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As I'm sure I've mentioned, I actually saw Stan Musial play baseball.

I wish I could actually remember it. I was a little wee kid, and my dad took me to see the Cardinals playing their A ball team, which was in Winnipeg at the time. Apparently the Cards made a practice of visiting a minor league affiliate on an off-day and playing an exhibition game against the prospects. I'm told The Man started, went 1-2 and came out of the game. My memory tells me the game was played at an open baseball field, with no outfield fence at all, and trees along the foul lines. I'm pretty sure that didn't happen...

When we're children we can believe that baseball players are heroes, people to look up to and admire without reservation. We all grow up, we all learn otherwise. But Stan Musial never let me down.



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The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Magpie - Saturday, January 19 2013 @ 11:47 PM EST (#268133) #
I'd like to have said more, but I am distraught...
wdc - Sunday, January 20 2013 @ 05:35 AM EST (#268136) #
Thank you very much, Magpie, for your posting.  My father was a Cardinals fan and Stan Musial was his favourite player.  As a boy, I followed my dad and the Cardinals became my team and Musial my favourite player.  I was only seven years old at the time when I began to follow him.  In the few years left that he had to play at the time, he never let me down.  We did not have a television but a couple down the street did have one and they had cable.  In the intererior of BC at that time, "cable" meant three channels: NBC, CBS, and ABC.  Musial was playing in his last all star game and the couple, themselves also baseball fans, invited me to watch the game.  It was a small black and white television but I can remember seeing Musial bat.  I had wanted to see his famous cork screw batting stance and was overjoyed when I saw him at the plate.  I had just started Little League at the time and Musial's stance became my own.  It did not help me much, I will say, since I went hitless in my first year in Little League.  But that was my problem, not Stan's.  He has remained deep in my baseball heart ever since and never disappointed me. He remained a gentleman.  And the Cardinals have remained my team for over 50 years thanks to Stan Musial.

Mike Green - Sunday, January 20 2013 @ 10:23 AM EST (#268140) #
The Cardinal way predated Musial, beginning (I guess) with Branch Rickey.  But Musial gave it a name and personality.



John Northey - Sunday, January 20 2013 @ 12:00 PM EST (#268144) #
Strange to have two such larger than life figures in baseball pass away so close together.  Such different personalities, but both strongly tied to a single franchise and both respected for different reasons.  Didn't know Musial was 92 years old.  Like most here I wasn't born until well after he finished playing (his career ended after the 1963 season) thus have no memories outside of stories that have been told of him.

The only time he didn't make the all-star team was in 1942 as a rookie (he had 49 PA in 1941 and didn't make it of course).  He had MVP votes in all but 41, 59, 61,63 - so in 18 of his 22 years.  3 MVP's, 4 2nd place finishes and 2 more top 5's.  So 9 years where he was in serious consideration as the best in the league.  At ages 36/37 he led the league in intentional walks (not tracked until he was 34) - at the age of 40 he was intentionally walked 17 times - only 6 times has a Jay been intentionally walked more than that.  5 times led the league in triples so he had speed but never stole 10 bases in a season, yet stole 2 in his final season without getting caught.  Never struck out 50 times in a season, but cracked 100 walks 3 times.  Strangely had 10 sac bunts as a rookie (while hitting 357/425/562) and 35 lifetime.

One figures he would've been a highly respected player in any era.  Power (475 HR - 559 Slg), patience (417 OBP), hit for average (331 overall), averaged 9 triples a year, he even pitched once in a weird situation (Haddix started, faced one batter, moved to RF while Musial took the mound, Musial faced on batter who the third baseman made an error on, then Haddix went back onto the mound for 8 innings). 

