On Feb. 28, 1989, the day the veterans committee was to announce its selections to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, coach Red Schoendienst was at Cardinals spring training camp in St. Petersburg, Fla., with his wife, Mary.
“3 o’clock,” replied Red.
“I’m not going shopping,” Mary said.
In relaying the conversation later to the Associated Press, Schoendienst concluded, “Anytime you can stop a gal from going shopping, that’s pretty big news.”
Schoendienst, the longtime Cardinals second baseman, got the call from Ed Stack, Hall of Fame president, that he had been elected to the Cooperstown shrine, ending a wait of 20 years.
Two days after the veterans committee announcement, Bob Broeg, the St. Louis journalist who covered Schoendienst since his debut with the Cardinals in 1945, wrote, “I don’t think the Cardinals are going to get Schoendienst out of uniform anytime soon, even though he’s 66. He still likes a hot ballgame and a cold beer.”
Schoendienst and umpire Al Barlick each got the necessary 14 votes from an 18-member veterans committee that included Ted Williams and Red’s friend and former teammate, Stan Musial.
Joining them in the 1989 Hall of Fame induction class were Johnny Bench and Carl Yastrzemski, each of whom was elected by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Harry Caray, the former Cardinals broadcaster, also was headed to Cooperstown that year as winner of the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcast excellence.
“A great player and a winner,” Caray said of Schoendienst to Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Schoendienst had been on the Baseball Writers Association of America ballot for 15 years (1969-83) but failed to receive the necessary 75 percent of the votes for election. His best showing was 42.6 percent in 1980.
When he got the call that he had been elected by the veterans committee (ahead of candidates such as Richie Ashburn and Phil Rizzuto), Schoendienst told Hummel, “I was standing up. Then I had to sit down.”
In 19 seasons as a big-league player (1945-63) with the Cardinals, Giants and Braves, Schoendienst was named an all-star 10 times and collected 2,449 hits. He six times led National League second basemen in fielding percentage, prompting Musial to declare, after the veterans committee announcement, that Schoendienst had “the greatest pair of hands I’ve ever seen in baseball.”
Schoendienst played 15 seasons for the Cardinals. He managed them for 14 years, achieving 1,041 wins, two National League pennants and a World Series championship.
Informed by Hummel of his former teammate’s election by the veterans committee, Enos Slaughter, a Hall of Fame outfielder for the Cardinals, said, “It’s long overdue … Red would have to rank with any second baseman, bar none, that I played with.”