Wednesday, August 31, 2011

#236 - Red Schoendienst/Cardinals Field Leaders

In 1973 Red Schoendienst was in the middle of a long - and generally successful - run as manager of the Cards. He would need that experience to deal with the streaky season his team had. Although Joe Torre started the season off by channeling his '71 MVP year (hitting .343 through early June), St. Louis stumbled out of the blocks, winning three games in all of April. Their infield was in a bit of disarray as Ted Sizemore went down with a hamstring pull and Ray Busse, their new golden boy shortstop had a case of stage fright. They climbed back to .500 by late June and were in first place at the All-Star break. Mike Tyson came up to solidify the infield, the bullpen was finally coming around, and Bernie Carbo got hot in the outfield. Then Bob Gibson went down with a knee injury, Rick Wise had a 1-6 run, and by late August they looked out of the picture. At the end of the season, though, they went on a 5-0 run and had it lasted an extra weekend, they probably would have won the damn thing. They finished 81-81, one and a half games back.

Red Schoendienst was signed by the Cards in '42 as a middle infielder and hit awfully well while moving from D ball through Double A the next couple seasons. In '44 he was hitting .370 in Double A with 16 steals and only one strikeout in 106 at bats when he was drafted into WWII where he would spend the bulk of the following calendar year. In '45 he came up to St. Louis where he spent his first season in the outfield and led the NL in stolen bases with 26. In '46 he settled in at second base where he would stay the next ten seasons, nine of them as an All-Star. Red was an excellent defender who could smack the ball at a pretty good clip as well, peaking in '53 when he hit .342 with 35 doubles. Midway through the '56 season he went to the Giants in a big trade that also included Whitey Lockman, another future manager. On almost the same date in '57 Red went to Milwaukee for Bobby Thomson and others and finished the season with 200 hits and third in NL MVP voting. That year and '58 saw him back at the Series - he also won with St. Louis in '46 - in which the Braves went one for two. Then in '59 Red - who'd already had serious eye and arm injuries early in his career - missed just about the whole season to tuberculosis. He returned for a season of backup in '60 and then rejoined the Cards as a player/coach the next three seasons. They would be his final as a player. He'd hit .289 with 427 doubles among his 2,449 hits and only 346 strikeouts. In the post-season he hit .269 in 19 games. He played in a total ten All-Star games and was a lifetime .983 fielder.

Red spent the '64 season as a Cards coach then took over the manager spot when Johnny Keane went to the Yankees following the '64 Series win. He took them to two Series, winning NL Manager of the Year each of those seasons, and managed them through '76 when he was replaced by Vern Rapp. He went to Oakland as a coach for the '77 and '78 seasons, then returned to St. Louis where he coached, managed two interim stints, and worked in admin roles since the early '90's. His record as a manger is 1,041-955. He was inducted into the Hall in '89 and his number was retired by the Cards a few years later.


Vern Benson was signed by the Philadelphia A's in '43 out of Catawba College in North Carolina, where he also grew up. After a token appearance up top he spent until '45 in WWII. He returned in '46 to play a not terribly productive year and was then released. He was picked up by St. Louis, played a couple games for them and then spent considerable time in Triple A, peaking in '51 when he hit .308 with 18 homers, 89 RBIs, and a .444 OBA. But he really couldn't catch on up top and at that level he was done by '53 with a .202 average in only 104 at bats. Vern was primarily a third baseman but also spent considerable time in the outfield. He played as a regular through the '56 season - he hit .248 for his minor league career - and then moved into managing. From '56 to '60 he twice won league championships in the Cards system. Midway through the '61 season he was named to Johnny Keane's staff in St. Louis, and he stayed with Keane through the '64 season there and then moved with him to NY in '65. After Keane was fired in '66 Vern resigned. He moved to the Reds under Dave Bristol and coached there through '69. In '70 he moved back to St. Louis where he remained through '75. He rejoined Bristol in '76 in Atlanta, managed a game there in '77 when he went 1-0 to end a long losing skid (and Ted Turner's managing career), managed in the Toronto system from '78 to '79 (winning one championship) and again rejoined Bristol in '80, this time in San Francisco. That last gig lasted a year and from '81 to his retirement, Vern worked as a scout for the Cards. Like Red, Vern is still around.

