ACKERMAN: Stan and Red, Forever

“There’s never been two Hall of Famers closer in baseball and life than Red and Stan,” said Brian Schwarze, Musial’s grandson.

Tom Ackerman
June 08, 2018 - 12:17 pm
St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famers, from left, Bruce Sutter, Bob Gibson, Red Schoendienst, Whitey Herzog, Stan Musial, Lou Brock, and Ozzie Smith pose during the opening day ceremony on Friday, April 13, 2012, at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri, agai

(Photo by Zia Nizami/Belleville News-Democrat/MCT/Sipa USA)

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It was 1945 and the war was just ending, but the Cardinals needed someone to fill in for left fielder Stan Musial, who was serving in the U.S. Navy. Musial had followed up his 1943 MVP season by blistering NL pitchers for a .347 batting average in 1944, including a league-leading 197 hits and 51 doubles.

But alas, the military called and Musial was going to miss the ’45 campaign. The beneficiary? A young man from Germantown, Illinois named Red Schoendienst who grabbed everyone’s attention at Rochester (AAA) with a .373 average before entering the service himself, drafted mid-season into the U.S. Army in 1944.

There, Schoendienst suffered an eye injury that led to him receiving a medical discharge. After treatment, although with his vision affected, he was determined to continue his big league dreams.

“I got out of the service, came to St. Louis and joined the Cardinals in spring training,” Schoendienst recalled a few years ago. “We trained in Cairo, Illinois, (but) we got rained out. The three rivers that run into Cairo were flooded and the seepage went right into the diamond up to your knees, where we were supposed to play. (So) we came back to the old Sportsman’s Park and had spring training.”

There, Schoendienst was shifted from shortstop to left fielder to fill in for Musial. And he received a new number on his uniform.

“The funny thing was, I wore No. 2 all my life here in St. Louis,” Schoendienst recalled, “but my first year I had No. 6. I had Musial’s number.”

Schoendienst went out, blurred vision and all, to put together a rookie season of .278 with 47 RBI and a league-leading 26 stolen bases.

“And Stan told me,” Schoendienst laughed, as he remembered his roommate of 11 years, “Stan says, ‘Red, you know, I was still in the Navy and I was following you in 1945 when you were playing. You played pretty damn good. I didn’t know if I was going to get my number back.”

Musial did, of course, and No. 6 today sits right beside Schoendienst’s No. 2 on the wall of retired numbers at Busch Stadium, representing two of the Cardinals’ representatives in Cooperstown.

“There’s never been two Hall of Famers closer in baseball and life than Red and Stan,” said Brian Schwarze, Musial’s grandson.

Musial died on January 19, 2013. Up until that very day, Schoendienst and Musial, the best of friends, were inseparable.

“He was a type of man that, of course, everyone knows about his records on the field,” Schoendienst once said of Musial. “(But) in order to be a big leaguer on the field you have to be a big leaguer off the field. And Stan was just that. He was a terrific guy. We spent quite a bit of time together, I guess it’s because we were such good roommates, we both loved the game so much and felt that we could make a very good living out of it, which I think we both had.”

Schoendienst owned seven World Series rings as a player, manager, coach and special assistant to the general manager. Musial, the greatest Cardinal of all-time, won one of those as Schoendienst’s teammate (1946) and another as the GM of the 1967 World Champions, managed by Schoendienst.

As a player, Musial rose to stardom earlier than Schoendienst, who watched closely when his friend was in the spotlight. And sometimes, when he wasn’t.

“I know different people that interviewed him when we would be on the road, different sportswriters or broadcasters who would ask him to go see a friend of theirs in the hospital… or anything such as that,” Schoendienst said. “And Stan obliged them, even though we played a lot of day ballgames. We’d get up in early in the morning and go by and see so many young kids in the hospital. So that’s the type of guy Stan was… and that’s why I guess he was so successful in and out of baseball.”

The same could be said for Schoendienst, the heartbeat of the franchise who connected eras from the 40’s to the present day. In 1996, new manager Tony La Russa was introduced to the Cardinals via Musial and Schoendienst.

“The first year we were in Jupiter, I was asked to go to a social event with Stan and Red,” La Russa said. “Probably 300-400 people… and I think all 300-400 came by to say hello to Stan and Red. And I’m sitting there observing just how respectful and personable they were with each and every person. Made them feel like $1 million.

“I thought to myself, this is something that every player should see how it’s done… because they walked away feeling good about themselves, feeling good about Major League Baseball players, feeling good about two great stars.

“I put Stan and Red together because they are just both unbelievably beautiful people.”

Red Schoendienst, forever No. 2, was born on February 2. 2/2.

And as Schwarze points out, it was never a coincidence when it came to his grandfather and Red.

Schoendienst died on June 6, 2018.

6/6.