When a man gets tuberculosis, he must stop whatever he is doing for a living—carrying mail, selling insurance or, as in the case of Red Schoendienst, playing baseball—and he must go to bed. He must remain in bed for many months, the exact length of time depending on the individual and the degree of infection. He can read a book, watch TV and talk with his wife. He can even leave his bed to go to the bathroom or to take a short stroll. But he cannot play baseball. After the disease has been arrested, the patient is free to resume a more normal life, but any strenuous activity on a regular schedule can be dangerous.
So it is that Red Schoendienst, the brilliant second baseman of the Milwaukee Braves, may have played his last game of baseball.
All last summer, as his team was winning its second consecutive pennant, Red suffered from a variety of respiratory ailments which forced him from the lineup. Toward the end of the season he complained of aches in his chest. On September 22, nine days before the start of the World Series, he had a chest X-ray taken. It proved negative. Schoendienst played in all seven games of the Series and showed millions of fans the finest second-base play they had ever seen. His hitting, too, was magnificent as time and again he stroked pitches to the opposite field for singles and doubles. In a losing cause, he was superb.
In late October, Schoendienst had another X-ray taken in St. Louis, his home. This one showed a definite change. Dr. Raymond T. Martin thought it was tuberculosis. After two positive tests, Schoendienst was admitted to Mount St. Rose Hospital in St. Louis. There he will stay for at least four months.
December 1, 1958
"The infection is in his right lung," said Dr. Martin last week. "By the response Red has made so far to treatment, we are very optimistic about his recovery. We feel—well, just judging by average, that is, if you had the same thing—we'd estimate you wouldn't return to a normal active life within a year, probably at least a year. But individuals differ.
"There is nothing else wrong with Red. That newscast that came out about his nervousness was an unfortunate quote by someone at the hospital who was just groping for an excuse not to let a phone call go through. Red is not nervous; he is optimistic and a good patient. He's taking it all very well."
Red grew on fans with the years. He didn't have the flamboyance of Ted Williams; he didn't overwhelm you with his physical prowess, like Mickey Mantle; nor was he a record breaker like his friend Stan Musial. Frail and laconic, he was nevertheless an exciting field leader who will be badly missed by his club next year. As for the fans to whom he has given so much enjoyment, any time a Schoendienst is out of the lineup of their game they are very much the poorer—and well they know it.
Red and Mary pose happily with their three young daughters in family portrait taken a year ago. Recently the Schoendiensts had their first son.
In 1946 World Series, Red was No. 2 of St. Louis, here completing double play over Boston's John Pesky.
Milwaukee hero in 1957, he was still same old Red with familiar habit of removing glove between pitches.
A dozen years had passed since Schoendienst vaulted Pesky, but there he was, agile as ever, making a diving putout in 1958 World Series.
The aches and pains of a second baseman are numerous and, nearing 36, Schoendienst was slower responding to treatment. Throughout his career, the comparative frailty of his body was never commensurate with the amount of energy he put forth.