Baseball lost two parts of its soul Saturday. Earl Weaver, longtime Orioles manager and later, Stan Musial. Stan “The Man” Musial died at age 92 at his home in Ladue, Mo. surrounded by his family. He played first base and outfield during his 22 seasons (1941-1963) with the St. Louis Cardinals. Musial was the best player in the National League following World War II. That decade he put up some of the most incredible numbers the game has ever seen. He had the 4th most hits in Major League history with 3,630 and, of those hits, 1815 came at home and 1815 on the road. There will never be another more consistent stat as that. He didn’t play in a town where the media hyped his name. To put it in perspective, Musial was like Walter Payton or Barry Sanders in a sense. Quiet and classy. There was nothing flamboyant about him, but he was baseball. He was almost a mythical figure, ingrained in the game long after he retired and, yes, still to this day. Anyone who knows the game of baseball felt his presence despite never seeing him play.
There were no records associated with his name. Fans never were cheated by Musial. He had a unusual stance. It was a stance peeking around a corner, as if he was telling you he was too cool for the game, but he wasn’t. The first player ever to hit 400 homers and have 3,000 hits, Musial won MVPs in ‘43, ‘46 and ‘48. He earned the first 100,000 dollar contract. His 725 doubles (eight-time league leader) are third all time, his 1,951 RBI fifth, 1,949 runs eighth and Musial is second all time to Hank Aaron in extra base hits (1,377) and total bases with 6,134. He was a National League leader in hits six times, runs five times and RBI twice. Musial garnered seven batting titles and a career average of .331. His doubles total, in part, led to his .559 slugging percentage -- as did his 475 bombs.
One of the more interesting things about Musial was that he and Ken Griffey Jr. share the same November 21st birthday -- 50 years apart -- and also the same birthplace, Donora, Penn. Donora is an industry town 30 miles outside of Pittsburgh. One of his Donora High baseball teammates was Griffey’s grandfather Buddy Griffey. Coincidence? Nah.
He was signed as a pitcher in 1937, but was too boss of a hitter and that rest his history. The Cardinals won three World Series titles during his career. His huge statue outside Busch Stadium just got bigger. As a point of reference, his loss is like an NBA Kareem Abdul-Jabbar passing or an NFL Jerry Rice. Sports has lost a mighty one. One of the greatest ones...but the stamp of his name will live on every time a kid picks up a bat and plays his beautiful game.