Stan Musial, the St. Louis Cardinals baseball star whose consistent hitting for both average and power earned him the nickname “Stan the Man” and the affection of an entire city, has died. He was 92.
Musial died yesterday surrounded by family at his home in Ladue, Missouri, not far from St. Louis, where he made his Major League Baseball mark in the 1940s and 1950s, the Cardinals said on their website. The cause of his death was not disclosed.
In a 22-year career, all as a Cardinal, Musial won seven National League batting titles and three Most Valuable Player awards. His tightly coiled left-handed swing was emulated by a generation of fans.
“Stan Musial was the greatest player in Cardinals history and one of the best players in the history of baseball,” William DeWitt Jr., chairman of the Cardinals, said in a statement. “We join fans everywhere in mourning the loss of our dear friend and reflect on how fortunate we all are to have known ’Stan the Man.’”
Decades after his retirement in 1963 Musial remained a fixture in Major League Baseball’s record book: fourth in career hits, with 3,630; sixth in runs batted in, with 1,951; and tied with Willie Stargell for 28th on the home-run list, with 475. His lifetime batting average of .331 is 26th among all retired players. Only Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds had more extra-base hits than Musial’s 1,377.
“Major League Baseball has lost one of its true legends in Stan Musial, a Hall of Famer in every sense and a man who led a great American life,” MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. “As remarkable as ‘Stan the Man’ was on the field, he was a true gentleman in life.”
The Cardinals played in four World Series, and won three, during Musial’s first five seasons. For the remainder of his career, as he developed home-run power to accompany his high average, he never again reached baseball’s championship round.
Musial had one of baseball’s greatest seasons in 1948, hitting .376 with 39 homers and 131 runs batted in. He had five- hit games on four separate occasions. He fell short of the Triple Crown -- baseball’s ultimate batting achievement, leading the National League in homers, RBIs and average -- by just one home run, as future Hall of Famers Ralph Kiner and Johnny Mize each hit 40.
During a 1954 double-header, Musial hit five home runs, a feat duplicated only once since then.
In 24 All-Star games -- baseball held two each year from 1959 to 1962, and Musial made all eight of those -- he hit six home runs, a career record. They included a game-winning home run in the 12th inning that won the 1955 All-Star Game.
On the seeming futility of pitching to Musial, Carl Erskine, the Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher, once said: “I just throw him my best stuff, then run over to back up third base.” Most accounts of his nickname attributed it to Dodgers fans noting with dismay that “The Man” was coming to the plate.
In one indication of Musial’s consistency, he got exactly half of his 3,630 career hits in his home ballpark, the other half on the road.
A St. Louis fan favorite during and after his baseball career, Musial saw his number 6 retired by the Cardinals after his retirement. He won induction to Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1969, his first year of eligibility.
‘Heart and Soul’
At the 2009 All-Star game, hosted by St. Louis, he was honored on the field as “the heart and soul of Cardinal baseball.” In an editorial marking the game, the St. Louis Dispatch wrote of Musial:
“He was a fearsome clutch hitter, but also a great fielder, a brilliant student of the game, a clubhouse leader, a heads-up guy who always hustled, a good sport and a happy warrior who played by the rules and always offered a good word.”
Stanislaus Francis Musial was born on Nov. 21, 1920, in Donora, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh. He was one of six children of Lukasz Musial, a Polish immigrant and manual laborer, and his wife, Mary, daughter of Hungarian immigrants.
He starred in baseball and basketball in high school. Spotted and signed by one of the scouts working under Cardinals executive Branch Rickey, he joined baseball’s minor leagues in 1938 primarily as a pitcher.
In 1940, his first full season after high school, Musial won 18 games for a team in Daytona Beach, Florida. Playing outfield when not pitching, he was able to continue developing his hitting abilities.
Move to Outfield
Those skills proved to be career-saving when he injured his left throwing shoulder diving for a fly ball. His pitching prospects suddenly over, Musial stayed in the game by becoming a full-time outfielder.
“Going to the outfield was no problem,” he told Jack Murphy of the San Diego Union in 1970. “I wanted to be a hitter anyway.”
He made his first appearance with the Cardinals at the end of the 1941 season.
Musial missed the 1945 season after being drafted by the U.S. Navy. He didn’t see combat and spent much of his 13-month stint at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, playing baseball in a league with other Major Leaguers, according to a biography compiled by the Society for American Baseball Research.
At a ceremony to mark Musial’s retirement, after his final game in September 1963, MLB commissioner Ford Frick said his inevitable admission to baseball’s Hall of Fame should be marked by this pronouncement: “Here stands baseball’s perfect warrior, here stands baseball’s perfect knight.”
The Cardinals named him a team vice president. He became general manager in 1967, stepping down after just one year. He then became active in real estate and restaurants in St. Louis.
President Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011, responding to a “Stand for Stan” publicity campaign organized by the Cardinals.
“A recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Stan’s life embodies baseball’s unparalleled history and why this game is the national pastime,” Selig said.
He and his wife, Lil, married in 1940. They had a son, Richard, and three daughters, Geraldine, Janet and Jean. He had 11 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
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