Stan Musial isn’t the oldest or even second-oldest former St. Louis Cardinals player living. The latter is the relatively-unknown Freddie Schmidt.
In my annual New Years feature at The Cardinal Nation, I registered a sad note in pointing out the 2009 death of Herman Franks, who was the oldest living ex-Cardinal player at the age of 95 when he passed away last March 30. I believe Franks was also the last living Cardinals player to suit up for the major league club in the 1930’s.
Don Lang has taken over from Franks as the oldest surviving former Cardinals player. The team’s 1948 third baseman will turn 95 years of age on March 15.
In terms of the living ex-Cardinals player that played the longest ago for the club, I believe Marty Marion now holds that distinction. The then-22-year-old played his first major league game with St. Louis on April 16, 1940. Marion is now 92 years of age.
The oldest Cardinals Hall of Famer still with us and also the one that played the longest ago from that group is of course Donora, Pennsylvania native Stan Musial, who debuted on September 17, 1941. Musial turned 89 last November.
My heightened interest in Musial these days caused me to uncover an off-beat and amusing story about a Musial-signed item, relayed by Allentown (PA) Morning Call columnist Bill White. A beloved former schoolteacher in the area, Miss Jane Christman, was buried just before New Years along with her most prized possession – a baseball upon which was written a personal message from Stan the Man himself.
I wonder how many more years will pass before we hear of the first Cardinals fan to be laid to rest with an Albert Pujols-signed item of memorabilia tucked alongside?
That article led me to another White gem, this Saturday piece summarizing his conversation with Freddie Schmidt. Turns out Schmidt had read about the late Miss Christman and her Musial ball and contacted both Stan and the writer, White.
Based on my research, I believe Schmidt is the second-oldest living former Cardinal, with only Lang having been born earlier. Schmidt celebrated his 94th birthday on February 9. White identified Schmidt as just the sixth-oldest living Phillie. (Schmidt is the first player on the left in the second row of the 1946 Cardinals team photo pictured.)
A right-handed pitcher who appeared in 1944, 1946 and 1947 with St. Louis, Schmidt went 7-3 with a 3.15 ERA in 37 games as a rookie and added 3 1/3 scoreless frames of relief in the victorious World Series fight against the Browns. He missed the 1945 season due to World War II.
The native of Connecticut first signed in 1937 and worked his way up through the system, making his major league debut on April 25, 1944. After leaving the Cardinals in a May 1947 trade with Philadelphia, the right-hander toiled six more years in the minors.
Those who love baseball history and especially Cardinals history need to ensure you read White’s article recounting his meeting with Schmidt.
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