Albert Fred “Red” Schoendienst died on June 6, 2018 at the age of 95. He was the oldest living member of the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame and had been in the major leagues for 76 years as a player, coach, and manager. 67 of those years were spent with the St. Louis Cardinals. As a player he was on two World Series winning teams, was a 10-time All-Star. As a manager, Mr. Schoendienst won 1, 042 games, notably leading Cardinals to victory in the 1967 World Series.
I’ve had a personal policy in this blog of not writing about people at the time of their death. I’ve felt it might be considered too opportunistic. Obviously, I’m making an exception to that policy this week. Why?
Well, you may not be a baseball fan – and that’s just fine. However, if you’ve never heard of Red Schoendienst – that’s a loss. You see, Albert Fred “Red” Schoendienst would be a unanimous selection to the Human Being Hall of Fame if there were such a thing.
“Red” was born in Germantown, Illinois on February 2, 1923 – one of seven children. His father, a coal miner, did his best to provide, but his family grew up without running water or electricity. “Red” had gained a love of baseball as a young boy. When he was sixteen, he left school to take a job, but continued to hone his ball skills.
He suffered a work injury, nearly losing his left eye. His impaired vision would become a blessing of sorts in his chosen sport, in that he learned to bat left-handed in order to better see some pitches. The fact that “Red” became a switch-hitter, being able to bat left- and right-handed, was a definite advantage. He was eventually signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1942 for the robust sum of $75.00 a month.
But again, this article isn’t about “Red” the ballplayer – it’s about “Red” the man.
His childhood taught him to appreciate what he had in life rather than focus on what was missing. When he nearly lost an eye, he sought non-surgical treatment in order to continue his pursuit of baseball. “Red” wouldn’t allow the injury to be a barrier, rather, he learned to hit from both sides of the plate. He’d gone to an open tryout for the Cardinals and, at first, wasn’t selected. “Red” took that in stride and was delighted when the team changed their mind and signed him to play.
It’s “Red’s” character that I want you to appreciate. It’s the integrity with which he conducted himself as a ballplayer, manager, coach and as a man.
As his career progressed and he earned national recognition as one of the very best ballplayers of his day, “Red” stayed true to the principles and character he had learned as a boy.
“Red” Schoendienst is what I define as a fearless personal brand – a person who accepts their shortcomings and their assets exactly as they are – without diminishing or embellishing either. Let’s take a look at some of the attributes that define “Red” and make him a fearless brand.
Humble – At every turn, with every accomplishment, “Red” remained humble. Without exception, “Red” was completely gracious as he accepted accolades from press and the public.
Approachable – “Red” never turned his back on a fan, a reporter, or a player seeking his attention. That trait is rare, certainly these days, but it explains why there are so many thousands of people sharing their “Red” encounters – he had many.
Joyful – By all accounts, Schoendienst was a happy, positive, and pleasant person.
Relevant – “Red” was able to relate to virtually anybody, from his teammates and managers in the 1940’s and 1950’s to today’s players and coaches. “Red” never got hung up on the idea that the “old school” way was the only way – or even the right way. “Red” certainly adapted to the game as it changed. What’s more impressive is how he adapted and accepted societal and behavioral changes – key to his remaining relevant throughout his career – and life.
Supportive – As a manager, Schoendienst treated players as professionals – as adults. There was no micromanaging by “Red”. Instead, he was able to put a positive spin on mistakes while still delivering an effective corrective message.
Committed – In the later years of his career, “Red” was more of an adviser than an active coach. That didn’t keep him from taking his position to observe the game – the entire game – from first pitch to last out. He wanted to have the full picture of the game in case his manager, or a player, sought his advice.
Available – Schoendienst was always available to players, coaches, managers and ownership, if and when they sought his opinion. “Red” would never push his beliefs, ideas, or suggestions on anyone who didn’t have an interest in learning from him. It’s that trait which led to “Red” having such a long career. Because of his reserved nature and his genuine commitment to support the team, “Red” was never perceived as a threat by the manager or coaches.
Leadership – “Red” led by example. He led from a position of experience, support, caring, and understanding.
Genuine – It’s this trait, “Red’s” authenticity, that is perhaps the ‘crown jewel’ in him earning a place in the Human Being Hall of Fame. With “Red” Schoendienst there was no pretense. There were no ‘airs’. What you saw is what you got. Genuine. Authentic. Real.
Each of us can practice each one of the above traits. Each one of us can strengthen our character and use “Red” Schoendienst as our role model. Mr. Schoendienst lived to be ninety-five years. His was a life of fulfillment, satisfaction, accomplishment, and happiness.
“Red” Schoendienst added value in every aspect of his life. He added value to everyone who came in contact with him. He made the world a bit better. It’s my hope that each of us strives to add at least a bit of the same positive impact to the world as did “Red”.
The world may not need more baseball players, but it certainly can use more “Red” Schoendiensts.