Sixty years ago, soon after Red Schoendienst had driven off in his car, the phone rang at his house. Mary Schoendienst, Red’s wife, answered. The caller was a secretary for Cardinals general manager Frank Lane. She told Mary that Red had been traded to the Giants.
As Red was driving, he turned on his car radio. When the news came on, he learned of the deal.
In his 1998 book “Red: A Baseball Life,” Schoendienst said, “What made me mad … was how I found out I had been traded to the Giants. I heard it on the radio … I didn’t appreciate getting the news that way.”
Said Mary: “I was shocked. The secretary called and said, ‘Mary, I have very sad news for you. Red has just been traded to New York.’ I just about fell over. I sat down on the couch in the living room. I couldn’t believe it. It was very hard.”
On June 14, 1956, the Cardinals traded Schoendienst, outfielder Jackie Brandt, catcher Bill Sarni and pitchers Dick Littlefield and Gordon Jones to the Giants for shortstop Al Dark, catcher Ray Katt, pitcher Don Liddle and outfielder Whitey Lockman.
Schoendienst, 33, a second baseman, was in his 12th season with the Cardinals. He had been named a National League all-star nine times with them.
Said Schoendienst of Lane: “(He) never understood how important baseball tradition was in St. Louis.”
Asked by the Associated Press to comment on the trade, Stan Musial, Schoendienst’s friend and road roommate, responded with a rare, “No comment.”
Said Schoendienst: “Stan says it was his saddest day in baseball.”
In his book “Stan Musial: The Man’s Own Story,” Musial said, “I was sick over the loss of my roommate and good friend.”
Many Cardinals fans shared Musial’s sentiments.
“Newspaper switchboards were swamped with calls after the deal was announced,” the Associated Press reported, adding that Lane “has the St. Louis Cardinals fans reeling with his latest deal.”
The 1956 Cardinals had been starting two infielders _ rookie shortstop Don Blasingame and first baseman Wally Moon _ out of position.
“We couldn’t win with our infield,” Lane said.
Blasingame was better suited to play second base. That prompted Lane to trade for a shortstop. After the Cardinals got Dark, Blasingame replaced Schoendienst at second. Moon and Musial swapped spots, with Stan the Man moving from right field to first base.
“We’re stronger now,” said Cardinals manager Fred Hutchinson.
Though Schoendienst and Dark were central players in the deal, Brandt, a rookie, was a key. In 1955 with minor-league Rochester, Brandt batted .305 with 179 hits in 151 games and had 24 stolen bases. He hit .286 with a .362 on-base percentage in 27 games for the 1956 Cardinals.
“We’re very excited about getting Brandt,” Giants executive Chub Feeney told United Press. “We wouldn’t have made the deal without him. He can run, he can throw and he can hit … Frankly, we were surprised that the Cards would let him go.”
Said Schoendienst: “I thought trading Brandt was a mistake.”
Musial said Brandt “had speed, defensive skill and some power. The Cardinals could have used him.”
Said Lane: “Brandt could come back to haunt us, but we’re thinking of ’56, not next year.”
Brandt became the left fielder for the 1956 Giants. To accommodate Schoendienst, Daryl Spencer moved from second base to shortstop. Schoendienst joined first baseman Bill White in forming the right side of the Giants’ infield.
Though Schoendienst, Brandt and Dark played well for their new teams, the deal didn’t make either club a winner.
The 1956 Giants finished in sixth place at 67-87. The 1956 Cardinals placed fourth at 76-78.
Schoendienst hit .296 in 92 games for the 1956 Giants. A year later, he was traded to the Braves.
Brandt batted .299 in 98 games for the 1956 Giants. He won a Gold Glove Award with them in 1959, then was dealt after that season to the Orioles.
In 100 games for the 1956 Cardinals, Dark hit .286. Two years later, he was traded to the Cubs.
Schoendienst and Dark eventually became successful big-league managers. Each won two pennants _ Schoendienst with the 1967 and 1968 Cardinals; Dark with the 1962 Giants and 1974 Athletics _ and a World Series title.
Previously: How Al Dark won respect of Cardinals fans