Stanley Frank “Stan” Musial (pronounced /’mju?zi?l/ or /’mju???l/; born November 21, 1920) is a retired Polish-American professional baseball player who was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969. Nicknamed “Stan the Man”, Musial played 22 seasons in Major League Baseball for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1941 to 1963. A 24-time All-Star selection, Musial accumulated 3,630 hits and 475 home runs during his career, was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player three times, and was a member of three World Series championship teams.
Musial was born in Donora, Pennsylvania, where he frequently played baseball in both informal and organized settings, eventually playing on the baseball team at Donora High School. Signed to a professional contract by the St. Louis Cardinals as a pitcher in 1938, Musial was converted into an outfielder prior to his Major League debut in 1941. Musial quickly established himself as a consistent and productive hitter, leading the National League in six different offensive categories in 1943 while concurrently earning his first MVP award. Noted for his unique batting stance, Musial won his second World Series in 1944, then missed the entire 1945 season while serving with the United States Navy.
Receiving his nickname of “The Man” from Brooklyn Dodger fans in 1946, Musial continued his consistent hitting and annual All-Star appearances. In 1948 Musial finished one home run shy of winning baseball’s Triple Crown. After struggling offensively in 1959, Musial utilized a personal trainer to increase his productivity until deciding to retire in 1963. At the time of his retirement, Musial held or tied for seventeen major league records, 29 National League records, and nine All-Star Game records. Musial served as the Cardinals’ General Manager in 1966 and 1967, in addition to overseeing various businesses both before and after his playing career, such as a restaurant. Musial also became noted for his harmonica playing, a talent he had learned during his playing career. Known for his modesty and sportsmanship, Musial was selected for the Major League Baseball All-Century Team in 1999.Early life
Musial was born in Donora, Pennsylvania, the fifth of Lukasz and Mary Musial’s six children (four girls and two boys). Musial’s father was a Polish immigrant who chose the name Stanislaw Frantisek Musial (pronounced /’mju?zi?l/) (Myou`-zee-uhl) for his first son, though his father always referred to Musial using the Polish nickname “Stashu”. Musial frequently played baseball with his brother Ed and other friends during his childhood, and considered Lefty Grove his favorite ballplayer. Musial also had the benefit of learning about baseball from his neighbor Joe Barbao, a former minor league pitcher. When Musial enrolled in school, his name was formally changed to “Stanley Frank.”
At the age of fifteen, Musial joined the Donora Zincs, a semi-professional team managed by Barbao. In his Zincs debut, Musial pitched six innings and struck out thirteen batters, all of them adults. Musial also played one season on the newly revived Donora High School baseball team, where one of his teammates was Buddy Griffey (father of MLB player Ken Griffey, Sr. and grandfather to MLB player Ken Griffey, Jr.) Comparing Griffey Jr. to Musial, baseball statistician Bill James wrote of Griffey Jr: “The second-best left-handed hitting, left-handed throwing outfielder ever born in Donora, Pennsylvania on November 21.”
Musial also played basketball, and was offered a scholarship in that sport by the University of Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, the St. Louis Cardinals had scouted Musial as a pitcher, and in 1937, offered him a professional contract after a workout with their Class D Penn State League affiliate. Musial’s father initially resisted the idea of his son pursuing a baseball career, but reluctantly gave his consent after lobbying by both Musial and his mother. Musial also credited his school librarian Helen Kloz for pointing out that baseball was Musial’s dream, and advising him to pursue it professionally. In what was then a common practice, the Cardinals did not file the contract with the Commissioner’s office until June 1938. This preserved Musial’s amateur eligibility, and he was still able to participate in high school sports, leading Donora High School’s basketball team to a playoff appearance. Musial then reported to the Cardinals’ Class D team in Williamson, West Virginia.
