The manager of the pennant-bound St. Louis Cardinals sat behind the desk in his private office adjacent to the team clubhouse at Busch Memorial Stadium a few weeks ago, looking like the last of the angry 45-year-old men. Red Schoendienst bears a name which in German means good service, and he had just watched his team play two awful, losing games with the San Francisco Giants before a crowd of 46,000 people. Not only was their performance not good, he had told the Cardinals in so many well-chosen words, it was a service to nobody.
Even in troublous times Albert Fred (Red) Schoendienst does not blister a team in the manner of baseball's more celebrated firebrands. But he let the Cardinals have it this day, and they knew they deserved what they got. As usual the argument was reasonable. If any of them felt that the field was in rotten shape, which it indeed was after being ripped by football and soccer games, why had it been used so well by the Giants? The magic number was down to nine. A combination of Cardinal wins and Giant losses that totaled nine would assure St. Louis of its second straight National League pennant. This, said Schoendienst, was all wrong. Any team that was playing as badly as his should be penalized. The magic number should rise. End of reasonable argument.
As angry as Schoendienst was, it was plain that he regarded his players with a great amount of compassion. When they had all left he looked out at the vacant room and smiled. "They'll be mad at themselves now," he said. He got up from his desk, took a can of Budweiser beer from the cooler and looked at the glossy, black-and-white pictures of the players hanging on the far wall. "Aren't they something?" he asked. "They make a heck of a lot of money, but when they're right they deserve every nickel of it." Wherever the Cardinals go, the subject of their salaries (see cover) always arouses a brisk debate. Some highly placed baseball people believe that by paying so well the Cardinals are undermining the very structure of baseball. "Almost every place I go," says General Manager Bing Devine, "someone will ask me how Dal Maxvill can be making $37,500. It really seems to bother people, but if you have seen the way he has played shortstop this year and how he gets himself involved in the good things we do, his salary won't amaze you."
The Cardinal stars have all come in for a great deal of credit over the past two pennant-winning seasons, but for some reason the work of Red Schoendienst has been either taken for granted or completely overlooked. Should the Cardinals win this Series, however, some sort of recognition is bound to occur. St. Louis will have become the only National League club to defend successfully as world champions since 1922. The man who accomplished that feat was John J. McGraw himself.
Rating major league managers is most often pure folly because owners and general managers work on the principle that when an old bus breaks down the first thing to do is shoot the driver. Purely from the standpoint of longevity, the most successful manager today, if not the best, is Walter Alston of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Only recently he signed his 16th consecutive one-year contract with Walter O'Malley. In that span of time no fewer than 120 major league managers have been hired and fired. Alston has lasted this long because he is as good a manager in 10th place as he is in first. His ways on the field are not flamboyant, but he makes moves during a game that are far more daring than his personality would seem to promise and he has stolen more than one pennant with a team whose abilities were questionable.
It is still too early to place Red Schoendienst in a class with Walter Alston, but the similarities between the two men are marked. Like Alston, Schoendienst has been given only one-year contracts with the Cardinals since signing his first one for the 1965 season. (Even during his four-year tenure almost 50 other managers have come and gone.) He is not glib when handling the press. His personality does not soar in victory as, say, Ralph Houk's of the Yankees, nor does he dive to crude and guttural expletives in defeat, as does the Giants' Herman Franks. Since the Cardinals have not been the kind of team that required tactical maneuvering, it remains to be seen whether Schoendienst could become a manipulator of the Gene Mauch, Eddie Stanky or Alvin Dark stripe. Most likely he could not. Schoendienst's chief managerial theories seem to be these: utilize speed to its best advantage, play the best players most often—and stick with them during hard times—and keep the ones who do not play reasonably happy. Like most managers, he will occasionally build a doghouse, but he always keeps the back door to it open: you got yourself in, now get yourself out.
Not many managers have stayed with the Cardinals for more than four years, and only four unique men—Miller Huggins, Branch Rickey, Eddie Dyer and Billy Southworth—ever made it through five. For Cardinal Owner August A. (Gussie) Busch, picking Schoendienst was something of a gamble. His organization had been embarrassed by the resignation of Johnny Keane immediately after the Cards had won the 1964 World Series, and only a proven man. like Leo Durocher, was likely to allay the criticism—and then only if the appointee did as well as Keane had. Private citizens had put ads in the local papers proposing Schoendienst for the job, but Schoendienst, having steadfastly refused Cardinal offers to manage in the minors, was without experience. His stubbornness—the stubbornness, many think, of a fox—probably got him his job. His holdout was further proof of what many already believed: he has the nerve of five men. He has been that way all his life.
Red Schoendienst was born in Germantown, Ill. to a miner named Joseph and his hard-working Irish wife, Mary, as one of six redheaded sons and a blonde daughter. His first love was baseball and he was so good at it that when he played with other boys his age he was forced to handicap himself by batting left-handed. Any hopes he had in those early days of playing professional ball almost died when he was 16. He had joined the Civilian Conservation Corps, and one day a nail ricocheted into his left eyeball. Doctors thought that Schoendienst would lose the eye, but he refused to let them take it out. Finally he found a doctor who would agree with him. The eye, which has given him considerable trouble since, stayed. Shortly after his discharge from the CCC, he and his lifelong friend, Joe Linneman, heard that the Cardinals were holding tryouts. They hitched a ride to St. Louis, and on the first night of the tryouts Schoendienst, who had only 25� in his pocket, slept on a park bench. The next night he moved in with Linneman's aunt. But when the tryouts had ended, out of a crowd of 400, only Linneman and a kid catcher named Joe Garagiola had contracts. Forlornly, Schoendienst went home.
He did not stay there long. No fewer than six scouts present at the workouts had given him excellent marks, but Joe Mathes, the chief scout, had been out of town. When he learned that Schoendienst had not been signed, he was furious. He drove to Germantown and signed Schoendienst the same day for $75 a month. Reporting to Manager Everett Johnson at Union City in the Kitty League, Schoendienst got eight hits in his first eight times at bat. His eye, however, bothered him and he asked Johnson's permission to switch-hit. "I guess he thought I was crazy." Schoendienst recalls, "but I couldn't see a righthander's curve without turning my head. I'll never forget that look on his face."
Schoendienst opened the next season at Lynchburg of the Piedmont League. After getting 17 hits in 36 times at bat, he was told to report to Manager Pepper Martin at Rochester of the International League. The Rochester team was in a horrendous losing streak. Schoendienst arrived at the Rochester clubhouse while Martin was hollering at the team. Timorously, he knocked. Martin opened the door and hollered, "We don't need any bat boys!" and slammed it in Schoendienst's face. Red knocked again. "I said," said Martin, "we don't need any bat boys." Schoendienst said, "I was sent up here from Lynchburg to play." Martin looked at him and said, "You must be that Shown..., Shewn..., whatever your name is. I need men and they're sending me babies." All Schoendienst did for Martin, beside pronounce his name Schaindeenst, was lead the league in assists and putouts as a shortstop and hit .337. At 20 he became the second youngest batting champion in the history of the league. The youngest: Wee Willie Keeler. Martin developed a nickname for Schoendienst: "The Team."