Stan Musial was one of the greatest hitters in history
BY R.B. FALLSTROM January 19, 2013 7:30PM
FILE - In this May 2, 1963, file photo, St. Louis Cardinals' Stan Musial sits in the clubhouse after he tied Babe Ruth's extra-base-hit record, against the Chicago Cubs in St. Louis. Musial, one of baseball's greatest hitters and a Hall of Famer with the Cardinals for more than two decades, has died. He was 92. Stan the Man won seven National League batting titles, was a three-time MVP and helped the Cardinals capture three World Series championships in the 1940s. The Cardinals announced Musial's death in a news release. They said he died Saturday evening, Jan. 19, 2013, at his home surrounded by family. (AP Photo/File)
Updated: January 20, 2013 6:12PM
ST. LOUIS — Stan Musial, the St. Louis Cardinals star with the corkscrew stance and too many batting records to fit on his Hall of Fame plaque, died Saturday. He was 92.
Stan the Man was so revered in St. Louis that he has two statues outside Busch Stadium — one just wouldn’t do him justice. He was one of baseball’s greatest hitters, shining in the mold of Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio even without the bright lights of the big city.
Musial won seven National League batting titles, was a three-time MVP and helped the Cardinals capture three World Series in the 1940s.
The Cardinals announced Musial’s death in a news release. They said he died Saturday evening at his home in Ladue surrounded by family. The team said Musial’s son-in-law, Dave Edmonds, informed the club of Musial’s death.
“We have lost the most beloved member of the Cardinals family,” team chairman William DeWitt Jr. said. “Stan Musial was the greatest player in Cardinals history and one of the best players in the history of baseball.”
Musial spent his entire 22-year career with the Cardinals and made the All-Star team 24 times — baseball held two All-Star Games each summer for a few seasons.
A pitcher in the low minors until he injured his arm, Musial turned to playing the outfield and first base. It was a stroke of luck for him, as he went on to hit .331 with 475 home runs before retiring in 1963.
Widely considered the greatest Cardinals player ever, Musial was the first person in team history to have his number retired. Ol’ 6 probably was the most popular, too, especially after Albert Pujols skipped town.
At the suggestion of a pal, actor John Wayne, he carried around autographed cards of himself to give away. He enjoyed doing magic tricks for kids and was fond of pulling out a harmonica to entertain crowds with a favorite, “The Wabash Cannonball.”
Humble, scandal-free and eager to play every day, Musial struck a chord with fans throughout the Midwest and beyond. For much of his career, St. Louis was the most western outpost in the majors, and the Cardinals’ vast radio network spread word about him in all directions.
Farmers in the field and families on the porch would tune in, as did a future president — Bill Clinton recalled doing his homework listening to Musial’s exploits.
Musial’s public appearances dwindled in recent years, though he took part in the pregame festivities at Busch during the 2011 postseason as the Cardinals won the World Series. And he was at the White House in February 2011 when President Barack Obama presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor for contributions to society.
At the ceremony, President Obama said: “Stan remains to this day an icon untarnished, a beloved pillar of the community, a gentleman you’d want your kids to emulate.”
He certainly delivered at the plate. Musial never struck out 50 times in a season. He led the NL in most every hitting category for at least one year, except homers. He hit a career-high 39 home runs in 1948, falling one short of winning the Triple Crown.
In all, Musial held 55 records when he retired. Fittingly, the accolades on his bronze Hall plaque start off with this fact, rather than flowery prose: “Holds many National League records . . .”
He played nearly until his 43rd birthday, adding to his totals. He got a hit with his final swing, sending an RBI single past a Reds rookie second baseman — that was Pete Rose, who would break Musial’s league hit record of 3,630 some 18 years later.