Musial’s rookie year with Williamson was a period of adjustment, both on and off the field. Musial learned more about strategy, including signs, pickoff attempts, and backing up bases. He posted a 6–6 record and a 4.66 ERA, to go along with a .258 batting average. Off the field, Musial confronted feelings of homesickness, while learning to live comfortably and independently on his $65-a-month salary. Musial finished his high school education before returning to Williamson in spring 1939. That season, his numbers improved to a 9–2 record, a 4.30 ERA, and a .352 batting average.
Musial spent the 1940 season with the Cardinals’ Class D team in Daytona Beach, Florida, where he developed a lifelong friendship with manager Dickie Kerr. Kerr helped Musial improve his pitching abilities, while also recognizing Musial’s hitting talent and playing him in the outfield between pitching starts. On May 25, 1940, Musial married fellow Donora resident Lillian “Lil” Labash in Daytona Beach, and the couple’s first child followed in August 1940. During late August, Musial suffered a shoulder injury while playing in the outfield, and later made an early exit as the starting pitcher in a 12–5 playoff game loss. In 113 games, Musial hit .311, while compiling an 18–5 pitching record that included 176 strikeouts and 145 walks.
Musial was assigned to the Class AA Columbus, Ohio team to begin 1941, though manager Burt Shotton, and Musial himself, quickly realized that the previous year’s injury had considerably weakened Musial’s arm. He was reassigned to Class C Springfield, Missouri as a fulltime outfielder, and Musial later credited manager Ollie Vanek for displaying confidence in his hitting ability. During 87 games with Springfield, Musial hit a league-leading .379, before being promoted to the International League team in Rochester, New York. Musial was noted for utilizing a unique batting stance as part of his success, a crouch in which his back was seemingly square to the pitcher. Musial continued to hit well in Rochester, including eleven hits in a three-game stretch. Musial was called up to the Cardinals for the last two weeks of the 1941 season.
1941–1945Statue of Stan Musial outside Busch Stadium
Musial made his major league debut during the second game of a doubleheader at Sportsman’s Park on September 17, 1941. The Cardinals were in the midst of a pennant race with the Brooklyn Dodgers; in twelve games, Musial collected 20 hits for a .426 batting average. Despite Musial’s late contributions, the Cardinals finished two and one-half games behind the 100-game-winning Brooklyn Dodgers.
Cardinals’ manager Billy Southworth used Musial as the left fielder to begin 1942, sometimes lifting him for a pinch-hitter against left-handed pitching. Musial was hitting .315 by late June, as the Cardinals resumed battling the Dodgers for first place in the National League. The Cardinals took sole possession of first place on September 13, but it was only when Musial caught a fly ball to end the first game of a doubleheader on September 27 that they clinched the pennant with their 105th win of the season. Finishing the season with a .315 batting average and 72 RBIs in 140 games, Musial received national publicity in September when St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports editor J. Roy Stockton named Musial as his choice for Rookie of the Year in a Saturday Evening Post article.
The Cardinals played the American League champion New York Yankees in the 1942 World Series. Representing the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 1 at Sportsman’s Park, Musial grounded out with the bases loaded to seal a Yankees victory. Musial’s first hit of the Series was an RBI single that provided the margin of victory in Game 2, allowing the Cardinals to tie the Series. Over the next three games at Yankee Stadium, Musial had three more hits as the Cardinals defeated the Yankees in the series four games to one, finishing the series with a .222 batting average and two runs scored.
Musial’s 1943 started with a brief contract holdout in spring training. Musial was selected to his first All-Star Game in 1943 and finished the regular season leading the National League in hits (220), doubles (48), triples (20), total bases (347), on-base percentage (.425), and slugging percentage (.562). This performance earned him his first National League Most Valuable Player award, finishing ahead of teammate Walker Cooper in balloting. After romping to another National League pennant by 18 games, the Cardinals again faced the Yankees in the 1943 World Series. Musial had a single as part of the Cardinals’ Game 1 loss, and scored a run in a Game 2 win. The Cardinals did not win another game in the Series, but the loser’s bonus share paid to Cardinals players ($4,321.99) still amounted to nearly two-thirds of Musial’s 1943 regular season salary.
