Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Red keeps busy

The Palm Beach Post notes that Red Schoendienst still keeps busy at age 88.
Red Schoendienst can be found around the batting cage before each St. Louis Cardinals spring training game, hitting fungos or analyzing every swing in the cage.

But when the Cardinals are on the road, that's when the 88-year-old is doing what he loves most - roaming the back fields at Roger Dean Stadium watching minor leaguers, some born 30 years after Schoendienst retired as a player.

Schoendienst followed his 19-year playing career with more than 12 as Cardinals manger.

Mike Shannon, the Cardinals broadcaster who once played under Schoendienst, calls his former manager an "expert" at judging young talent.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said judging talent is just a fraction of what Schoendienst brings to the organization.

"The bases are still 90 feet apart and everything about the game is the same," Shannon said. "The players are bigger, stronger and in better shape, but still you have to use the same qualities. I rely on him a lot. I know Tony relies on him a lot."

Schoendienst sits in the Cardinals dugout in his familiar No. 2 for every home spring training game. During the season he watches games from GM John Mozeliak's booth.

"I ask what he sees, what he's thinking," La Russa said. "He's smart and he's current. That's a true compliment."

Schoendienst is completing his 67th spring training, all but seven in a Cardinals uniform. His title is special assistant to the general manager but he is much more: He represents nearly seven decades of Cardinals history, starting with his first spring training in 1945.

"I'll keep going as long as they don't tell me you can't come out here," he said.

Schoendienst is one of three living members of the Cardinals' 1946 World Championship team, along with Stan Musial and Joe Garagiola. The trio lost a teammate when 94-year-old Marty Marion died March 15.

As for octogenarians who still put on the uniform, nobody is as active as Schoendienst.

Don Zimmer, 80, stills wears a Tampa Bay Rays uniform and, like Schoendienst, is on the field before every regular-season home game. But Zimmer can no longer hit fungos after back surgery about a year and a half ago.

Yogi Berra, 85, still dons New York Yankees pinstripes but isn't as involved as Schoendienst.

"My arm is shot," Schoendienst said of his health. "I don't hit as much as I used to. It used to be hours and hours. But I love to hit fungos just to see their reaction, the quickness of their feet and their hands."

Each morning in Jupiter, he hops in a golf cart and drives to the far fields looking to unearth another Albert Pujols or Adam Wainwright. Schoendienst notices the hard workers, looking for players who seek out coaches or put in extra time.

He said he doesn't resent the current system in which the minimum salary of $414,000 is almost as much as he made in his entire playing career with the Cards, New York Giants and Milwaukee Braves.

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