The catchy, but widely-mocked phrase was intended to illustrate that the yearly All-Star Game finally had meaning because incredibly, something as important as home field advantage in the World Series was awarded to the winning league.
But, I am not here to complain about that. Instead, I want to recognize the many All-Star Game accomplishments of Stan "The Man" Musial, the greatest player ever to don the Cardinals uniform.
Musial was a fixture in 24 All-Star Games, held over the final 21 years of his career, from 1943 through 1963. During that time, Musial was on every team representing the National League. And, he just wasn't there – he was consistently one of the best of the very best in the classic.
When he retired, Musial owned nine All-Star Game records and many of them have yet to be topped. Those 24 All-Star appearances are the most by any player ever, tied by Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. Musial and Mays share the consecutive record, also at 24.
43 years after his final All-Star Game, Musial remains the career leader in the following All-Star categories:
• Most home runs – six
• Most extra-base hits – eight*
• Most total bases – 40*
• Most walks – seven*
* tied with Mays
Because there was no All-Star MVP Award until 1962, Musial never won it, but there is no doubt he would have if it had existed. Here are a few of Musial's All-Star highlights, as consistently excellent as his regular season success:
• 1962 – Collected his 20th and final All-Star hit as a pinch-hitter in the first of two games held in Washington, a 3-1 NL win. Also appeared in the second ASG that season, a loss to the AL at Wrigley Field.
• 1960 – 2-for-2 in the two games, including a home run in the second contest, held at Yankee Stadium. The NL won both contests, with the first in Kansas City.
• 1958 - Another hit and run scored in a 4-3 AL win in Baltimore.
• 1957 – In the year Reds' fans named eight home team starters, Musial was the only non-Red elected to the starting line-up in a game played at Sportsman's Park. He doubled and scored a run in a 6-5 NL win.
• 1956 – Homered in a game won in Washington by the NL, 7-3.
• 1955 – Won the game in the 12th inning with a home run as the NL came back from a 5-0 deficit to win 6-5 at Milwaukee.
• 1954 – Two hits and a run scored in an 11-9 AL win in Cleveland.
• 1953 – Two hits in four at-bats as the NL won in Cincinnati, 5-1.
• 1951 – Homered and singled as part of an 8-3 NL victory at Detroit.
• 1949 – Three hits including a home run and two RBI in an 11-7 NL defeat in Brooklyn.
• 1948 – Homered, singled and drove in both runs in a 5-2 loss by the NL in front of the hometown St. Louis crowd.
• 1944 – Doubled, scored and drove in one as the NL won 7-1 in Pittsburgh.
• 1943 – Plated a run in his first All-Star Game, also the first night All-Star Game ever. In Philadelphia, the AL won 5-3.
Of course, "The Man" did a lot more than excel in midsummer classics. Here are some of his numerous career highlights.
Musial leads the Cardinals franchise in most every hitting category including games (3,026), at-bats (10,972), hits (3,630), runs (1,949), doubles (725), triples (177), home runs (475), RBI (1,951), walks (1,599) and total bases (6,134).
His .331 career batting average ranks fourth all-time among Cardinals. Musial was a three time National League Most Valuable Player (1943, 1946, 1948) and led the league in hitting seven times (1943, 1946, 1948, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1957), including three times in a row.
Musial led the NL in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, total bases and hits six times each. He led the league in runs scored five times. Musial played in four World Series and led the Cardinals to three World Series Championships (1942, 1944 and 1946).
When he retired in 1963, Musial was tops in 17 Major League and 29 National League categories, including holding the MLB record for extra-base hits and total bases and NL marks in runs, hits, doubles and RBI. Those 3,630 hits were first when he retired and are still fourth most in major league history today.
In 1963, Musial's number 6 was the first Cardinals number retired, and he received 93% of the vote upon becoming a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer in 1969. Musial was one of only thirty players selected for MLB's All-Century Team in 1999.
Many Cardinals fans are familiar with the quote engraved on Musial's statue in front of Busch Stadium, but few know from whom it came and when it was spoken.
During ceremonies at Musial's final game on September 29, 1963, former Major League Baseball Commissioner Ford Frick stated proudly: "Here stands baseball's perfect warrior. Here stands baseball's perfect knight."
Truer words were never spoken.
So, as you enjoy the 2006 All-Star Game, remember that way back before Bud Selig began selling used cars in Milwaukee, baseball's perfect knight, Stan Musial, made many an All-Star night count.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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