George Kissell was another infielder who was signed by the Cards out of Watertown, NY in '40. The next couple seasons he hit generally well - over .300 - without much power as he moved from D ball to B ball. In '42 he went off to WWII and when he returned in '46 he continued hitting well and added managing to his resume. He could never get above B ball, however, and retired as a player after the '50 season with a roughly .315 career average. He continued to manage in the Cards system, putting up generally good records through '68. When he wasn't managing he was coaching and doing some scouting. In '69 he came up to St. Louis where he coached for Red through the '75 season. He then returned to the minors as a roving instructor, tutoring many future stars and traded vets - he taught Joe Torre how to play third base before his MVP season. He remained with the Cards through his death from an auto accident in Florida in 2008 at age 88. The Cards' spring training facility is named after him as is the annual award given to their top-performing minor league manager.

Johnny Lewis was signed by the Tigers out of Alabama in '59 and almost immediately flipped to the Cards. Initially he moved through their system pretty quickly as an outfielder with a decent average and some spotty power, reaching Triple A in '62. He remained at that level through '64 when he made his debut up top, getting in 40 games for the Series winners but no time in the post-season. After the season he was traded to the Mets and was the team's more-or-less regular right fielder for the '65 season. He hit .245 with 15 homers that year but had as many strikeouts as hits and in '66 was pushed to a reserve role by the arrival of Cleon Jones. By '67 he was done in the majors - he finished with a .227 average with 22 homers and 74 RBIs - and spent most of his time back in the minors. In '68 he played a final season for the Phillies' Triple A club and had amassed a .272 average and 132 homers in his minor league career. He then moved on to scout for the Cards through '72 and then joined the team up top as a coach from '73 to '76. From '77 to '79 he managed in the system and then coached at various levels through '84. He again moved to St. Louis from '85 to '89 and was then a roving instructor through '98. In '99 he moved to the Houston system where he has since been a hitting instructor.

Barney Schultz was signed by the Phillies in '44 out of New Jersey. Beset by a couple arm injuries and general ineffectiveness, he was a combined 49-78 by '52 when he went 17-9 in A ball and leveraged that season to get to Triple A by '54. By then he had moved from the Philadelphia system to Detroit, Chicago, and St. Louis. He had also run into Johnny Keane who thought that Barney and his knuckleball were best suited to relief. He occupied that role the next eight years spent mostly at Triple A as he reversed course from the Cards to the Tigers to the Cubs. He had brief sojourns up top for St. Louis in '55 and Detroit in '59, neither of which was terribly successful. In '61 the Cubs pulled him up and he was a regular man out of the pen for the first time in his career, doing pretty well. Early in '63 when he became available, Keane snapped him up in a trade for Leo Burke and he finished that season in St. Louis. In '64 he was sent back down to Triple A to start the season and after going 8-5 with a 1.05 ERA, Keane insisted on his return which came in early August. Barney would go 1-3 with a 1.64 ERA and 14 saves in 30 games down the stretch as he became an integral part in the team's pennant drive. While he didn't perform too well in the Series he did get a ring. After a not great start for a disappointing team in '65 Barney returned to the minors. He would remain at that level through '66, was re-signed in '67 so he could receive a major league pension, and was done. He went 20-30 with 35 saves and a 3.63 ERA in the majors and 155-168 with an ERA around 3.80 in the minors. He became a minor league pitching coach for the Cards from '67 to '70, moved to St. Louis from '71 to '75, and then hooked up with the Cubs' system from '76 to '80 as a pitching coach, spending '77 up top. In '81 and '82 he coached in Japan after which he retired. He returned to NJ where he still resides.

Here goes the double hook-up. First with Schoedienst as a player:

1. Red and Eddie Matthews '57 to '60 Braves;
2. Matthews and Mike Cuellar '67 Astros;
3. Cuellar and Dave McNally '69 to '74 Orioles.

No too bad. Now for Red as manager:

1. Schoendienst managed Moe Drabowski on the '71 to '72 Cards;
2. Drabowski and Dave McNally '66 to '68 and '70 Orioles.

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