The realities of World War II began to encroach on Musial’s baseball career in 1944, as Musial underwent a physical examination as prelude to possible service in the United States armed forces. Musial ultimately remained with the Cardinals for the entire season, posting a .347 batting average with 197 hits. The Cardinals claimed the National League pennant for the third consecutive season, and faced St. Louis’ other team, the Browns in the 1944 World Series. The Browns took a 2–1 lead, while Musial hit .250 with zero RBIs. Musial broke out in Game 4 with a two-run home run, single, double, and a walk as part of a 5–1 Cardinals win. The Cardinals went on to defeat the Browns in six games, with Musial posting a .304 batting average for the Series.
Musial entered the United States Navy on January 23, 1945, and was initially assigned to non-combat duty at the Naval Training Station in Bainbridge, Maryland. On ship repair duty at Pearl Harbor later in the year, Musial was able to play baseball every afternoon in the naval base’s eight-team league. After being granted emergency leave to see his ailing father in January 1946, Musial spent a brief time assigned to the Philadelphia Navy Yard before being honorably discharged from the Navy in March.
Rejoining the Cardinals under new manager Eddie Dyer, Musial posted a .388 batting average by the middle of May 1946. Musial also became close friends with new teammate Red Schoendienst, who had joined the Cardinals during Musial’s absence in 1945. During the season, Musial (who was under contract to the Cardinals for $13,500 in 1946) was offered a five-year, $125,000 contract, plus a $50,000 bonus to join the Mexican League. Musial declined the offer, and after manager Dyer spoke to club owner Sam Breadon, Musial was given a $5,000 raise later in 1946.
Every time Stan came up they chanted, Here comes the man!
Cardinals traveling secretary Leo Ward relates Dodger fans’ nickname for Musial to sportswriter Bob Broeg
It was also during the 1946 season that Musial acquired his nickname of the “The Man.”During the June 23 game against the Dodgers at Ebbets Field, St. Louis Post-Dispatch sportswriter Bob Broeg heard Dodger fans chanting whenever Musial came to bat, but could not understand the words. Later that day over dinner, Broeg asked Cardinals traveling secretary Leo Ward if he had understood what the Dodger fans had been chanting. Ward said that, “Every time Stan came up they chanted, ‘Here comes the man!’” “‘That man,’ you mean,” Broeg said. “No, the man,” replied Ward. Broeg mentioned this story in his Post-Dispatch column, and Musial was thereafter known as Stan “The Man.”
In June 1946, Dyer began to use Musial as a first baseman. The Cardinals finished the season tied with the Brooklyn Dodgers, prompting a three-game playoff for the pennant. Musial’s Game 1 triple and Game 2 double contributed to the Cardinals’ two-games-to-none series victory. Facing the Boston Red Sox in the 1946 World Series, Musial had six hits and four RBI, as the Cardinals won the Series four games to three. Musial won his second MVP Award, receiving 22 out of a possible 24 first-place votes, and finishing ahead of Brooklyn’s Dixie Walker.
Musial began the 1947 season by hitting .146 in April. On May 9, team doctor Dr. Robert Hyland confirmed a previous diagnosis of appendicitis, while discovering that Musial was concurrently suffering from tonsillitis. Musial received treatment for the conditions, yet did not have either the appendix or tonsils surgically removed until after the conclusion of the 1947 season. Despite his health woes, Musial finished the year with a batting average of .312.