He is a legend in St Louis yet never fully appreciated outside of it.  I never thought of him as one of the super-greats with Ruth, Gehrig, Williams.  He played at the same time as Dimaggio & Williams, his only weakness was a poor playoff record yet his team won 3 of the 4 WS they were in, however 3 of those appearances were during WW2 when others were overseas and the last was in 1946 beating Ted Williams Red Sox in Williams only playoff appearance.  He made under $1 mil lifetime as a player, peaking at $75k a year for 3 years (equivalent to $650-675k a year now). 
Dewey - Sunday, January 20 2013 @ 12:37 PM EST (#268145) #
One thing Iím very grateful for is that Musial developed before television changed things.  Stan the Man was the antithesis of fist-pumps, and in-your-face screaming shows, of posing and strutting and such.  He just played the game very, very well; and he respected it.  I actually did see him play a few times.  In my Chicago-area boyhood the Cards and the Cubs had a pretty intense rivalry.   And Musial was always there, in his familiar stance (it was such fun to imitate), waiting for the pitch.  Then the next you noticed he was chugging efficiently into second base, no show-boating -- maybe a smile if the infielders were ragging him.  He was a constant thorn in the sides of Cubs fans, but they had a kind of grudgingly resigned affection for him anyway.  (ĎOK, Stanís going to do it to us again.  But he donít mean nuthin; he canít hep it;  itís just what he does.  Heís The Man.í)  Never heard anyone say anything unkindly about The Man.  Never.  Thatís pretty amazing, in sports or anywhere else.

Just looked up that he had 725 doubles in his 22 year career.  Iíd guess I saw at least a half dozen of them.  And Iím so glad I did.   A great, great ballplayer
Magpie - Sunday, January 20 2013 @ 01:38 PM EST (#268150) #
I never thought of him as one of the super-greats with Ruth, Gehrig, Williams.

Blasphemy!

Ah, you just need to spend about fifteen minutes with this.

Musial is generally regarded as a left-fielder, and until Barry Bonds came along to muddy the issue, the choice for greatest LF ever came down to Williams or Musial. I would have taken Musial, without hesitation. As Bill James wrote way back in 1985 "I'd take Musial in left field, Musial on the base paths, Musial in the clubhouse, and Williams only with the wood in his hand. And Stan Musial could hit a little too."

Strangely enough, Musial actually played more games at first base than he did in left field. He was forever changing positions to accomodate the team's needs. He played LF as a rookie, moved to RF for two years, missed a year in the Navy, came back and played two years at 1B, spent two years split between RF and CF, split two years between LF and 1B, then spent a year in CF, a year in LF, a year at 1B, a year in RF, two years playing 1b and RF,  three years mostly at 1B, and finished with three years in LF.
whiterasta80 - Sunday, January 20 2013 @ 08:48 PM EST (#268153) #
Jeez look at all that bold on the baseball reference page.

He led the league in hitting 7 times, OPS 7 times, and he had MVP votes in his age 41 season. All while not using "the clear".

Interesting how poor his postseason hitting was, the media would be all over that today.
Mike Green - Sunday, January 20 2013 @ 10:28 PM EST (#268154) #
Strangely enough, Musial actually played more games at first base than he did in left field. He was forever changing positions to accomodate the team's needs. He played LF as a rookie, moved to RF for two years, missed a year in the Navy, came back and played two years at 1B, spent two years split between RF and CF, split two years between LF and 1B, then spent a year in CF, a year in LF, a year at 1B, a year in RF, two years playing 1b and RF,  three years mostly at 1B, and finished with three years in LF

...
and when he retired, the Cards went out the very next season and acquired a new left-fielder, who while not Stan the Man, did the job pretty nicely, thank you very much.  Three World Series appearances, and two victories, in the next 5 years followed.

