Stan, He Was the Man

StanFree1

By Glen Sparks

Stan Musial kept ripping Dodger pitching to pieces. He knocked singles, doubles, triples and home runs all over Ebbets Field. The Brooklyn fans were going nuts. We can’t get this guy out. He’s killing us.

Just who does this Stan Musial guy think he is? He’s no ordinary ballplayer.

On one fateful day in Flatbush, Dodger fans spotted Musial popping out from the dugout or maybe kneeling in the on-deck circle. Surely, they noticed him before he stepped into the batter’s box.

“On, no,” some cried. “Here comes the man again.”

Bob Broeg, a writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, heard the rumbling, but he could not make out the exact lament. Later, he asked Leo Ward, the Cardinals’ traveling secretary about it. “They’re saying, ‘Here comes the man.’” Broeg wrote about it; and a nickname was born. Stan the Man.

Musial made his MLB debut on this date in 1941. He slapped two hits and drove in two runs. He did it at home against the Boston Braves. See, Musial didn’t just make mincemeat out of the Dodgers; he was The Man against every opposing team.

  • “No man has ever been a perfect ballplayer. Stan Musial, however, is the closest to being perfect in the game today.” Ty Cobb, 1962
  • Musial was born Stanislaw Franciszek Musial on Nov. 21, 1920, in Donora, Pa. His mom, Mary, hailed from New York City and was nearly six-feet tall. His dad, Lukasz, emigrated from the Austria-Hungary Empire and was listed on naturalization papers as 5-feet-7. Some people say he stood several inches shy of that mark.
  • Friends called Stanislaw “Stash.” The future big leaguer graduated from Donora, Pa., High School, located about 35 miles south of Pittsburgh. Later, the school produced another pretty good outfielder, Ken Griffey Sr.
  • The Cardinals signed Musial as a pitcher in 1938. He posted a 6-6 won-loss record with a 4.66 ERA for Williamson, West Va., of the Class D Mountain State League. He batted .266. Prospect report: “Arm good. Good fastball, good curve, Poise. Good hitter. A real prospect.” The team didn’t convert their prospect into a full-time outfielder until 1941, one year before his St. Louis debut.
  • Called up to the big club on Sept. 17, 1941, Musial batted .426 in 47 at-bats for the Cardinals down the stretch.
  • In 1942, his first full season, Musial hit .315 and did not finish a season below the .300 mark until 1959, his age-38 campaign.
  • Musial enjoyed single-season career highs of 39 home runs, 131 RBI, .376 batting average, .450 on-base percentage and .702 slugging percentage in 1948. He won the MVP that season, something he also did in 1943 and 1946. He finished second in the MVP voting from 1949 through 1951.
  • One of the game’s greatest line-drive hitters, Musial topped 40 doubles in a season nine times and 50 doubles three times. He led the league in that category in eight seasons. He finished first in triples in five seasons. Musial collected more than 200 hits six times.
  • “When a pitcher’s throwing a spitball, don’t worry and don’t complain, just hit the dry side like I do.” – Stan Musial
  • He played on four pennant-winning teams and three World Series winners (1942, 1944 and 1946). His best Series was 1944 against the St. Louis Browns. He batted .304 in 23 at-bats and hit a home run in Game 4.
  • Musial shares the record for most All-Star game appearance, 24, with Hank Aaron and Willie Mays. (Baseball played two All-Star games from 1959 through 1962.)
  • He retired after the 1963 season with a lifetime batting average of .331. The only player to retire with a higher batting average since then is Tony Gwynn, .338.
  • “He could have hit .300 with a fountain pen.” – Joe Garagiola on Stan Musial
  • The left-handed batter famously ended up with 1,815 hits at home and 1,815 hits on the road. Mr. Consistency.
  • When he retired, Musial’s career total of 475 home runs put him No. 2 to Mel Ott (511) on the NL all-time homer list.
  • His top salary as a player, according to Baseball-Reference.com? $75,000 a season from 1951 through 1953. He took some pay cuts after that. His career salary as a player–$980,050. Not even a million bucks.
  • The writers voted Musial into the Hall of Fame in 1969, in his first year of eligibility.
  • Musial remains second on the all-time list in total bases (6,134), third in doubles (725), fourth in hits (3,630), sixth in RBI (1,951) and sixth in games played (3,026).
  • Famous for playing the harmonica, Musial performed his rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” at the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies and other events through the years.
  • Presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011, Musial died Jan. 19, 2013, at the age of 92.
  • “How good was Stan Musial? He was good enough to take your breath away.” – Vin Scully

 

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