Fully recovered from his previous ailments, Musial recorded his 1,000th career hit on April 25 of the 1948 season. After a May 7 St. Louis Globe-Democrat article criticized baseball players for appearing in cigarette advertisements, Musial made a personal decision to never again appear in such ads. By June 24, Musial’s batting average was .408, prompting Brooklyn pitcher Preacher Roe to comically announce his new method for retiring Musial as: “Walk him on four pitches and pick him off first.”Given a mid-season pay raise by new Cardinals owner Robert E. Hannegan for outstanding performance, Musial hit a home run in the 1948 All-Star Game. On September 22, Musial registered five hits in a game for the fourth time in the 1948 season, tying a mark set by Ty Cobb in 1922.
He missed tying for the top in homers by one rained out home run. If it had counted, he would have won the Triple Crown that year…and in addition have been the only player of this century to lead the league in runs, hits, double, triples, and slugging percentage. What a year!
Sportswriter Bob Broeg reflects on Musial’s 1948 season, and the disallowed home run that prevented Musial from winning the Triple Crown
Musial finished 1948 leading the major leagues in batting average (.376), hits (230), doubles (46), triples (18), total bases (429), and slugging percentage (.702). Winning the NL batting title by a 43-point margin, with an on-base percentage lead of 27 points and a 138-point slugging margin—the latter being the largest gap since Rogers Hornsby’s 1925 season—Musial became the first National League player to win the N.L. MVP award for a third time. If a home run Musial hit during a rainout game had been counted in his season totals, he would have won the Triple Crown by leading the National League in batting average, home runs, and runs batted in.
Anticipating life after his baseball career, Musial began the first of several business partnerships with Julius “Biggie” Garagnani in January 1949, opening “Stan Musial & Biggie’s” restaurant. Musial approached the 1949 season with the intent to consciously try to hit more home runs, stating he had hit 39 home runs the previous season “without trying.” His new focus on hitting for power backfired, as pitchers began using the outside part of the plate to induce Musial to ground out to the first or second baseman. Musial soon stopped swinging for the fences, and regained his consistent offensive production by the end of May. Musial earned his sixth consecutive All-Star Game selection, and led the National League in hits (207) while playing in every game. However, the Cardinals finished one game behind the Dodgers’ 97 wins in the standings.
Musial began the 1950s by posting a .350 batting average before participating in the 1950 All-Star Game, where in fan balloting he was the National League’s second-leading vote getter. The longest hitting streak of Musial’s career occurred during the 1950 season, reaching 30 games before ending on July 27. With the Cardinals falling 14 games out of first place by September, manager Dyer utilized Musial at first base and all three outfield positions. New Cardinals manager Marty Marion led the team to a third place finish in 1951, while Musial was named The Sporting News Major League Player of the Year.
No man has ever been a perfect ballplayer. Stan Musial, however, is the closest to being perfect in the game today….He plays as hard when his club is away out in front of a game as he does when they’re just a run or two behind.
Ty Cobb writes about Musial in a 1952 Life magazine article
National media attention inadvertently turned to Musial a month before the 1952 season began, after Ty Cobb wrote an article regarding modern baseball players that was published in Life magazine. Cobb singled out Musial and Phil Rizzuto as the only players “…who can be mentioned in the same breath with the old-time greats….” Cobb went on to refer to Musial as “…a better player than Joe DiMaggio was in his prime.”Musial displayed his characteristic modesty in responding to Cobb’s article by saying, “Cobb is baseball’s greatest. I don’t want to contradict him, but I can’t say that I was ever as good as Joe DiMaggio.”
The only major league pitching appearance of Musial’s career occurred as a publicity stunt during the last Cardinals’ home game of the 1952 season. Cardinals manager Eddie Stanky had a reluctant Musial pitch to Frank Baumholtz, the runner-up to Musial for the best batting average in the National League that season. With Baumholtz batting right-handed for the first time in his career, Musial’s first pitch was hit so hard it ricocheted off the shin of third baseman Solly Hemus and into the left field corner. The play was ruled an error, and Musial was embarrassed enough by his complicity in the gimmick to avoid pitching again for the remainder of his career.
