La Russa, Schoendienst reflect on Cardinals tradition -

La Russa, Schoendienst reflect on Cardinals tradition

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By Scott Bierman By Scott Bierman

(BaseballStL) -- There sat 2,449 Cardinals wins. There sat three Cardinals World Series championships. There sat the two winningest managers in Cardinals history.

There sat Tony La Russa and Red Schoendienst, together, before the Cardinals' 1-0 Game 2 victory Saturday.

In what’s become tradition at monumental Cardinals games, such as a playoff game or opening day, the history of the organization takes the mound to throw out there ceremonial first pitch.

Game 2’s pre-game ceremony was unofficially about loyalty to an organization that has meant so much to so many.

Meeting with the media beforehand, La Russa spoke of three longtime employees that would help take part in the first pitch: traveling secretary C.J. Cherre, director of Major League administration Judy Carpenter Barada and video coordinator Chad Blair. Those are just three behind-the-scenes figures who for a longtime have been a part of the Cardinals’ success with reaching eight championship series in the last 14 seasons, and 11 playoffs in the last 18.

“Any time you can be in this many playoff games and trying to get to the World Series, I think it's outstanding for the Cardinals, for any club,” Schoendienst said.

La Russa told a story of when Bill DeWitt spoke to his team during a spring training in the 2000s.

“He came into spring training the first day and he made it a point because we were already starting to roll pretty good,” La Russa said. “He put things in perspective -- but he wanted the club to understand what the history of the organization was back in Red, and Stan (Musial), Terry Moore and those guys, the Deans. I really think our guys paid attention to that. I know we did.”

The Cardinals’ stretch of success over the past decade didn’t happen overnight.

One year after DeWitt, Jr. bought the team in 1995, La Russa came from Oakland. It had been eight years since the Cardinals played postseason baseball.

La Russa’s first year as Cardinals manager ended in a seven-game NLCS loss. The Cardinals wouldn’t return to the postseason again until 2000. Since then, the team has made the playoffs in 10 of its last 14 seasons.

For Schoendienst, it’s been a rare treat.

He played 1,795 games with St. Louis before managing 1,999 more. Aside from six years as a player, Schoendienst has been a Cardinal since 1945. Often times you can still spot the 90-year-old Hall of Famer in full uniform at spring training or watching Cardinals batting practice on a summer afternoon.

Schoendienst still recalls the early days spent as a Cardinal.

“I came from a little town about 50 miles from here,” Schoendienst said. “I had a tryout, and then Joe Mathis, and Walter Shannon, who were the head scouts at the time, they had another tryout in Peoria, Illinois, and then after I'd left -- we had so many people here from St. Louis. Joe Garagiola and Yogi Berra were here at the same time when I was here. They had to turn all the people, the players that were from St. Louis, they had to send them home that first day because there were so many, and they just worked out the guys from out of town. They kept me over.

“Then Mathis and Walter Shannon, they left, and they sent me home. They said they'd be calling me. When they came back, they wanted to know what happened to that skinny kid. And they called me back and they signed me to a contract at the time. I know Mr. Rickey says ‘we're going to give you the opportunity to play,’ and I said ‘that's all I want to know. I'm just going to try for three years. If I can't get up in the big leagues in three years, I'll find something else to do. I'll go back to school and learn a trade of some kind.’ He said ‘I like that attitude,’ and that was it. I kept going from there.”

Schoendienst was a career .289 hitter and finished his 19-year playing career, which started in 1945 and ended in 1963, with 2,216 hits.

“He's rare,” La Russa said of Schoendienst. “You get over here and it was Red and Stan. I mean, they're perfect. They were champions on the field, off the field, respect the game and respect the fans. I remember getting here it was Red, George Kissel, Jack Buck, Mike Shannon. Those guys pull you aside, and they tell you what the history is and what your responsibility is to keep it going.”

Now the responsibility is with Mike Matheny and his players. Already, La Russa sees Adam Wainwright helping to pass down the torch which was given to him by Chris Carpenter.

“I think it starts with guys that relish,” La Russa said. “It's not imposed on them. He wanted to be the guy. Even when Carpenter was the guy, he kept saying I'm next in line. I'm ready.

“I keep going back to what's so strong here. You know, it was Darryl Kile and Matt Morris, and before that it was Andy and (Stottlemyre), then you think about Gibson.”

La Russa also spoke of Schoendienst’s uncanny attention to detail. Something that he is enamored by.

“Red is paying attention every minute from the first day of spring training until the end,” La Russa said. “I don't know that any other organization as great as their guys are that anybody else is like Red as far as the attention that he gives. It's a smart attention. In fact, it's so much so that he knows -- I speak for many people -- he's beloved. I always told him be careful when I see him. I'll kiss you right on the lips.”

Here’s to hoping the duo will be back together when the Cardinals reach the World Series.

Scott Bierman covers the Cardinals for and the BaseballStL mobile app. You can follow him on Twitter @Scott_Bierman for St. Louis sports news and notes.

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