photo: Red Schoendienst (Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports)
2018 was a difficult year for deaths in the St. Louis Cardinals community. On June 6, Hall of Fame second baseman and manager Red Schoendienst passed away. The 95-year old, who debuted in April 1945, was not the oldest living Cardinal, but was the one who had played for St. Louis the longest time ago. Red was also the oldest living Hall of Famer.
The honor of the oldest living Cardinal remains 98-year-old Wally Westlake, who is also the fourth-oldest living MLB player. The outfielder, who had a 10-year MLB career with six clubs, was already 30 years of age when he joined St. Louis in June 1951 in a seven-player trade with Pittsburgh. Westlake spent just 11 months wearing the Birds on the Bat before being sent to Cincinnati in a four-player trade that brought Dick Sisler back to the Cardinals to conclude his career.
Those who held the honor most recently prior to Westlake are as follows. Then-98 year old Bill Endicott held the record for four years before the 1946 outfielder passed away in November 2016. In 2012, former pitcher Freddy Schmidt died at the age of 95. Two years earlier, Don Lang, the 95-year-old ex-third baseman from the 1948 club, left us. Herman Franks, then 95, passed away in 2009, preceded by 96-year-old Don Gutteridge in 2008 and Ernie Koy, aged 97 upon his death in 2007. 100-year-old Lee Cunningham passed in 2005.
Schoendienst was joined in passing during 2018 by 10 other former Cardinals. A brief remembrance of each follows.
2018 Cardinals deaths
February 10, Wally Moon, age 87
Initially booed for replacing future Hall of Famer Enos Slaughter in right field, Moon soon won over fans and became the National League Rookie of the Year in 1954 ahead of the likes of Ernie Banks and Hank Aaron.
Moon, a former Texas A&M standout, earned NL All-Star honors with the Cardinals in 1957, but a 1958 elbow injury ruined his season before he was traded to the Dodgers that winter. Known for his home runs in the L.A. Coliseum, labeled “Moon Shots”, Moon’s teams won three world championships (in 1959, 1963 and 1965) as he concluded his career in the 1965 World Series.
Moon later coached in the NAIA before owning the San Antonio team in the Double-A Texas League in the late 1970’s. He was then a coach and a manager in the Orioles system until retiring in 1995.
February 13, Tito Francona, age 84
Probably known more to this generation as the father of Indians manager Terry Francona, Tito had a 15-year major league career that spanned from 1956 through 1970. The outfielder-first baseman had his biggest years with the Tribe from 1959 through 1964, but prior to that played for the Orioles, White Sox and Tigers.
The Cardinals purchased Francona’s contract following the 1964 season and he served as a reserve the next two seasons. He moved on to Philadelphia and Atlanta in 1967, then Oakland and Milwaukee. Francona retired in his native Pennsylvania.
March 24, Carl Scheib, age 91
Best known for still holding the record for being the youngest player in American League history at 16 years, eight months and five days, set in 1943, the right-handed pitcher spent most of his 11 MLB seasons playing for the Philadelphia A’s.
Following service in World War II, the reliever pitched over seven more years in Philadelphia before being sold on a trial basis to the Cardinals in May 1954. A shoulder injury ruined that opportunity, as Scheib pitched only three games for St. Louis before being returned. He was then released by the A’s, but kept pitching in the minors through 1957.
Scheib resided in San Antonio, Texas for the next six decades, where he owned a car wash and sold car wash equipment until his retirement.
June 5, Chuck Taylor, age 76
The Tennessee native was signed by the Cardinals in 1961 and while a minor leaguer, was traded to the Astros in 1964, but right back the St. Louis the next June.
Taylor pitched three seasons for St. Louis, primarily starting in 1969 before appearing in 99 games in relief over the 1970-1971 seasons. The right-hander threw six complete games and saved 11 in an era when the saves rule was more restrictive.
The Cardinals dealt Taylor to the Mets as part of an eight-player trade following the 1971 season. He then pitched for Milwaukee before concluding his career with the 1973-1976 Montreal Expos.
June 6, Red Schoendienst, age 95
Schoendienst, who was serving as a Senior Special Assistant for the Cardinals at the time of his passing, was in his 67th season with the organization and 76th in professional baseball. The Germantown, Illinois native began his years with the team as a player (1945-1956, 1961-1963), then coach (1964, 1979-1995), manager (1965-1976) and interim manager (1980, 1990) before becoming a special assistant in 1996.