Musial was unquestionably an inner circle Hall of Famer.  As for the comparison with Williams, it really comes down to Williams' missing 5 seasons.  If you give Williams credit for typical seasonal performance during those years (as you might do for DiMaggio), he's got to be considered the better ballplayer by a fair margin.  Williams wasn't a bad baserunner; Musial was better, but he wasn't an All-Time great in this department (he wasn't that fast).  Musial was a better fielder, but spent much of his time at first base.  It all adds up to not very much, and Williams was quite a bit better with the bat.  That all said, it is reasonable to say that Williams had a long career and if he had played those 5 seasons, he might have had less left at the end.  And then you've got the intangibles; Musial was great in the clubhouse and the Cards did win with him as a leader, while the Sox...came close.  Damned if I know what you do with all that.
Magpie - Monday, January 21 2013 @ 12:36 AM EST (#268156) #
As for the comparison with Williams, it really comes down to Williams' missing 5 seasons. If you're talking about career value - I'd take Musial at his peak anyway.

Musial lost just one season, which probably cost him 210 hits (moving past Aaron into third all-time) and some 50 doubles (still a little short of Speaker.) Ted's missing seasons came in two groups, and the second one is tricky. He played a total of 43 games in 1952-53 because he went to war again. But this was also a time in his career when he was getting injured quite a bit. He had just one healthy season in the two years before Korea and the two after. It's still pretty easy to see him ending up with about 3400 hits, 690 HRs, and more walks and RBIs than anybody.

DiMaggio retired so young that nothing too impressive would have happened to his counting numbers even if you gave him the three missing years. But if Lou Gehrig hadn't gotten sick...
whiterasta80 - Monday, January 21 2013 @ 09:12 AM EST (#268158) #
Personally I like the fact that there were some career interruptions in the great's careers. It just fuels the discussion of the greatest ever.

If Mickey Mantle wasn't a booze hound maybe he plays long enough...

If Lou Gehrig hadn't gotten sick then he is almost certainly in the discussion for the greatest player of all time. He showed the first signs of the disease in 1934 and still managed to finish top 5 in MVP voting for the next 4 years.

If Sandy Koufax held up for another decade...

If Teddy Ballgame hadn't gone to war then he probably is even closer to the best ever discussion.

And yes, if Stan Musial had stayed at one position then he probably gets consideration as the best ever at that position.

Of course if Satchell Paige, Cool Papa Bell or (in particular) Josh Gibson had played in MLB in their primes then maybe we aren't even talking about these guys.
whiterasta80 - Monday, January 21 2013 @ 09:22 AM EST (#268159) #
Actually my last post had me thinking about a potential thread. I haven't been around for the entire history of the box so my apologies if it has been done.

As we have a huge body of really eloquent posters here, some with first hand accounts of players I can only dream of having seen play.

I think it would be interesting to have a thread where everyone picks a different ballplayer and makes a case for them as the best ever (or best ever at their position, whatever).
Mike Green - Monday, January 21 2013 @ 10:02 AM EST (#268160) #
Stan Musial's 1948 season may very well have been better than any of Williams' seasons. His second best and third best seasons were probably noticeably behind Williams' second and third best.  If you want to say that weighing it all together, including the intangible elements, Musial was better at his peak, you won't get any argument from me. 

The numerical comparison (for what it's worth) is fascinating.  You have to adjust for war-time leagues, differences in league strength including the colour bar adjustment issues, as well as the usual difficult evaluations of defensive ability and versatility. 

John Northey - Monday, January 21 2013 @ 10:29 AM EST (#268162) #
I think Stan lost out a lot due to a few factors...

1) All around rather than dominate in one area of the game - he did everything well but never broke records, never hit 400, didn't get 4000 hits or 500 HR (4000 hits would've shifted him into the Ty Cobb discussion automatically), never drove in 150.  I think he had the NL record for hits at one time but few get excited about that.

2) Started during the war thus was probably knocked down a bit due to that (1942 his first full season, played in 43 and 44).  Winning the MVP in 1946 should've taken care of that, but it might not have right away.

3) Was downgraded due to the AL being so strong with the media probably going nuts about Ted Williams vs Joe Dimaggio at the time as 'best ever' or nearly best (vs Ruth, Cobb, etc).

