Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Life of Stan Musial: November 21, 1920-January 19, 2013

Ted Williams was known as "the greatest hitter who ever lived".  Until he passed away Joe DiMaggio was known as the "greatest living ballplayer".  Willie Mays's glove was known as "the place where triples go to die".  Stan Musial was simply known as "the Man".

There was little else that needed to be said.  The Cardinals had a strong tradition of winning when Musial debuted late in the year 1941.  The Cardinals had been successful from the 1920's through the 1940's and had a reputation of having a minor league system that would routinely give them what they needed when they needed it.  Few would have expected Musial to be something special.

If they didn't expect it they soon learned what they were getting.  The man started hitting immediately.  In just 12 games in 1941 he collected 20 hits, hitting .426.  He didn't stop hitting for 22 years.  He hit in St. Louis and he hit on the road.  He hit in night games, day games, regular season games, World Series games, All Star Games.  He hit singles, doubles, triples, home runs.  He hit in the clutch and he hit when the game was already out of hand.  Anytime the Cardinals needed a hit Stan was the man.  When his career ended, after 22 magical years, all in St. Louis, he walked away with 3630 hits.  1815 on the road.  1815 at home.

Musial was, simply put, one of the greatest players in the history of the game.  24 All Star Game appearances (from 1959-1962 the league had two All Star Games per year). 7 batting titles.  The first National League player to win three MVP Awards (4 other times he finished 2nd in MVP voting). Three time World Champion.

In the 1940's he was overshadowed by Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio.  In the 1950's he was overshadowed by Mantle, Mays, Snider and Robinson.  In the early 1960's he was overshadowed by Aaron.  He never quite got recognized nationally for the greatness he displayed.   

He didn't get the attention nationwide, but he certainly was adored in St. Louis.  He has a statue outside the stadium that has turned into a garden of flowers over the last few days as fans leave memorials and tributes in droves.  He was active with the team until last year and had an impact on every new player putting on the classic Cardinals uniform.  He was respected.  Albert Pujols was the only Cardinal player to even sniff the success of Stan in St. Louis and he made sure that any comparisons ended quickly.  When people started calling him "El Hombre" he quickly told them to stop because he felt it was disrespectful to Musial. 

All teams have one identifiable person.  The face of the franchise.  The ivory tower in the history of the team.  The shining beacon to the rest of the world that represents what is best about the team.  St. Louis was fortunate to get the man.

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