By Glen Sparks
Stan Musial wrote about hitting a home run that didn’t count in 1948. His blast, stricken from the record book following a rainout at the Polo Grounds, cost him the National League Triple Crown.
That is one version of the story. Details about the homer remain sketchy. When exactly did the St. Louis Cardinals’ superstar hit the home run? Who was the pitcher? No one seems to know. Legendary St. Louis Post-Dispatch writer Bob Broeg reported on the “lost” home run in his 1995 autobiography. He doesn’t go in-depth on the subject, though. “He (Musial) missed tying for the top in homers by one rained-out homer.” Musial mentioned the homer in an oral history, The Spirit of St. Louis, and in a memoir co-written with Broeg.
Several researchers have come up empty in trying to locate this missing round-tripper. St. Louis Post-Dispatch beat writer Derrick Goold wrote an article several years ago about Musial’s home run that wasn’t.
This was not just any ol’ lost home run, either. As mentioned, one more home run would have earned the 27-year-old Musial a Triple Crown. Only nine major leaguers had won a Triple Crown since 1900. Ted Williams and Rogers Hornsby did it twice each.
Musial led hitters in several categories in 1948 and picked up his third and final NL MVP award. The Donora, Pa., native finished first in hits (230), runs scored (135), doubles (46), triples (18), total bases (429), on-base percentage (.450) and slugging percentage (.702). He also topped the league in batting average (.376) and RBI (131), two of the three Triple Crown categories. The New York Giants’ Johnny Mize and the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Ralph Kiner both hit 40 homes. Musial hit 39. Or, did he hit 40?
Following Gould’s article, David Vincent opined on Stan’s “missing” homer. Many baseball fans knew Vincent, who died July 2, 2017, at age 67, as Mr. Home Run and The Sultan of Swat Stats. He published the SABR Tattersall-McConnell Home Run Log, a list of every home run hit in the major leagues since 1871. If anyone would know whether Musial hit a washed-out home run, it would be Vincent, right?
Well, Vincent didn’t mince words when he sent this e-mail to Gould: “I should also point out that the lost homer in New York never happened – at least not that season. We have already thoroughly researched this one.”
Another researcher, Dave Smith, looked at all the games in 1948 between the Cards and Giants at the Polo Grounds. The local newspapers should have mentioned any rain-shortened action that year. “There is none,” Smith wrote.
A researcher from The Sporting News looked through archives in search of a missing Musial homer. Steve Gietschie examined articles from August and in November, after Musial was awarded MVP. Surely, a writer would mention a rained-out round-tripper, given that Stan would have won the Triple Crown. “No, no mention,” according to Goold.
Broeg wrote The Sporting News article on Musial winning MVP honors. He didn’t mention a lost homer. Of note, on Aug. 4, 1948, the St. Louis Star-Times reported “Musial Wallops Longest Out” at the Polo Grounds. Stan mashed a 450-foot ball to right-center field. Giants right-fielder Wilbert Marshall grabbed the ball in the ninth inning of a 7-2 Cardinals victory on Aug. 4.
Baseball fans recall the Polo Grounds, razed in 1964, as a quirky ballpark. It was just 279 feet from home plate down the left-field line and a mere 258 feet down the right-field line. But, it was 483 feet to dead center.
According to the Star-Times, “Because of the shape of the Polo Grounds, the Giants shade their right-fielder in the gap, allowing for the catch at the 455-foot mark near the bullpen. The ball would have departed any other major-league ball park …” Did Stan’s long out get mis-remembered over time into a lost home run?
Back to Smith. He zeroed in on two make-up doubleheaders that the Cardinals and Giants played, one Aug. 4 and the other Sept 19. Musial slammed a homer in the first game of the August double-dip and in the second game of the September twin bill. Smith: “We have to assign one of the games as the scheduled one and the other as the make-up. I always think of the second one as the makeup, but I have heard from others that apparently the standard is that the first one is the makeup.”
So, if Musial did indeed knock a rain-cancelled home run, he probably hit at least one homer to make up for it. Maybe Stan didn’t get cheated out of a Triple Crown, after all.
The search for any “lost” dinger continues. One thing we do know: Musial’s power surge in 1948 was for real. He had just 70 homers through his first six seasons (1941=44, 46-47). After belting 39 in ’48, he knocked at least 30 home runs in five more seasons and retired after the 1963 campaign with 475.
Or, was it 476?
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