Milwaukee Braves World Series Bat
Baseball bat issued to Milwaukee Braves second baseman Red Schoendienst for the 1957 World Series.
(Museum object #2005.128.1)
The Milwaukee Braves were already a very good baseball team when Albert "Red" Schoendienst joined them in June of 1957. Featuring future Hall of Famers Warren Spahn, Eddie Matthews and Henry Aaron and a strong supporting cast, the Braves had dueled the Brooklyn Dodgers for the 1956 National League pennant, losing by a single game on the last day of the season.
Schoendienst, a 12-year veteran and 10-time All-Star, was just what the Braves needed. Acquired from the New York Giants, Red brought sharp hitting and excellent fielding to the second base position, along with a wealth of baseball knowledge and understated experience. Many people consider Scheondienst the player who transformed the Braves from a competitive team in 1956 to World Champions in 1957.
Henry Aaron recalled, "I'll never forget it. Red came in to the clubhouse and put on the Braves' uniform, and it made us all feel like Superman. We knew he was going to mean so much to our ballclub that wouldn't show up in the boxscore. He provided the leadership in the clubhouse and on the field. He was never a rah-rah college kind of guy, but he definitely became the leader of that ballclub."
The switch-hitting Schoendienst had one of his best seasons in 1957, batting .309 and leading the major leagues with 200 hits. The Braves won 95 games and the National League pennant, then met the New York Yankees in the World Series.
This bat, made by the Hillerich and Bradsby Co. of Louisville, Kentucky was issued to Schoendienst for the 1957 Series. In the 1950s, before unlimited equipment budgets and lucrative endorsement deals, players received a handful of bats at the beginning of the season, and were issued a few extras for All-Star Game or World Series appearances.
Schoendienst may never have actually used this bat in the Series, but the Braves did defeat the favored Yankees 4 games to 3. A few weeks later, the Associated Press released its National League Most Valuable Player results. Schoendienst placed third, with 221 votes, behind winner Henry Aaron (239 votes) and runner-up Stan Musial (230).
Although the Braves won the NL pennant again in 1958, Schoendienst missed 48 games due to injuries and fatigue, and his batting average fell to .262. He did bat .300 in the World Series, which the Braves lost in a seven game rematch with the Yankees. After the 1958 season, Schoendienst was diagnosed with tuberculosis, which doctors felt he had contracted years before. Red sat out almost the entire following season.
Despite Red's absence, the Braves were competitive again in 1959, but lost the pennant to the Dodgers in a three-game playoff. In 1960, the 37-year old Schoendienst came back as a reserve for the Braves, but a new manager and a youth movement limited his playing time. The Braves released Schoendienst after the season.
Red then signed with the St. Louis Cardinals, where he had played the first 11 years of his career. He soon became a coach, and later manager of the team, leading the Cardinals to National League pennants in 1967 and 1968 and a World Series victory in 1967. In 1989, Schoendienst was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Special Veterans Committee.
Although Schoendienst's stay in Milwaukee was a short one, it was extraordinary. This bat marks one of the high-water points of both Schoendienst's career as a player, and of professional baseball in Milwaukee. "[Red] and I dressed side by side," recalls Aaron, "and I'll never forget how much he taught me about the game. He was a terrific leader."
[Source: Schoendienst, Red with Rob Rains. Red: A Baseball Life (Champaign, IL; Sports Publishing, 1998).]
Posted on October 20, 2005
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