Doubleday Double Talk Remembers is designed to connect fans with the game of baseball’s past one player and story at a time. A Doubleday Double Talk Remembers will be published every Friday and will go over the life and legacy of the players from our past, from Babe Ruth to Hank Aaron to Steve Dalkowski to Eddie Gaedel, every player has a story and Daryll Dorman and Giuseppe Vitulli are here to provide you with just that. Sometimes we forget about how important baseball’s past is, so Doubleday Double Talk Remembers is simply the writers at Doubleday Double Talk’s way to pay homage to the past of the beautiful game of baseball.
With his unorthodox batting stance and swing, accompanied by his humility, determination, and tenacity, the quiet and uncontroversial Stan Musial became one of the greatest and most beloved baseball players in Major League history.
“Here stands baseball’s perfect warrior. Here stands baseball’s perfect knight. ” Ford C. Frick once said.
Stanley Frank Musial or Stan “The Man” as he would come to be affectionately called by Cardinals and baseball fans alike, was born on November 21, 1920, in Donora, Pennsylvania. Musial began his professional baseball career as a left-handed pitcher in 1938 and was picked up by the St. Louis Cardinals.
Fortunately for Musial, he injured his left shoulder while diving for a ball in the outfield (where he was playing due to a shortage of players). Following his injury, Musial turned to focus on hitting and was a stud in his first two years in the Minors doing so (hitting .352 in his first and getting called to the show late in his second). Musial would receive a call-up late in the 1941 season and was about to take the league by storm.
While Ted Williams and Joe Dimaggio were running the American League in 1941, Musial was just getting started in the National League, hitting .426 in 12 games before the season’s end. In 1942, Musial began his rookie campaign and hit .315 and finished 12th in the National League Most Valuable Player Award voting.
Musial did not experience a sophomore slump his next year and hit .357 and won the Most Valuable Player Award (his first of three in his career). From then on, Musial would hit .310 or higher 17 times and would be selected to play in 24 All-Star Games, would win three MVP Awards, collect two Major League Player of the Year Award honors, win seven batting titles and win three World Series titles with the Cardinals. Musial easily cemented himself in history as the greatest St. Louis Cardinal to ever wear a uniform.
“Unless you give it all you’ve got, there isn’t any sense in playing,” Stan Musial said.
Musial finished his career with 475 home runs, a .331 batting average, 3,630 hits (the National League record at the time) (1,815 at home, 1,815 on the road, 1,951 runs batted in, a .417 on-base percentage, a .559 slugging percentage, a .976 OPS, a 159 OPS+ (100 is league average), and 128.2 WAR. Musial retired holding 33 National League records with 19 of them being Major League records. Musial’s 24 All-Star Game selections are more than anyone with the exception of the great Hank Aaron.
“He could have hit .300 with a fountain pen,” said Joe Garagiola.
During Musial’s career, he was a terror for pitchers. Here are some of the things that pitchers that faced him had to say about “The Man”.
“I’ve had pretty good success with Stan by throwing him my best pitch and backing up third.” – Carl Erskine
“Once Musial timed your fastball, your infielders were in jeopardy.” – Warren Spahn
“I could have rolled the ball up there against Musial, and he would have pulled out a golf club and hit it out.” – Don Newcombe
In 1968, Musial was awarded the Freedom Leadership Medal. Stan was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969 on his first appearance on the BBWAA ballot. Musial compiled 93.2 percent of the votes, easily surpassing the required 75%.
Legendary sportscaster Bob Costas described Musial best in an episode of ESPN SportsCentury, saying, “He didn’t hit a homer in his last at-bat; he hit a single. He didn’t hit in 56 straight games. He married his high school sweetheart and stayed married to her, never married a Marilyn Monroe. He didn’t play with the sheer joy and style that goes alongside Willie Mays’ name. None of those easy things are there to associate with Stan Musial. All Musial represents is more than two decades of sustained excellence and complete decency as a human being.”