A Schoendienst played infield for the Anniston Rams in the summer of 1942. He just wasn’t the one you’ve heard about.
How grand it would be if Anniston’s woebegone Southeastern League team had once featured Albert “Red” Schoendienst, who played for, managed and coached the St. Louis Cardinals for 67 years. He was a 10-time All-Star and five-time World Series champion who, if he’d played for the Rams, would undoubtedly have been the team’s most famous alumni. No one else would come close.
Instead, the Rams featured Red Schoendienst’s older brother, Paul, who played 65 games for Anniston in the summer of 1942 and never made the Major Leagues. But the Schoendienst last name carries weight nonetheless, with a number of the family’s boys playing professional baseball during that era.
Born three days after the end of World War I in November 1919, Paul Schoendienst was a lanky, left-handed first baseman — 6-foot-2, 189 pounds — who began climbing the minor-league ladder in the late 1930s. A baseball questionnaire he filled out for the America Baseball Bureau in February 1945 says he first played for Marshall in the East Texas League in 1937 and for Trenton (N.J.) in the Inter-State League in 1939. (Neither of those stops is listed on the usually reliable Baseball-Reference.com site.)
It was in 1941, however, that he gained attention with Clovis (N.M.) of the West Texas-New Mexico League. In 132 games he hit .369 and nearly recorded 200 hits (192) with 42 doubles and seven home runs. That Class D season set him up for an eventful 1942.
That January, Clovis sold Schoendienst’s rights to the Chicago White Sox, who ticketed the 25-year-old first baseman for Shreveport in the Texas League, but in 32 games there he hit just .192 and earned a late May transfer to Anniston, an unaffiliated Class B team. The Rams often survived on struggling players like Schoendienst who were transferred from teams in higher classifications.
Schoendienst made his Rams debut on Sunday, May 24, in Mobile. Hitting third in the second game of a doubleheader, he went 1 for 4 in a 6-3 loss but immediately became one of Anniston’s best hitters. If the Texas League he found difficult, the Southeastern League was more his speed. When Schoendienst made his first Johnston Field appearance the following weekend, Ted York of The Anniston Star newspaper was already hyping the Rams’ new player. “Tip: Watch those two new guys: Paul Schoendienst and Glen Murray. New in Rams uniforms, both are hitting at a .400 rate for the first six games in which they have participated.”
That .400 average couldn’t last all summer, and it dipped into the .300s. But Schoendienst remained a consistent hitter for a middle-of-the-pack team trying to make the Southeastern League playoffs. York remained impressed.
“Paul Schoendienst,” York wrote on June 8, “newly acquired Ram first sacker, is already a fan favorite here. Paul plays the initial bag in a style that is loose. He reminded one man (who had seen the McCoy action, of Ted Williams) of the greatest player of loose ball the game has ever known. Paul has only been with the Rams two weeks and has not played enough to get recognition in the official standings, but his average at bat is still over .400.”
On June 15, Schoendienst was hitting .373 — well ahead of Montgomery shortstop John Mauer, at .354 — but the Ram still hadn’t played in enough SEL games to qualify. Two weeks later, on June 30, Schoendienst went 3 for 5 in a 9-6 win that gave the Rams four straight victories over Montgomery, the league’s best team. Even when his average briefly fell below .300, he remained atop the Rams daily lineup.
Schoendienst’s time in Anniston ended July 22 when the White Sox moved him up to Waterloo, a higher Class B team. He went 0 for 5 in his final Anniston game, a 17-4 victory over Meridian at Johnston Field. In his 65 games in Anniston, Schoendienst hit .300 with 11 doubles.
“Since coming here on option nearly two months ago, the lanky first sacker had consistently hit around the .300 mark and has played the bag in a manner that has caught the fancy of all fans,” York wrote in The Star.
Schoendienst hit .287 in 37 games in Waterloo and enlisted as an apprentice seaman in the U.S. Coast Guard when the season ended. He didn’t stick around to see if he could earn a Major League call-up with so many bonafide players serving in the Armed Services.
World War II didn’t end Schoendienst’s baseball career, however. After being discharged he played in St. Paul, Montreal (with Jackie Robinson), Danville and again in Waterloo. He managed a Class D team in Seminole, Oklahoma, in 1949. And then, he was done.
His brother, Cardinals star Red Schoendienst, debuted in MLB in 1945 and didn’t retire until 1963, having also played for the Milwaukee Braves and New York Giants. As for Paul Schoendienst, his two months in Anniston will always be remembered as one of the highlights of his professional career.
Paul Schoendienst died June 25, 1994, in Springfield, Illinois.