Schoendienst helping raise funds for cancer
By Gordon Engelhardt - Evansville Courier & Press
Sunday, August 12, 2007
Ever the diplomat, Red Schoendienst wasn't about to be drawn into a controversy.
He played with Hank Aaron and managed Barry Bonds' father, the late Bobby Bonds. While he was sad to see Aaron lose the all-time major league home run record, he didn't want to be considered a Bonds detractor, either.
"Henry was an outstanding ballplayer," said Schoendienst, who will be in Evansville on Saturday for "Striking Out Prostate Cancer" at the Evansville Marriott, along with fellow Hall of Famer Lou Brock and former St. Louis Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog.
Schoendienst, who also played for and managed the Cardinals, was Aaron's teammate on the Milwaukee Braves' 1957 World Series championship team and the '58 runners-up.
"You wouldn't even know he was on the team if he wasn't on the field. He didn't want to be recognized. The only way he would be recognized was by doing something on the field."
Bonds, on the other hand, is larger than life and perhaps all that it suggests.
"Bonds is a good player and he's been a great hitter," Schoendienst said. "That's all I can say. I don't know him well and all the things that went on in the press."
He recalled a happier experience when Bobby Bonds played for the Cardinals under Schoendienst in 1980. Barry, then 17, took the field during the Cardinals' pregame warmups in San Francisco.
"Bobby Bonds said, 'My son would like to hit a little bit,' " Schoendienst said.
Of course, Schoendienst had no idea Bobby Bonds' 17-year-old son would one day become the all-time home run champion.
Schoendienst, 84, has 65 seasons of professional baseball from which to draw stories. But he has a more important message on Saturday, detailing his own personal battle in 2006 with prostate cancer.
He had swelling and underwent several radiation procedures to get it under control. At one time, he was fitted in a cast from his feet to his waist.
"Nobody likes to go to the doctor's office," Schoendienst said. "You have to fill out so many papers."
But it can save lives.
If you go early to a Cardinals game, you can see Schoendienst during pregame activities. But when asked his role with the Cardinals, Schoendienst said, "That's a good question. I hit a few fungos and I'm around the ballclub."
He said he has a good relationship with Cardinals manager Tony La Russa and general manager Walt Jocketty.
"I love baseball," said Schoendienst, who is listed in the ballclub's media guide as special assistant to the GM.
Although the Cardinals are hanging around, at least mathematically, in the NL Central, it's been a season-long struggle for the defending World Series champions. Schoendienst said third baseman Scott Rolen, a Jasper, Ind., native, hasn't been the same since injuring his shoulder in a baserunning collision in 2005.
"About a week ago he had another cortisone shot," Schoendienst said. "You have to play hurt, of course. But when you're hurt, you can't give it 100 percent. It's been a problem. I thought he would be OK. He'll come around next year."
Schoendienst, who played for the Cardinals' 1946 World Series title team, managed St. Louis to the 1967 championship. Elected to the Hall of Fame in 1989, Schoendienst has made annual trips to Cooperstown, N.Y., for the weekend ceremonies each year, with the exception of the last two. In 2005, he attended his grandson's graduation ceremonies at Notre Dame. This year, he suffered from back problems.
Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. were elected to the Hall of Fame this year, along with St. Louis Post-Dispatch sportswriter Rick Hummel, inducted into the writers' wing.
"I'm sorry I missed it," said Schoendienst. "It's really an honor and a pleasure (to be in the hall). It's so unique. You see guys you brush down and slide into hard and the stories all get better. Everybody should go to the doctor and everybody should go to Cooperstown."