Early on Saturday, the baseball world lost one of it’s most legendary managers in Earl Weaver, and before the day was done it had lost one of it’s all-time greats. Hall of Famer Stan Musial passed away on Saturday at the age of 92. Musial played 22 years for the Cardinals from 1941 until 1963, taking some time off after the 1945 season to enlist in the United States Army.
Musial is widely regarded as one of the greatest hitters in baseball history, finishing his career with 3,360 hits (4th all-time) and a career .331 batting average. Among his other accomplishments in his legendary career, Musial was named to 24 All-Star teams — being named to two All-Star teams from 1959 to 1962. Musial was a seven time batting champion, won three MVPs and has had his iconic No. 6 retired by the Cardinals
In his first year of eligibility, Musial was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown with over 90 percent of the vote.
Musial was a living legend in his day, and notably caught the eye of Ty Cobb, who mentioned Musial as one of the only players playing the game at the time that could be mentioned with the past greats of the game. Cobb wrote the article for Life magazine, and the tip of the cap from baseball’s first truly great player put a spotlight on Musial like never before.
Naturally, he lived up to the expectation but he was modest in doing so. In Cobb’s piece, the Georgia Peach called out Joe DiMaggio, ranking him well under Musial in terms of talent, but when asked about it Musial replied he could only hope to be as good as DiMaggio. Musial is also noted for taking a stand against tobacco advertising in newspapers and magazine’s. He publicly condemned players who advertised cigarettes, and said he’d never appear in one himself.
In one iconic game, Musial was badly injured but decided to play through excruciating pain. Despite barely being able to swing his bat, Musial recorded five hits by swinging the bat only five times. That’s just the kind of player Musial was during his career.
Musial is also the owner of an unseen and unheard of record outside of baseball. He married his wife Lillian Musial in 1940 and he remained faithful to her until the day she died, last May. That’s over 70 years of marriage to the same woman, in an era where it became increasingly more mainstream to be famous and hop from partner to partner.
Stan “The Man” Musial was impressive in more than one way, and all the baseball history he saw and set is forever gone from this Earth. We all lost a true American hero on Saturday, and while he hadn’t played in close to 50 years, the game of baseball will never be the same without him watching it.
I never watched Musial play, I only heard stories through uncles, grandparents and family friends who would sit and reminisce as though they were speaking of a God. I never saw him play ball, but I could picture it, and when I got around to actually seeing footage of Musial playing for the Cardinals, it was everything I imagined and more — almost as though the video had somehow been recorded from my head and etched into history. This wasn’t because the stories I heard were told by great story tellers, but rather they were about a man whom great storytellers couldn’t even have dreamed up.
There was baseball, and then there was baseball played by Stan Musial. He wasn’t just a legend, or a Hall of Famer, or an icon. His hits and home runs aren’t just timeless or memorable. He wasn’t just a baseball player.
He was Stan the Man, and always shall be.