4) Also got knocked down due to 2 other contenders for 'best ever'  in Mays and Mantle showing up in the 50's, then Aaron's HR chase after he retired eating up some legacy time.

When you have 5 other players fighting for 'best ever' while you are playing, and 4 of them are in the biggest markets while the other beat Ruth's career HR record it is hard to be noticed.  Musial was 'just' extremely good for a long time, no signature moment, no career 'wow' number that stood out in peoples minds.  Just near MVP every year for most of his 22 season career.

Mike Green - Monday, January 21 2013 @ 10:42 AM EST (#268163) #
The natural comparison for Musial is Williams, but he's actually closer as an offensive player to Cobb.  Less speed and a little more pop, and a lot more likeable.

Cobb/Ruth, Musial/Williams and Mays/Mantle are in some ways matched sets.  The Babe set the tone for how most of us look at these things, but there is no one way to do so. 

Magpie - Monday, January 21 2013 @ 04:19 PM EST (#268176) #
Musial began to be forgotten - just a little - once he had retired. He didn't have a big personality, he didn't insist on being referred to as the world's greatest living ballplayer. (There's a nice story about DiMaggio being introduced that way, and one press box wag snarking "What, Willie Mays died?") Anyway, while Musial was active, everyone knew what he was. No one did better in MVP voting than Musial - not Mays, Mantle, or Williams - until Bonds came along. He was not overlooked in his own time. I think Musial was defnitiely regarded as a greater player than Williams while they were active.

Williams, of course, was a gigantic pain in the butt. One of the issues for me with Musial-Williams is simply this - who would you rather have on your team? There's no argument at all - not now - as to who was the greater hitter. Musial's advantages in other areas may not make up for that. But Ted was a cross between Albert Belle and Barry Bonds. Obsessed with own success, fighting with everyone, with a chip on his shoulder the size of a mountain. I think it was easier to win with Stan Musial. (Actually, that may help explain why Musial was more highly regarded while they were playing.)

The same thing applies to... oh, Cobb and Speaker. Cobb was surely a greater player - Speaker's only clear edge is defense - but I'd certainly rather have had Speaker on my team than Cobb. I think it would be easier to win with him.

Obviously there are limits to this sort of logic. Al Kaline was a great player, probably better than Clemente, an obvious Hall of Famer, and one of the game's good guys. You still have to take Babe Ruth.
Mike Green - Monday, January 21 2013 @ 04:51 PM EST (#268178) #
I agree. 

Williams would probably have done better in the MVP voting had it not been for his wartime service.  He finished 2nd in the voting in 1941 and 1942, 1st in 1946 and 2nd in 1947, with never less than a 60% share.  1943-1945 were his age 24-26 seasons and the odds are pretty good that he would have made up the difference between him and Musial during those years.  And as for his 2nd round of service, Williams actually a vote in 1953 when he had only 110 PAs (he went .407/.509/.901); I imagine that he likely would have had some support in those years. 

That Musial did better than Mays in the MVP voting is a bit weird.  Mays was a slightly better player (and I imagine Stan Musial would have been happy to acknowledge that fact).  Mays led the National League in Wins Above Replacement 9 times, and offensive Wins Above Replacement 7 times and yet won only 2 MVP awards.  When the greatest defensive centerfielder to play the game (at least to that point) is the best offensive player in the league, it's hard to understand how the writers wouldn't choose him.  In 1962, it was Maury Wills (5.8 WAR) over Mays (10.2).  In 1963, it was Sandy Koufax (9.5), Dick Groat (6.8), Hank Aaron (8.8) and Ron Perranoski (4.3) over Mays (10.2).  In 1964, it was Ken Boyer (5.8), John Callison (5.8), Bill White (5.1), Frank Robinson (7.5), Joe Torre (5.1) over Mays (10.7). 

You could put it down to racism, but I personally prefer the ignorance explanation.  The writers figured that two of Wills' stolen bases was worth about one of Mays' home runs, and so Maury wins.

