Stan Musial, Cardinal baseball immortal, retired at the age of 42. He played his last World Series game at age 25.
Musial—Stan the Man to you and me—played in four Series, all in his first four full seasons in St. Louis. The left-fielder who collected 1,815 career hits at home and that same number on the road, hit a pedestrian .256 in 86 October at-bats. (Musial batted .331 in his career with a single-season high of .376 in 1948.) He slammed his only World Series home run in Game 4 of the 1944 Classic.
Musial’s first-inning two-run dinger off Browns starter Sig Jakucki helped the Cardinals to a 5-1 victory that tied the Series at two games apiece. Musial also started the Cardinals’ two-run rally in the third inning, again off Jakucki. He singled, and Walker Cooper followed with an RBI base hit. Walker scored when Browns’ second baseman Don Gutteridge booted a groundball hit by Ray Sanders.
Al Hollingsworth, in relief of Jakucki, gave up the Cardinals’ final run. Sanders knocked a single and scored on a double by Marty Marion. Cardinal starter Harry Brecheen scattered nine hits in a complete-game effort. He gave up just a lone run, in the eighth inning.
Musial finished the day with three hits in four at-bats, plus a walk. He would go on to hit .304 in the Series, his best batting average by far in Fall Classic play. He hit .222 in 1942 against the New York Yankees, .278 the following year against the Yanks, and he would hit .222 in the 1946 World Series against the Boston Red Sox. Along with the lone home run, he finished with only eight career Series RBI.
Multiplying the 86 Series at-bats by seven, you get 602, about a season’s worth of at-bats. If you multiply some of Stan’s other Series stats by seven, you get seven total HRs and 56 RBI. You do get 49 doubles and seven triples, so there’s that. (Musial hit at least 40 doubles in a season nine times in his Cardinal career.) Even so, Musial’s on-base percentage in Series play was .347 (Lifetime .417, single-season high of .450, in 1948), and his slugging percentage was .395 (Lifetime .559, single-season high of .702, again in ’48).
So, what are we to make of Stan’s Series struggles? Much of this is probably just a case of small sample size. If Musial had gotten more Series at-bats, he probably would at least have come close to matching his career averages. Of course, it was harder to get postseason at-bats in the days before playoffs. Yogi Berra made it to 14 World Series and had 259 at-bats. Derek Jeter played 33 postseason series and had 650 at-bats.
World Series play also tends to feature solid pitching rather than torrid hitting. In the four Musial-era World Series, the Cardinals batted .238 as a team (1942), .224 (1943), .240 (1944) and .259 (1946). The opposition hit .247, .220, .183 and .240.
Finally, would an older Musial have broken through for a big Series? The Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers and New York/San Francisco Giants, with a little help from the Boston/Milwaukee Braves, dominated N.L. play from the late 1940s to the early 1960s. Those three franchises represented the Senior Circuit in 14 of the 17 Series between 1947 and 1963. (Trivia: Who were the three other teams to win the N.L. pennant in these years?)
The Cardinals finally broke through and won the pennant, and the World Series, in 1964. Musial had retired following the ’63 season.
*The Phillies won the pennant in 1950, the Pirates in 1960 and the Reds in 1961. The Phillies and Red lost to the Yankees in the World Series; the Pirates beat the Yanks, thanks to a memorable home run from Bill Mazeroski.
Site: Sportsman’s Park
Time of Game: 2 hours, 22 minutes
Winning pitcher: Harry Brecheen
Losing pitcher: Sid Jakucki