The Cardinals franchise was up for sale in early 1953, and Musial and Schoendienst advised their friend and fellow duck-hunter Gussie Busch to consider buying the team. Busch utilized the resources of the Anheuser-Busch company to purchase the Cardinals, keeping Musial in St. Louis by averting the possibility of the Cardinals moving to another city. The 1953 season marked Musial’s tenth All-Star selection, and the twelfth consecutive time he finished a Major League season with a batting average above .300.
Musial accomplished another historical feat on May 2, 1954, when in a doubleheader in St. Louis against the New York Giants, Musial hit three home runs in the first contest, then added two more in the second game to become the first major league player to hit five home runs in a doubleheader. In addition to his five home runs, Musial also hit a single in the first game, setting a new record of 21 total bases for a doubleheader. To date Nate Colbert is the only player besides Musial to have hit five home runs in a doubleheader, doing so in 1972 as an eight-year-old, Colbert had been in attendance to witness Musial’s feat.
The twelfth All-Star appearance of Musial’s career occurred in 1955 as a reserve, when Cincinnati’s Ted Kluszewski outpolled Musial by 150,000 votes to win the start at first base. Musial entered the game as a pinch hitter in the fourth inning, and played left field as the game entered extra innings. Leading off the bottom of the twelfth inning, Musial hit a home run to give the National League a 6–5 victory.
The 1956 season marked another milestone for Musial, when he broke Mel Ott’s N.L. record for extra-base hits on August 12. Earlier that season, Cardinals General Manager “Trader Frank” Lane began negotiations to trade Musial for Philadelphia’s Robin Roberts. When Cardinals owner Gussie Busch learned of the possible move, he made it clear that Musial was not available for any trade. Instead, Lane dealt Musial’s close friend Schoendienst to the New York Giants, ushering no immediate comment to the press from an upset Musial. On June 11, 1957, Musial tied the National League record for consecutive games played with his 822nd, a streak that began on the last day of the 1951 season. When Musial’s left arm pulled out of its joint during the August 23 game, Musial’s consecutive games played streak ended at 895. Despite ballot-stuffing by Cincinnati Reds fans, Musial also appeared in the 1957 All-Star Game held at Sportsman’s Park. Musial finished 1957 by being named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year.
“Line drive! Into left field! Hit number three thousand! A run has scored! Musial around first, on his way to second with a double. Holy Cow! He came through!”
–Harry Caray with the radio play-by-play call of Musial’s 3,000 Major League hit
Musial signed the first $100,000 contract in National League history on January 29, 1958. Approaching the 3,000 hit milestone in his major league career, Musial expressed his desire to record the hit in St. Louis. Musial ultimately recorded his 3,000th major league hit with a pinch-hit, sixth inning RBI double at Wrigley Field on May 13, 1958. The eighth major league player to reach 3,000 hits, and the first to reach the milestone with an extra-base hit, Musial was greeted at St. Louis Union Station that evening by roughly one thousand fans. Finishing the season in sixth place, the Cardinals and Musial embarked on an exhibition tour of Japan, winning 14 of 16 games against top players from the Central and Pacific Japanese Leagues.
Taking a new approach to preparation for the 1959 season, Musial was given permission to report late to spring training so that he might conserve his energy for the duration of the year. The six foot tall Musial, who had maintained a weight of around 175 pounds during his career, reported to spring training approximately ten pounds overweight and in substandard physical condition. Musial subsequently began the season with one hit in fifteen at-bats. Despite early offensive struggles, Musial single-handedly spoiled potential no-hitters on April 16 and April 19. A game-winning home run on May 7 by Musial made him the first major league player ever to have four hundred home runs and three thousand hits. Cardinals manager Solly Hemus decided to limit Musial’s playing time at various points during the season, with Musial owning a .253 batting average prior to the start of a June 21 doubleheader against Pittsburgh. Seeking more revenue for the players’ pension fund, Major League Baseball held two All-Star games for the first time during the 1959 season. Musial pinch-hit in both contests, flying out in the July 7 game, and drawing a walk in the second All-Star game held on August 3. Musial finished the 1959 season with appearances in 115 games, a .255 batting average, 37 runs, and a slugging percentage of .428.