Magpie - Monday, January 21 2013 @ 07:26 PM EST (#268181) #
Mays could have easily won at least seven MVPs. Mays overtook Musial as the best player in the NL as soon as he came back from his military service, and he was the best player in the league almost every season afterwards through about 1966. I think the writers just didn't want to give it to the same guy every year. I don't think it was racism either, because the exact thing was happening to Mickey Mantle in the AL at the same time.
Magpie - Monday, January 21 2013 @ 07:31 PM EST (#268182) #
Of course, Musial probably should have won three more MVPs himself. Jim Konstanty, Roy Campanella (first time), and Hank Sauer probably got their awards because Musial already had three of them.
Magpie - Monday, January 21 2013 @ 07:40 PM EST (#268183) #
Donora, Pennysylvania. Current population is 5.563. And Ken Griffey - pillar of the Big Red Machine, with more than 2000 hits in the majors - was the third best LH hitter born there. What are the chances of that?
Jeremy - Monday, January 21 2013 @ 08:03 PM EST (#268184) #
If my son (or my daughter) wants to be a ballplayer, I'm taking them to be washed in the waters of Donora.
Thomas - Monday, January 21 2013 @ 08:26 PM EST (#268185) #
The more I read about Musial, the more I'm supremely disappointed I never got to see him play.
Mike Green - Monday, January 21 2013 @ 08:41 PM EST (#268186) #
Mays could have easily won at least seven MVPs. Mays overtook Musial as the best player in the NL as soon as he came back from his military service, and he was the best player in the league almost every season afterwards through about 1966. I think the writers just didn't want to give it to the same guy every year. I don't think it was racism either, because the exact thing was happening to Mickey Mantle in the AL at the same time.

That was part of it, but Mantle did either win the MVP or come second when he was great except for 1955 (when he lost to Yogi Berra).  Mantle's teams won year after year, of course, and that didn't hurt. 

For what it's worth, Musial led the league in WAR 4 times and won three MVP awards. After Musial's great 1948 season, Jackie Robinson won the MVP award in 1949.   In 1950, Musial was behind Eddie Stanky and Jackie Robinson in WAR (who actually was probably the best player in the league that year).  In 1951 and 1952, he was behind Jackie Robinson in WAR.  I think that WAR has it right- Musial was the best player in the league until Jackie Robinson arrived in 1949. 
Magpie - Monday, January 21 2013 @ 09:16 PM EST (#268187) #
I think observers of the day were very well aware of Jackie Robinson's greatness of a player, although strangely enough I don't think they saw too well what it was that actually made him so great. I don't think they were aware of what a tremendous defensive player he was, wherever you put him. They were much, much more impressed by his base stealing. And no one had a clue just how valuable all those walks drawn by Williams, Robinson, Mantle, and Musial were. Hardly anyone even knew how often they were getting on base.

One of the things the passing of such a player as Musial does is send you to YouTube to look for clips! I suppose all truly great hiiters are unique, sui generis. Williams, elegant and upright, looked like an instructional video on hitting. Ted was one of the first great scientists of hitting. Those graphics on TV that tell you a hitter's BAVG on pitches in the nine parts of the strike zone? Williams had one of those in his head. He similarly divided the hitting area into zones, could tell you exactly how well he hit pitches in each part of the zone, and structured his at bats accordingly. Williams, like most hitters, was always looking for a pitch in a particular spot.

Musial was famous while he was active for his odd-looking stance, crouched in the back corner of the box, twisted away from the pitcher. But what struck me was something he said about his approach. He said he didn't try to recognize the type of pitch being thrown, he didn't try to read its spin. His approach was based on his knowledge of the pitcher he was facing - something that would have been much easier when you only had seven teams to play against. Musial tried to read the pitch's velocity - once he knew how hard the pitcher had thrown the ball, he knew what the pitch was going to do. (Spahn once said that "once Musial timed your fastball, your infielders were in jeopardy.")

