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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Voices
Ukip leader Nigel Farage arrives at the Rochester by-election count
voicesIs it any wonder that Thornberry, Miliband, and Cameron have no idea about ordinary everyday life?
Sport
sportComment: Win or lose Hamilton represents the best of Britain
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Arsene Wenger reacts during Arsenal's 2-1 defeat to Swansea
footballMan United and Arsenal meet on Saturday with both clubs this time languishing outside the top four
News
i100BBC political editor Nick Robinson had a lot of explaining to do
Life and Style
Nappies could have advice on them to encourage mothers and fathers to talk to their babies more often
newsTalking to babies can improve their language and vocabulary skills
Sport
Tony Bellew holds two inflatable plastic sheep at the weigh-in for his rematch with Nathan Cleverly
boxingGrudge match takes place on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson at PS1
arts + ents
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Female Support Workers / Carers - From £8.00 per hour

£8 - £12 per hour: Recruitment Genius: To assist a young family with the care ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Executive is required...

Argyll Scott International: Commercial Finance Manager

£55000 - £70000 per annum: Argyll Scott International: My client, a world lead...

Argyll Scott International: Commercial Finance Manager

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: My client, a world leading services pr...

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines