Stan Musial dies at 92; Cardinals' Hall of Fame hitter
'Stan the Man,' a career .331 batter, played 22 seasons — all with St. Louis — and won seven National League batting titles and three most valuable player awards.
Hall of Famer Stan Musial greets the St. Louis Cardinals between innings of a game against the Colorado Rockies in 2010. "Stan Musial was the greatest player in Cardinals history and one of the best players in the history of baseball,” William DeWitt Jr., the Cardinals’ chairman, said Saturday. (Dilip Vishwanat, Getty Images / October 2, 2010)
By Keith Thursby, Los Angeles Times
January 19, 2013, 7:38 p.m.
To generations of baseball fans, he was simply "Stan the Man."
Stan Musial, a legendary slugger for the St. Louis Cardinals who came to embody one of the sport's most successful franchises, died Saturday. He was 92.
Musial, who had Alzheimer's disease, died at his home in the St. Louis suburb of Ladue, the Cardinals announced.
During his 22 seasons, all with the Cardinals, Musial won seven National League batting titles and three most valuable player awards. A career .331 hitter, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1969, becoming only the fourth player chosen in his first year of eligibility.
"Stan Musial was the greatest player in Cardinals history and one of the best players in the history of baseball," William DeWitt Jr., the Cardinals' chairman, said Saturday in a statement.
Musial's nickname was inspired by Brooklyn Dodger fans who marveled at his mastery of the Dodgers at Ebbets Field and complained, "Here comes the man again."
Don Newcombe, a star pitcher for the Dodgers, told Sports Illustrated in 2010: "I could have rolled the ball up there against Musial, and he would have pulled out a golf club and hit it out."
Stanley Frank Musial was born Nov. 21, 1920, in Donora, Pa., to Lukasz and Mary Lancos Musial, the fifth of their six children.
In high school, Musial was a two-sport star. He could have played college basketball on scholarship but signed with the Cardinals as a pitcher in 1938.
He was so wild in Williamson, W.Va., the lowest level of the Cardinals' minor league system, that his manager suggested he be released. But another player's injury gave him a chance to play outfield, and he saved his career by hitting .352. The next season in Daytona Beach, Fla., Musial hurt his left shoulder diving for a ball in center field, ending his pitching career.
"My arm never did get better," he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 2002. "I couldn't throw hard from then on. But it never bothered my hitting."
In 1941, he reached the majors despite starting the season on a lowly minor league team in Springfield, Mo. He hit .426 in 12 games late in the season for St. Louis, and the Cardinals finished second to the Dodgers. Musial had a remarkable season, hitting a combined .364 after jumping through the St. Louis minor league system. "Facing oblivion in the spring, he reached stardom," according to the 2001 book "Musial: From Stash to Stan the Man."
With Musial in the lineup beginning in 1942, the Cardinals reached the World Series in three consecutive seasons, winning in 1942 and 1944.
"The '42 Cardinal club was the best I was with. If the war hadn't come along, I feel we could have won maybe six or seven pennants in a row," St. Louis outfielder Terry Moore said in the 1994 book "Stan the Man Musial: Born to Be a Ballplayer."
In 1943, Musial won his first batting title and MVP award when the Cardinals lost the series to the New York Yankees.
Musial said he "memorized the speed at which every pitcher in the league threw his fastball, curve and slider. Then I'd pick up the speed and rotation of the ball in the first 30 feet of its flight and knew how it would move once it approached the plate."
Leo Durocher, who faced Musial as a player and manager, once said the only way to pitch him was "under the plate."
Musial's signature feature was a distinct batting stance that Chicago White Sox pitcher Ted Lyons once said made him look like "a kid peeking around the corner to see if the cops are coming." Former St. Louis Manager Whitey Herzog had told Musial, "I tried to have your stance and I was in the minors for eight years."
After spending 1945 in the Navy, Musial again led the Cardinals to the World Series in 1946, when they defeated the Boston Red Sox in seven games. Musial and Red Sox star Ted Williams struggled in the series, each hitting only .222. It was Musial's last World Series.
His best season may have been 1948, when he was named the league's most valuable player for the third time. Healthy after having appendicitis in 1947, Musial led the league in almost every offensive category, including his .376 batting average and 131 runs batted in. He just missed winning the triple crown with 39 home runs, one short of the league lead.
