“Uh, oh, here comes
that man again.”
- a spectator in Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field during
the 1940s before Musial’s turn at bat.
If Ernie Banks is “Mr.
Cub”, then Stan Musial should forever be known as “Mr. Cardinal.”
Musial played 22 mostly spectacular seasons in St. Louis, led the Redbirds to four pennants and three World Series
titles, and today, a 10 foot, bronze statue in his likeness greets visitors outside of Busch Stadium.
Stanley Frank Musial was born
on November 21, 1920 in Donora, PA
to Polish immigrants. His father Lukasz worked in a zinc mine, and was determined
to make sure his son did not share the same fate. Stanley
was going to go to college.
had other ideas, namely baseball. A C student, he was offered a minor league
contact by the Cardinals as a teenager, but Lukasz wouldn’t sign off on it. With
her son in tears, Mrs. Musial intervened and young Stanley was off to chase his
Musial began his professional
career as pitcher, and in 1940, his third season in the minors, the southpaw posted an 18-5 record at Daytona
Beach. Because the team was often short-handed and Musial
swung a good stick, team manager Dickie Kerr (a member of the 1919 White Sox) often played Musial in the outfield when he
wasn’t on the mound.
In August of that season, Musial
injured his left shoulder diving for a ball in the outfield. His pitching days
were over. The injury didn’t hinder him at the plate however, and after
tearing through the minor leagues, he was called up by the Cardinals in September 1941.
The 20-year-old gave St.
Louis fans a glimpse of what was to come, by hitting .426 (20-47) during his 12 game trial run. In 1942, his first full season, the prodigy hit .315, drove in 72 runs, and reached
base at a .397 clip. The rookie helped the Cards win the NL pennant and upend
the Joe DiMaggio led Yankees in the World Series.
In 1943, the Pennsylvania
native led the Cardinals to their second straight NL pennant while leading the league with a .357 average, 220 hits, 48 doubles,
20 triples, a .562 slugging percentage, and 347 total bases. The Yankees won
the World Series rematch, but Musial’s pain was somewhat eased with his first NL MVP award.
Musial followed up with another
banner season in 1944, pacing the circuit in four offensive categories (hits, doubles, on-base-percentage, and slugging). The Cardinals meanwhile, three-peated as NL champs and defeated the cross-town Browns
in the Fall Classic.
After spending the 1945 season
in the service, Musial returned in 1946 with something to prove. Critics claimed
that Musial’s stellar numbers were due to the war-depleted rosters. Many
of the games best players were in the military from 1941-45, and now it was up to Musial to show he was in their class.
Musial made the critics look
silly. In 1946 all he did was lead NL in batting (.365), runs (124), hits (228),
doubles (50), triples (20), on-base-percentage (.434), slugging percentage (.587), and total bases (366) en route to winning
his second MVP. Oh yeah, and the Cardinals won yet another pennant and downed
Ted Williams and the Boston Red Sox in a thrilling seven game World Series. After
winning the pennant in each of his first four full big league seasons, Musial would never again play in the postseason.
After posting what was a down
year for him (.312, 30 2B) in 1947, Stan “The Man” put together his finest season in 1948. Musial dominated the NL, pacing the league with a career high .376 batting average, 135 runs (another career
high), 230 hits (career high), 46 doubles, 18 triples, 131 RBI (career high), a .450 on-base-percentage (career high), .702
slugging percentage (career high), and 429 total bases (yet another career high). His
career best 39 homeruns were good for second in the league, one behind Ralph Kiner and Johnny Mize. For putting together one of the best seasons in history, Musial was rewarded with his third MVP award.
Musial continued to excel throughout
most of the 1950s. He won three straight batting titles from 1950-52 (.346, .355,
.336), and picked up his seventh, and final, batting crown in 1957 (.351). During
that decade, he also led the league in runs and doubles three times and hits and RBI once.
By 1959 however, “The
Man” was beginning to show the effects of age. From 1959-61, he hit .255,
275, and .288 – it looked like his days of .300+ averages were over. Then
in 1962, already a grandfather, Musial enjoyed one last stellar season, hitting .330 with 19 HR and 82 RBI. Against the advice of Branch Rickey, then a team advisor, he returned for one final season and struggled
to a .255 mark.
Musial, an All Star in
20 of his 22 seasons, finished his career with a .331 average, a .417 on-base-percentage, 3,630 hits (1815 at home and 1815
on the road – 3rd all time), 475 homeruns, 1,951 RBI (5th all time), 725 doubles (3rd all time), and 6,134 total bases
(2nd all time). He stuck out just 696 times in nearly 11,000 at bats and drew
The Cardinals legend was named
general manager of the team in 1967 and watched the squad win another World Series.
He decided however, that the job wasn’t for him and resigned after one season, but remained with the organization
as a vice president. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame two years later.
Today, in his 80s, Musial remains
a prominent figure in St. Louis. Over
the years, he has dabbled in several businesses including a restaurant. Beloved
by all generations Stan “The Man” is truly “Mr. Cardinal.”