Cardinals Hall of Famer Musial dies at 92

Jan. 19, 2013 at 8:56 PM
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ST. LOUIS, Jan. 19 (UPI) -- St. Louis Cardinals great and Hall of Famer Stan "the Man" Musial died Saturday at age 92, the team announced.

Cardinals Chairman William DeWitt Jr. said in a statement that Musial died at his home in Ladue, Mo.

"We have lost the most beloved member of the Cardinals family," DeWitt said. "Stan Musial was the greatest player in Cardinals history and one of the best players in the history of baseball."

Musial is survived by his children Richard, Gerry, Janet and Jean, 11 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren.

Musial, known for his power, speed and class, was one of Major League Baseball's greatest hitters, shattering more records than anyone ever had in a 22-year career (1941-63), all with the St. Louis Cardinals, that resulted with his election to the Hall of Fame on his first ballot in 1969.

He batted at least .300 in each of his first 17 seasons and finished with a career average of .331 and a .418 on-base percentage. He was the first man in history to hit five home runs in a doubleheader. When he retired in 1963, he held 17 major league, 29 National League and nine all-star records and won seven batting titles. He was named the National League's MVP three times.

"I could always hit," Musial told The Sporting News. "I guess I was a natural hitter."

A 10-foot-high bronze statue of "The Man" was erected in 1968 outside Busch Stadium with an inscription taken from a quote by then Commissioner Ford Frick: "Here stands baseball's perfect warrior."

Musial was a 5-10, 175-pound left-handed hitter who batted in an unusual corkscrew-like crouch with his No. 6 turned almost squarely to the pitcher, his left leg bent to support his weight, his half-hidden bat cocked and ready as he uncoiled and strode into the pitch. He said he adopted the stance so he could guard the plate better.

"I consciously memorized the speed at which every pitcher in the league threw his fastball, curve and slider," he 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."

"He'd kill you," Boston Braves pitcher Johnny Sain once said. "But, he was a gentleman."

Asked how he would pitch to Musial, the Brooklyn Dodgers' Preacher Roe responded, "I throw him four wide ones then try to pick him off first base."

It was in Brooklyn where Musial reportedly got his nickname. As the story goes, as he strode to the plate one day a Dodger fan lamented, "Uh oh. Here comes the man again, here comes the man."

Musial started out as a minor league pitcher while playing the outfield when not on the mound but a shoulder injury ended his pitching career at 19. Later, in the majors, dividing his time between left field and first base, Musial was the first to play in more than 1,000 games at two positions. When he retired, he held the then-National League records for games (3,026), at-bats (10,972) and hits (3,630).

His 1,277 extra-base hits were second only to Henry Aaron. He led the NL eight times in doubles, hit 177 triples, smacked 475 homers, drove in 1,951 runs and scored 1,949 times. He led the National League in slugging percentage and total bases six times each. His .376 batting average in 1948 was not bettered for over 40 years, until Tony Gwinn, another natural hitter, hit .394 in 1994.

Stanley Frank Musial was born Nov. 21, 1920, in Donora, Pa., first son and second youngest of six children of a Czech mother and a Polish immigrant father who worked in a zinc mine.

Stan's father wanted him to attend college and avoid the mines but by then the youngster had shown enough athletic ability in high school that he was offered a minor league baseball contract by the Cardinals in 1937.

Musial arrived in the majors in 1941 as a late-season call-up by the Cards and hit .426 in 47 at bats. The next year, at age 21, he was the regular Cardinal left fielder, hitting .317 to help lead St. Louis to the first of three consecutive pennants and a World Series victory over the New York Yankees. He hit his stride in 1943, leading the league in batting, slugging percentage, hits, doubles and triples and won his first MVP.

Musial missed the 1945 season while serving in the Navy but came back the following season for another banner year at the plate, leading the league in several hitting categories and propelling the Cards to their fourth pennant in his first four full seasons with the club and downed the Boston Red Sox in the World Series.

Musial led the league in 10 batting categories in 1948 and won his third MVP, but over the next 17 seasons he never played in another World Series. However, the Cards did win another world championship in 1967 during Musial's brief stint as general manager.

Musial remained active in several business ventures, including a St. Louis restaurant and a bank. He also fondly recalled, in an interview on NPR, about his "second career."

After he retired he attended a number of charity golf tournaments and one day at such an event in Amana, Iowa, he borrowed entertainer Roy Clark's harmonica and "played a couple of songs." That led to an appearance on "Hee Haw," a syndicated TV country music and comedy show. "That got me started," he told an NPR interviewer, as he joined a St. Louis harmonica club and soon was tootling away at a number of appearances.

"They asked me to play at a nursing home one Sunday afternoon. At this nursing home there must have been about 100 people around and I started my song and halfway through the song I opened my eyes. Half the people were sleeping. So I played louder and woke them up." After all, they were being serenaded by Stan The Man.

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