He hit five home runs during a doubleheader in 1954 and reached a career milestone in 1958 with his 3,000th hit.
Musial retired after the 1963 season and spent a year as the Cardinals' general manager. He remained a celebrity in St. Louis, running Stan Musial & Biggie's Restaurant, which he opened in 1949.
At baseball's 2009 All-Star game in St. Louis, Musial received a standing ovation when he was driven onto the field before the game. He handed a ball to President Obama, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
When Musial received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, in 2011, Obama noted that "his brilliance could come in blinding bursts" and said he "remains to this day an icon, untarnished … a gentleman you'd want your kids to emulate."
Musial's wife of 72 years, Lillian, died in May. He is survived by their son, Richard; daughters, Gerry Ashley, Janet Schwarze and Jean Edmonds; 11 grandchildren; and 12 great-grandchildren.
"He had greatness and warmth and affection and appreciation," sportscaster Bob Costas, whose career started in St. Louis, told Scripps Howard News Service in 2003. "But there wasn't a specific thing for people to hang their hat on — other than those who really followed him and saw him play.... All he was was incredibly good for an incredibly long time and an unbelievably nice guy."
The era of the player staying his whole career -- and then living in the same town as a demi god -- is certainly over.
Bench hardly ever is in Cincy, Rose didn't play whole career and only visits, etc. Even Votto (who might end up a careeer Red) has never and will never live full time in Cincy.
Guys like Musial are/were real living treasures to be enjoyed by a team and a town. Sad for StL, sad for baseball, but RIP Stan the Man.
Seriously, though, who is left (from any city) that can be identified with a town like Stan? Nuxhall was Cincy through and through but he was no player like Musial; Ron Santo was a Chicago Cub and was great, but no Stan....
I grew up 14 miles from Lefty Hamilton Park in Williamson, WV. where Musial played for the St.Louis Redbirds in the minors. Even though it is Reds country, the claim to fame for that park was that Stan Musial once called it home. The right field wall was and still is 465 feet down the line. You don't even want to know CF, but LF is only 330.
ST. LOUIS – He rode down on a bus from Donora, Pennsylvania as a youngster fresh out of high school in 1938. Stan Musial was signed as a lefthanded pitcher and sent to Williamson, W.Va. to play in the old Coalfield League.
Musial, who was one of the greatest players in the history of baseball, died Saturday. He was 92 years old.
He played his first two seasons for the Williamson minor league team, which was an affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals. Early on fans saw that Musial could hit and, in some of his early games, he also played right field.
Eventually he was sent to a minor league team in Florida where he became a full-time outfielder and later played some at first base for the Cardinals.
After moving quickly up the ladder in the St. Louis organization, Musial made his major league debut in 1941, just two seasons after playing in Williamson.
He ended up having a Hall of Fame career, winning seven batting titles. He was a humble man, known as a true gentleman.
He earned the nickname Stan “the Man” and became one of the best hitters in the history of baseball.
The Cardinals announced Musial’s death in a news release and said he died at his home in Ladue, a St. Louis suburb, surrounded by family. The team said Musial’s son-in-law, Dave Edmonds, informed the club of the slugger’s death.
Two statues in his honor stand outside Busch Stadium in St. Louis. One just wouldn’t do him justice. He was every bit the equal to MLB greats like Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio even without the bright lights of the big city.
Musial was a three-time MVP and helped the Cardinals capture three World Series championships in the 1940s.
He spent his entire 22-year career with the Cardinals and made the All-Star team 24 times, because baseball held two All-Star games each summer for a few seasons. He had been the longest-tenured living Hall of Famer.
A lefthanded hitter, he had a career .331 average 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 (6) retired.
At the suggestion of a pal, actor John Wayne, Musial 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.”
Scandal-free and eager to play every day, Musial struck a chord with fans throughout America’s heartland 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.
Musial never struck out more than 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, just falling one short of winning the Triple Crown.
In all, Musial held 55 records when he retired in 1963. Fittingly, the accolades on his bronze Hall of Fame 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 Cincinnati’s rookie second baseman - that was Pete Rose, who ironically would break Musial’s league hit record of 3,630 some 18 years later.
Of those hits, Musial got exactly 1,815 at home and exactly 1,815 on the road. He also finished with 1,951 RBIs and scored 1,949 runs.
