“Stan the Man” Musial, one of the all-time great hitters, is gone.
He was so good, his nickname was “The Man.”
Stan Musial, one of the premier hitters in major league history, died late Saturday at the age of 92.
Musial played his entire career with the St. Louis Cardinals, and was unquestionably that organization’s greatest player. Even Albert Pujols, who challenged Musial’s stature as the premier hitting Cardinal of all-time, begged away from comparisons. He knew better.
The 22-year veteran from Donora, Pennsylvania was signed by the Cards as a pitcher, but ended up the model of hitting consistency after hurting his arm in the minor leagues. It literally didn’t matter where Musial played, in St. Louis’ Sportman’s Park, or any other ballpark in the National League: of his 3,630 career hits, 1,815 came at home, 1,815 on the road.
More consistency: he scored 1,949 runs, and drove in 1,951 RBI.
And in this day and age of players posing at home plate after hitting home runs and celebrating with tips of the cap after making routine other plays, baseball never ever saw a man who combined such tremendous talent with an equal measure of humility.
“I never heard anybody say a bad word about him – ever,” said Willie Mays.
And in these of days of players either refusing to sign autographs or charging for their signatures, Musial would carry around his own baseball cards, sign them, and give them out to kids.
If you think baseball isn’t cerebral, here’s Musial’s explanation on hitting: “I consciously memorized the speed at which every pitcher in the league threw his fastball, curve, and slider,” he said. “Then, I’d pick up the speed of the ball in the first 30 feet of its flight and knew how it would move once it has crossed the plate.”
He was so respected, Dodger pitcher Preacher Roe said his strategy for pitching to Musial was to “throw him four wide ones and then try to pick him off first base.”
Look at this career, and see why Brooklyn Dodger fans yelled at him, “Stan – you’re the Man”:
- Musial never struck out more than 46 times in any season, and that figure came in his penultimate season of 1962, in his 21st year. That year, by the way, he hit .330 with 19 home runs and 81 RBI. He was 41.
- Won seven batting titles. Only Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner and Tony Gwynn won more.
- Led the National League in hits six times, and three times he had over 220 hits. Twice more he had over 200 hits but didn’t lead the league.
- At one time or another, he led the NL in games, at-bats, hits, runs, doubles, triples, RBI, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS during a single season.
- Fell one home run shy of the triple crown in 1948, hitting 39 HRs with 131 RBI and a .376 average.
- Held 55 records when he entered the Hall of Fame on the first ballot in 1969.
- Won three Most Valuable Player awards; finished second four other times.
- Was an all-star 24 times (the leagues played two games each from 1959-1962).
- Eight times finished with an OPS over 1.000.
- Led the Cardinals to three world championships.
And if all that weren’t enough, he concluded his great career on September 29, 1963, with a single in his final at-bat. It was a roller up the middle past a Reds rookie second baseman named Pete Rose.
In 2011, in one of Musial’s final public appearances, President Barack Obama presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor bestowed upon a citizen for contribution to society. It was probably a bigger honor for Obama than Musial.
Rest in Peace, Man.
This article originally appeared at The Suicide Squeeze.