Stan Musial: "The Man", The Legend.
"Here stands baseball's perfect warrrior. Here stands baseball's perfect knight".*
"All Musial represents is more than two decades of sustained excellence and complete decency as a human being".**
Baseball great Stan "The Man" Musial passed away on Saturday, January 19, 2013. He completed 22 seasons in the Major Leagues, all for the St. Louis Cardinals, won three World Series Championships, seven batting championships and was National League Most Valuable Player three times. Perhaps his greatest accomplishment was being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011, the greatest honor an American Citizen can attain.
Mr. Musial went about the business of baseball with a quiet professionalism. Never flashy, hardly ever in the spotlight and zero media scandals. His excellence was overshadowed by those who dominated the East coast; Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. "The Man" was even left off of the original, fan-voted "Team of the 20th Century". He was added on by the vote of a "special committee". Many baseball purists find this omission disturbing, especially considering that players like Pete Rose and Mark McGuire did make the team.
Mr. Musial's lifetime statistics read like a superheroes: 3,630 career hits, 1,951 runs batted in, 1,949 runs scored, 474 home runs, 177 triples, 725 doubles, a .331 career batting average, and, perhaps most impressively, only 696 strikeouts in 3,026 games played. He accomplished these gaudy numbers despite missing a full season (1945) while serving in the US Navy during World War II. He was stationed in Hawaii during his year of service and played in an 8-team league there, tearing up their pitching as well.
In 1948, at the age of 27, "The Man" collected 230 hits, 39 home runs, 131 runs batted in, 135 runs scored, 46 doubles, 18 triples, 429 total bases and a .376 batting average. All of those stats besides the homers led the National League. One more homer would have tied for the lead and given Stan the coveted Triple Crown. He actually hit one more home run early in a contest that was cancelled due to rain. Having reached an average of .410 by the All-Star break, he suffered two separate injuries during the second half that slowed him down. He may have finished the season over .400 if not for the injuries.
Musial's Cardinals won the World Series in 1942, '44 and '46. They also won the National League Pennant in 1943. Two decades later, the Cards would win the 1964 World Series with Stan as Vice-President. Then again in '67, Mr. Musial's only season as General Manager. After having retired following the '63 season, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969, his first time on the ballot. He was named on 93.2 percent of the ballots cast.
"The Man" started his baseball career as a pitcher, while also excelling at basketball. He was offered a scholarship by the University of Pittsburgh to play hoops, but despite the protests of his father, a Polish Immigrant who never had the opportunity to go to college, Stan skipped the education and the basketball career to pitch for the Cardinal's farm system. He did not overly impress any scouts with his pitching arm, but he did hit well. After an injury in 1940 put an end to his mound career, he moved to the outfield, began to tear the cover off the ball, was promoted to the Cardinals at the end of the '41 season, and the rest is history. Great history.
*Quoted from former baseball commissioner Ford Frick. Imprinted on the Stan Musial statue outside of Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
**Quoted from Bob Costas on ESPN's Sportscentury series.
Stan Musial: An American Life. Vecsey, George. Ballantine Books. 2011.
Baseball Legends: Stan Musial. Grabowski, John. Chelsea House Publishers. 1993.
Baseball's All-Time Greatest Hitters: Stan Musial. A Biography. Stanton, Joseph. Greenwood Press. 2007.
St. Louis Cardinals Official Website: http://stlouis.cardinals.mlb.com/index.jsp?c_id=stl