All that balance despite a most unorthodox left-handed stance. Legs and knees close together, he would **** the bat near his ear and twist his body away from the pitcher. When the ball came, he uncoiled.
”I consciously memorized the speed at which every pitcher in the league threw his fastball, curve, and slider,” Musial once 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 had crossed the plate.”
Musial made his major league debut late in 1941, the season that Williams batted .406 for the Boston Red Sox and DiMaggio hit in a record 56 straight games for the New York Yankees.
In his best year, 1948, he had four five-hit games and batted .376, best in the National League. He also led his league that year in runs scored (135), hits (230), total bases (429), doubles (46), and triples (18).
Musial never expressed regret or remorse that he didn’t attract more attention than the cool DiMaggio or cantankerous Williams. Fact is, Musial was plenty familiar in every place he played.
Few could bring themselves to boo baseball’s nicest superstar, not even the Brooklyn Dodgers crowds that helped give him his nickname, a sign of weary respect for his .359 batting average at Ebbets Field.
Like DiMaggio and Williams, Musial embodied a time when the greats stayed with one team. He joined the Cardinals during the last remnants of the Gas House Gang and stayed in St. Louis until Gibson and Curt Flood ushered in a new era of greatness.
The only year Musial missed with the Cardinals was 1945, when he was in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He was based in Pearl Harbor, assigned to a unit that helped with ship repair.
Musial was the NL MVP in 1943, 1946 and 1948, and was runner-up four other years. He enjoyed a career remarkably free of slumps, controversies or rivalries.
In 1954, he set a major league record with five home runs in a doubleheader against the New York Giants. He hit .300 or better in 16 consecutive seasons and hit a record six home runs in All-Star play, including a 12th-inning, game-winning homer in 1955.
In 1962, at age 41, he batted .330 and hit 19 home runs. In his final game, on Sept. 29, 1963, he had two hits at Busch Stadium against the Reds, and the Cardinals retired his uniform number.
Stan was a favorite in Cooperstown, from his harmonica rendition of ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’ during Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies.
The Cardinals were dominant early in Musial’s career. They beat DiMaggio and the Yankees in the 1942 World Series, lost to the Yankees the next year and defeated the St. Louis Browns in 1944. In 1946, the Cardinals beat Williams and the visiting Red Sox in Game 7 at Sportsman’s Park.
Musial never played on another pennant winner after 1946. Yet even after the likes of Mays, Mickey Mantle and Hank Aaron came to the majors, Musial remained among baseball’s best.
The original Musial statue outside the new Busch Stadium is a popular meeting place before games and carries this inscription: ”Here stands baseball’s perfect warrior. Here stands baseball’s perfect knight.”
In 1958, he reached the 3,000-hit level and became the NL’s first $100,000-a-year player. He never showed resentment over the multimillion dollar salaries of modern players. He thought they had more fun in his days.
”I enjoyed coming to the ballpark every day and I think we enjoyed the game,” Musial said in a 1991 Associated Press interview. ”We had a lot of train travel, so we had more time together. We socialized quite a bit and we’d go out after ballgames.”
He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1969, his first year of eligibility.
”It was, you know, a dream come true,” Musial once said. ”I always wanted to be a ballplayer.”
After retiring as a player, Musial served for years in the Cardinals’ front office, including as general manager in 1967, when the Cardinals won the World Series.
In the 1970s, he occasionally played in Old-Timers’ Day games and could still line the ball to the wall. He was a fixture for decades at the Cooperstown induction ceremonies and also was a member of the Hall’s Veterans Committee. Often, after the Vets panel had voted, he’d pull out a harmonica conveniently located in his jacket pocket and lead the other members in a rendition of ”Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
The Cardinals said Musial is survived by his four children, Richard, Gerry, Janet and Jean, as well as 11 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren. Musial’s wife died in May 2012.
A public visitation for baseball great Stan Musial will be Thursday at the Cathedral Basilica in St. Louis, with a funeral Mass on Saturday. Following the Mass, the funeral procession will travel to Busch Stadium, where the family will lay a wreath at the base of the Musial statue. After that, a private burial is planned.
One of the all-time greats has passed and will certainly have a place on the baseball team in heaven. And surely he took a little bit of Williamson, W.Va. with him.
(The Associated Press contributed to this article.)