Anyway, I never heard of anything like that. I did think of Henry Aaron, who was unique in his own way, but was also looking mostly to determine the speed of what was being thrown to him. Aaron - unlike almost every other hitter ever - worried only about the breaking ball. He stood very close to the front of the batter's box, which helps you get to the breaking ball before it broke. He took a very short stride - if his stride had been any bigger he'd have stepped right out of the box - and didn't even seem to swing very hard at all. Aaron is the only hitter I've ever heard of who always looked for the breaking ball rather than the fastball. Almost all hitters do it the other way around - look for the fastball, adjust for the breaking ball.

Well, most hitters can't have Aaron's supreme confidence in his ability to hit any fastball, whether he's looking for it or not.
Mike Green - Tuesday, January 22 2013 @ 09:26 AM EST (#268188) #
Pitching was a lot less sophisticated in the National League of the 1940s than it is now, but it always has been true that timing the fastball is one of the key elements of hitting.

Aaron's approach at the plate had a lot to do (I think) with his physical attributes.  His wrists were so strong and so quick that he could hit for power with a quick short cut.  That meant that the fastball was less of a concern for him than for most players.  Has there been something good written about George Brett's approach at the plate?  There's a Charley Lau book and a biography, which I have never seen in the bookstore.

Dewey - Tuesday, January 22 2013 @ 12:09 PM EST (#268190) #
I think that WAR has it right- Musial was the best player in the league until Jackie Robinson arrived in 1949.

Tiny slip there, Mike, by a couple of keys.  Robinson, of course, came up in 1947.  (Yes, I know you know.  Just doing my bit to help keep the world safe from egregious error.) :)
Richard S.S. - Tuesday, January 22 2013 @ 12:32 PM EST (#268193) #
Looking for a book? www.abebooks.com or www.amazon.ca or .com
Mike Green - Tuesday, January 22 2013 @ 02:25 PM EST (#268207) #
Dewey, I meant "arrived" not in the physical sense of being called up from Montreal but in the sense of his full arrival in MLB. Stan Musial was called up in 1941, but arrived in 1943. 
Dewey - Tuesday, January 22 2013 @ 03:44 PM EST (#268224) #
O.K., Mike.  Got it.  I should have known.  Still . . . eternal vigilance and all.
Magpie - Tuesday, January 22 2013 @ 07:25 PM EST (#268235) #
His wrists were so strong

Aaron actually batted cross-handed until after he turned pro. It's how he learned to hit, and he was eventually persuaded to stop it. But just try it - hitting right-handed, but with your right hand at the end of the bat and your left hand above it. You need wrists and forearms like a superhero to produce any decent swing at all.
Magpie - Tuesday, January 22 2013 @ 07:40 PM EST (#268236) #
Has there been something good written about George Brett's approach at the plate?

I remember Brett quite clearly, but whenever I try to decribe it people think I'm talking about Garth Iorg. I suppose Garth did use an exaggerated version of some of Brett's methods.

I've never seen the Lau book either, but I remember he talked a lot about his ideas with Boswell back in the 80s. I remember that Aaron was one of his starting points - Aaron often finished up with his weight completely on his front foot, back leg almost off the ground, and top hand coming off the bat. (So did Clemente, now that I think of it.) Lau said he figured he was bigger and stronger than those guys. How did they have so much more pop? I'll see if I can find it.
Chuck - Tuesday, January 22 2013 @ 09:20 PM EST (#268241) #

Aaron actually batted cross-handed until after he turned pro.

Did Tony Oliva not do this at the major league level? Or perhaps he, too, merely grew up doing it.

Not sure why anyone would do it. It feels awkward and unnatural as hell. That said, I have seen some people brand new to baseball instinctually try swinging that way. It must just feel right to some people. A chacun son goŻt.

MatO - Wednesday, January 23 2013 @ 10:32 AM EST (#268253) #
I've seen a golfer recently who plays in golf's minor leagues actually swing that way.  He was pretty good too.
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