Based on his 1959 performance, Musial requested (and was granted) a pay cut in 1960 from his previous $100,000 salary to $75,000. Eager to prove his 1959 performance was the result of improper physical conditioning, Musial enlisted the help of Walter Eberhardt, St. Louis University’s director of physical education. Finishing the 1960 and 1961 seasons with batting averages of .275 and .288 respectively, Musial continued playing despite speculation about his retirement. In 1962, Musial posted a .330 batting average, good for third in the batting race, with 19 homers and 82 RBI. As a pinch-hitter that year, Musial had 14 base hits in 19 at-bats. Along the way, he established new National League career marks for hits, RBI, and runs scored. That same year, on July 8, the 41-year-old Musial became the oldest player ever to hit three home runs in one game.Stan Musial’s number 6 was retired by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1963
The Cardinals began 1963 by winning ten of their first fifteen games, with Musial posting a .237 batting average. After setting a new Major League record for extra-base hits on May 8, Musial improved his batting average to .277 by the end of May. Making his twenty-fourth All-Star Game appearance on July 9, 1963, Musial pinch-hit in the fifth inning. Asked by general manager Bing Devine on July 26 what his future plans were, Musial decided to retire at season’s end. Musial waited until the Cardinals team picnic on August 12 to publicly announce his decision, hopeful he could retire on a winning note.
Musial became a grandfather for the first time in the early hours of September 11, 1963, and subsequently hit a home run in his first at bat later that day. After sweeping a doubleheader on September 15, the Cardinals had won 19 of their last 20 games, and were one game behind the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers then swept the Cardinals in a three game series in St. Louis, and by September 25 the Dodgers clinched the N.L. pennant. Musial’s last game on September 29, 1963, was marked by an hour-long retirement ceremony prior to the game. Speakers for the event included Harry Caray, Commissioner Ford Frick, and Cardinals owner Gussie Busch, who remarked that Musial’s uniform number “6″ would be retired by the Cardinals. During the game, Musial recorded a single in the fourth inning, and then hit a single to right field that scored teammate Curt Flood in the sixth inning. Cardinals manager Johnny Keane then utilized pinch-runner Gary Kolb in Musial’s place, bringing Musial’s major league career to an end. Just as he had recorded two base hits in his major league debut, Musial thus finished his last game with two hits as well.
At the time of his retirement Musial held or tied for seventeen major league records, 29 National League records, and nine All-Star Game records. Some of those records included Musial’s rank as the major league career leader in extra-base hits (1,377) and total bases (6,134). In 1963, Musial also held National League career marks in categories such as hits (3,630), games played (3,026), doubles (725), and RBIs (1,951). Musial also finished his career with 475 home runs despite never having led the National League in the category. Musial’s career hit total was divided in two between 1,815 hits at home and 1,815 hits on the road. Musial was also the first major league player to appear in more than 1,000 games at two different positions, registering 1,896 games in the outfield and 1,016 at first base.
All Musial represents is more than two decades of sustained excellence and complete decency as a human being.
Broadcaster Bob Costas comments about Musial
In Musial’s 3,026 major league appearances, he was never once ejected from a game. Umpire Tom Gorman said, “The bigger the guy, the less he argued. You never heard a word out of Stan Musial, Willie Mays, or Roberto Clemente. “Speaking about Musial’s quiet reputation within the sport’s history, sportscaster Bob Costas said, “He didn’t hit a homer in his last at-bat; he hit a single. He didn’t hit in 56 straight games. He married his high school sweetheart and stayed married to her… All Musial represents is more than two decades of sustained excellence and complete decency as a human being.”