Stan Musial: Baseball player considered one of the best in history


On a late summer's day in San Francisco in 1962, a modest crowd gathered to watch the visiting St Louis Cardinals baseball team do battle with the hometown San Francisco Giants. The Cardinals were not strong that year, while the Giants were challenging for the National League divisional baseball championship. Still, the Cardinals were always interesting to watch because of the presence on the team of their aging superstar, Stan Musial, known down the years to anybody exposed to the sport as "Stan the Man".

Although he was 41 and in his 21st season, long past normal retirement, he did not disappoint, stroking a single base hit to right field his first time at bat, repeating the effort in the third inning, and so on until the end of what amounted to a tutorial. His accomplishment that day was five hits in five times at bat – five-for-five in baseball parlance. Opposing players on the Giants bench applauded respectfully.

This is an unusual accomplishment, especially to one in his forties, but when watching Musial play, even in his later years, nothing was surprising. One felt one was in the presence of quiet perfection, like a brilliant snooker player, or a baseline tennis player hitting the corners of the court. Musial was also the epitome of the American dream, genial, friendly, modest and always ready to sign autographs for his supporters.

His father was born in Poland and his mother in Czechoslovakia in the days of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Like countless immigrants they took their chances in the US, settling in the mining and steelmaking region of Donora, Pennsylvania. In Musial's early days – he first struck bat against ball for the Cardinals in 1941 – much of baseball was populated by the progeny of immigrant stock, notably Italians and Poles. It was not unusual to see a baseball line-up in the mid-century peppered with such names as Kluszewski, Lopata, Jablonski, Yasztrzemski, Narleski and Dropo.

The most durable turned out to be Musial, remembered for his unusual corkscrew stance when standing at bat, his graceful base-running, his ability to stretch a single-base hit into a double and a double into a triple – akin to watching a cricket batsman calmly reaching the boundaries with each swing and occasionally poking one into the seats for good measure. It was said that, with his bat, he was capable of plucking a well-thrown pitch out of a backstop's glove and lashing it to the off-field. He was one of the few batters capable of watching the trajectory of a thrown ball every inch of the way, from pitcher's hand to catcher's glove.

He was not known as a home-run hitter, though in the early 1950s he lashed five balls out of the stadium in one day. In a career which ran from 1941 to 1963 he struck 475 home runs, 177 three-base hits, 725 doubles and a total of 3,630 hits overall. Musial won three divisional most valuable player awards and seven divisional batting titles, the latter based on percentage of hits per time at bat.

In this last category, Musial was formidable, achieving a high career batting average of .331, that is 331 hits per 1,000 at-bats, This far exceeded his two great contemporaries, Joe Dimaggio of the New York Yankees and Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox.

Both men were deemed to be harder hitters but Musial had the reputation for consistency, especially in the late innings. In a sport renowned for its statistics, one numerologist found that Musial batted .336 while playing in St Louis and .326 while playing on enemy turf. He counted 1,815 hits equally at home and on the road. One sportswriter quipped that in his long career Musial had not improved at all – scoring two hits in his first game and two hits in his last one. In 1967 he was lured from retirement to run the Cardinals as general manager. The team recorded 101 victories and went on to win the World Series, at which point Musial resumed the quiet life.

Stanislaw Franciszek Musial, baseball player: born Donora, Pennsylvania 21 November 1920; married 1940 Lilian Labash (died 2012; one son, three daughters); died Ladue, Missouri 19 January 2013.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London