding cup of coffee doused Schoendienst's suit. It has been all uphill since.
In his second year as manager the Cardinals entered a huge rebuilding program. Some of Schoendienst's headaches concerned putting a team together that would open the season in small Busch Stadium (formerly Sportsman's Park) and close it in big Busch Memorial Stadium. He was without a first baseman or a power hitter, and it looked as though the Cardinals were going nowhere but down until they finally got Orlando Cepeda in a trade. In July of that season the team sprang to life and rattled through the National League. If those who watched baseball carefully could not quite understand how the Cardinals were doing it, they at least no longer questioned Schoendienst's ability.