Schoendienst was the second baseman on the Cardinals’ 1946 World Championship team and was a 10-time All-Star on his way to 2,449 career hits.
Red piloted the Redbirds to the World Series victory over the Boston Red Sox in 1967 and to the National League pennant in 1968. He served as a coach on the Cardinals’ 1964 and 1982 World Championship squads and entered the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989.
July 29, Johnny Lewis, age 78
Lewis was an outfielder originally signed by Detroit in 1959 and then sent to the Cardinals that year. He debuted with 40 games for the 1964 Cardinals, batting .234, before he was traded to the Mets that winter. Lewis was with New York from 1965-1967 and finished play in the minors in 1968 at the age of 28.
Lewis came back to the Cardinals in the front office in 1969. He returned to uniform as first base coach on Red Schoendienst’s staff from 1973-1976 and again as hitting coach under Whitey Herzog from 1984-1989. He was then a minor league manager for the Cardinals before moving to the Astros system as a coach. Lewis retired in Florida.
July 24, Tony Cloninger, age 77
Though a fine pitcher for the Braves from 1961 to 1968, including winning 24 games in 1965, Cloninger’s main claim to fame as a player may have been hitting two grand slams on July 3, 1966.
The right-hander moved to the Reds during the 1968 season and was traded to the Cardinals during 1972 spring training. Cloninger, who had been acquired for fan favorite Julian Javier, was released that July after posting a 5.19 ERA in 17 relief appearances. His major league career was over at the age of 31.
Cloninger retired to North Carolina but became a minor league coach in 1988 and later served on the major league coaching staffs of the Yankees and Red Sox.
August 21, Dean Stone, age 77
The left-hander spent parts of eight seasons in the major leagues, primarily with the Washington Senators, starting in 1953. Stone later pitched for five other MLB teams.
The Cardinals were Stone’s third big-league stop, having acquired him in the spring of 1959 from the Red Sox. Though he was in the system until being selected by Houston in the 1961 Rule 5 Draft, Stone spent most of his Cardinals time in Triple-A. The exception was 17 relief appearances and one start in 1959, for which he had a 4.20 ERA.
Stone finished his playing career in Japan in 1954 and retired in the Molina, IL area.
September 14, Phil Clark, age 85
The right-hander’s major league career was brief, just seven games of relief in each of the 1958 and 1959 seasons for St. Louis, with a 7.98 ERA. Clark had been signed in 1951 and after what appeared to be two years out due to the Korean War, he had steadily worked his way through the system.
Clark moved to the Dodgers during the 1959 schedule and the Georgia native pitched in their minors through the 1961 season.
October 18, Dick Cole, age 92
After growing up in California, Cole signed with the Cardinals in 1943 at the age of 17. After time out for the war, the good-fielding infielder kept at it and finally made his St. Louis debut in 1951. Just 15 games into his MLB career, he was part of a big trade with Pittsburgh, joining Joe Garagiola heading east.
Cole remained with the Bucs though 1956 and after playing with Milwaukee in 1957, he signed with the ill-fated Continental League. However, his baseball career was far from over. Cole was a coach and scout from age 35 well into his 80’s.
October 24, Benny Valenzuela, age 85
The extent of the third baseman’s MLB career was 10 games with the 1958 Cardinals, during which time the Mexican native batted .214. That October, he moved to the Giants in a five-player trade. One of the new Cardinals as a result would later become a pivotal figure in team history, pitcher Ernie Broglio.
After three years in the Giants system, Valenzuela played another decade back home in Mexico.
Remembering the Browns
2018 was also a difficult year for former St. Louis Browns players.
Chuck Stevens, who had been the oldest living former major leaguer, and of course the oldest living Brown, as well, died on May 28 at age 99. Chuck, who played for the Browns in 1941, 1946 and 1948, would have turned 100 on July 10.
Tom Jordan, 99, who had one at-bat with the Browns in 1948 after playing with the White Sox and Indians, took over both of Stevens’ longevity marks, for the team and MLB.
The other 10 remaining Browns from the 764 who played for the team are George Elder, Johnny Hetki, Billy DeMars, Frank Saucier, Johnny Groth, Ed Mickelson, Al Naples, Billy Hunter, Don Larsen and J.W. Porter. They range from 97 to 85 years of age, per the St. Louis Browns Historical Society and Fan Club.
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