Posts Tagged ‘Billy Bruton’

Adios, Red

June 8, 2018

Red Schoendienst

I saw that Red Schoendienst died earlier this week. He was 95 and the oldest living member of the Hall of Fame. He played far enough back that you have to be my age to remember him. He was, after Stan Musial, a man who could legitimately claim the title “Mr. Cardinal.”

He joined the Cards in 1945 as an outfielder. The team had a chronic problem at second base and the people in charge saw Schoendienst as just the man to solve it for them. He played one game at second in ’45, then moved in as the primary second sacker in 1946. He was an All Star, helped his team to the 1946 World Series, which they won. He stayed in St. Louis through 1956, making eight more All Star games, before moving on to the New York Giants. He put in less than 150 games with the Giants before a trade that took him to the Milwaukee Braves in 1957.

At Milwaukee he became a mainstay on consecutive pennant winning teams, winning it all in 1957. He generally hit second (behind Billy Bruton) and was credited with stabilizing the infield, providing a clubhouse presence, and giving the team veteran leadership. All of those were probably true but Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews, and Warren Spahn were the big guns for the Braves. He made the All Star game one last time in 1957.

In 1959 he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. It cost him all but five games of the season, a season the Braves lost a three game playoff to the Dodgers. Fortunately for Schoendienst an operation helped and he could return to the field. He remained active through 1963, serving as a player-coach in his last two active seasons.

In 1964 he became a fulltime coach, moving on to manager after the season. He won pennants in 1967 and again in 1968, winning the World Series in ’67. In 1968 he’s supposed to have told a reporter, in response to a question about Bob Gibson, “I tell him which day he’s pitching. He shows up and I take the day off.”

Schoendienst remained Cards manager through 1976, then did a little coaching at Oakland. He subsequently returned to St. Louis and coached during the 1982 World Series winning season. On two occasions he served at Cardinals interim manager, then settled in as a special assistant to the team. He made the Hall of Fame in 1989.

For his career his triple slash line reads .289/.337/.387/.724 (OPS+ of 94) with 2449 hits, and more walks than strikeouts. All of that gave him 42.3 WAR. As a manager he was 1041-955 (.522 winning percentage). His Hall of Fame selection is sometimes downplayed saying he wasn’t that good, but the combination of playing, coaching, and managing make him someone at least legitimate to consider.

So God’s Speed, Red. The Cardinals, Braves, and all of baseball will miss you.

 

Two Months of Glory

June 18, 2010

Bob Hazle

The Braves didn’t have a particularly distinguished history in the first half of the 20th Century. They won the World Series in 1914, lost it in 1948 and did nothing in between. In the early 1950’s they left Boston for Milwaukee, picked up Eddie Mathews and Henry Aaron to go with stalwart lefty Warren Spahn, and finally became a pennant threat in the National League. They had a pretty good team by 1957, then center fielder and leadoff man Billy Bruton went down with a knee injury. In crisis mode, the Braves called up an undistinguished minor leaguer named Bob Hazle. It worked.

Hazle was from South Carolina, born in 1930. He had a cup of coffee with the Cincinnati Reds in 1955, then went back to the minors where he languished until Bruton banged up his knee. One hundred games into the 1957 season Hazle made his debut for Milwaukee. Over the months of August and September he exploded offensively in such a way as to make fans forget, at least temporarily, both Aaron and Mathews. For the two months he played in 1957 Hazle hit .403 with 27 RBIs and seven home runs over 41 games. It got him the nickname “Hurricane” (a play on his name and the devastating hurricane Hazel which hit South Carolina in 1954) and it got the Braves the pennant. The Braves became the first non-New York team to win the National League pennant since the 1950 Philadelphia Phillies “Whiz Kids”.

The Braves won the World Series, beating New York in seven games. Hazle played in four of the games, batting .154. He had two singles, both in game seven. There were no RBIs, but he did score two runs and picked up a ring.

The World Series was a sign of things to come. He started 1958 horribly (a buck seventy-nine average and no extra base hits), was traded to Detroit, did a little better (.241 and two home runs), then went back to the minors. He retired after the 1959 season and died in 1992.

So he wasn’t much of a player after all. But what a great two months he had. It’s hard to say this about a team that includes Aaron, Mathews, and Spahn, but without Hazle the Braves don’t win.

Quick aside: Today marks the 195th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. Advice–bet on Wellington.