Stanley Frank Musial was born in Donora, Pa., on Nov. 21, 1920, son of a Polish immigrant steelworker. He began his minor league career straight out of high school, in June 1938, and soon after married Musial married high school sweetheart Lillian Labash, with whom he four children.
Musial fell in 1940 while trying to make a tough catch and hurt his left arm, damaging his pitching prospects. Encouraged by minor league manager Dickie Kerr to try playing outfield, he did so well in 1941 that the Cardinals moved him up to the majors in mid-September — and he racked up a .426 average during the final weeks of the season.
Musial made his major league debut late in 1941, the season that Ted Williams batted .406 for the Boston Red Sox and Joe DiMaggio hit in a record 56 straight games for the New York Yankees.
In his best year, 1948, he had four five-hit games, hit 39 home runs and batted .376, best in the National League. He also led his league that year in runs scored (135), hits (230), total bases (429), doubles (46), and triples (18).
In 1954, he set a major league record with five home runs in a doubleheader against the New York Giants. He hit .300 or better in 16 consecutive seasons and hit a record home runs in All-Star play, including a 12th-inning, game-winning shot in 1955.
In 1962, at age 41, he batted .330 and hit 19 home runs. In his final game, on Sept. 29, 1963, he had two hits at Busch Stadium against the Reds and the Cardinals retired his uniform number.
He was active in business, too. He served as a director of the St. Louis-based Southwest Bank. He was co-owner of a popular St. Louis steakhouse, “Stan Musial and Biggie’s,” and a bowling alley with former teammate Joe Garagiola (leading to a bitter fallout that eventually got resolved). He later ran Stan the Man Inc., specializing in merchandise he autographed. Musial was known for handing out folded $1 bills.
A prominent Polish-American, he was a charter member of the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame and was warmly regarded by his ancestral country, which in 2000 dedicated Stan Musial Stadium in Kutno, Poland. Musial also was involved politically, campaigning for John F. Kennedy in 1960 and serving as Lyndon Johnson’s director of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness.
Ever ready, he performed the national anthem on his harmonica at least one opening day at Busch Stadium. Musial learned his music during overnight train trips in the 1940s and in the 1990s was a member of a trio known as “Geriatric Jazz” and collaborated on a harmonica instructional book.
Musial gave the press little to write about beyond his grace and greatness on the field. He didn’t date movie stars, spike opponents or chew out reporters or umpires.
In 1958, he reached the 3,000-hit level and became the NL’s first $100,000-a-year player. Years earlier, he had turned down a huge offer to join the short-lived Mexican League. He never showed resentment over the multimillion dollar salaries of modern players. He thought they had more fun in his days.
The only year Musial missed with the Cardinals was 1945, when he was in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He was based in Pearl Harbor, assigned to a unit that helped with ship repair.
Before and after his military service, he was a star hitter.
Musial was the NL MVP in 1943, 1946 and 1948, and was runner-up four other years. He enjoyed a career remarkably free of slumps, controversies or rivalries.
The Cardinals were dominant early in Musial’s career. They beat DiMaggio and the Yankees in the 1942 World Series, lost to the Yankees the next year and defeated the St. Louis Browns in 1944. In 1946, the Cardinals beat Williams and the visiting Red Sox in Game 7 at Sportsman’s Park.
Musial, mostly a left fielder then, starred with Terry Moore in center and Slaughter, another future Hall of Famer, in right, making up one of baseball’s greatest outfields. Later on, Musial would switch between the outfield and first base.
Musial never played on another pennant winner after 1946. Yet even after the likes of Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron came to the majors, Musial remained among baseball’s best.
Musial never struck out 50 times in a season. He led the NL in most every hitting category for at least one year, except homers. He hit a career-high 39 home runs in 1948, falling one short of winning the Triple Crown.
In all, Musial held 55 records when he retired in 1963. Fittingly, the accolades on his his bronze Hall plaque start off with this fact, rather than flowery prose: “Holds many National League records …”
He played nearly until 43rd birthday, adding to his totals. He got a hit with his final swing, sending an RBI single past Cincinnati’s rookie second baseman — that was Pete Rose, who would break Musial’s league hit record of 3,630 some 18 years later.
Of those hits, Musial got exactly 1,815 at home and exactly 1,815 on the road. He also finished with 1,951 RBIs and scored 1,949 runs.
After retiring as a player, Musial served for years in the Cardinals’ front office, including as general manager in 1967, when the Cardinals won the World Series.
In the 1970s, Musial occasionally played in Old-Timers’ Day games and could still line the ball to the wall. He was a fixture for decades at the Cooperstown induction ceremonies and also was a member of the Hall’s Veterans Committee. Often, after the Vets panel had voted, he’d pull out a harmonica conveniently located in his jacket pocket and lead the other members in a rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
Into the 2000s, Musial would spend time with the Cardinals at spring training, thrilling veterans and rookies alike with his stories.
Brooklynites had another reason to think well of Musial: Unlike Enos Slaughter and other Cardinal teammates, he was supportive when the Dodgers’ Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier in 1947. Bob Gibson, who started out with the Cardinals in the late 1950s, would recall how Musial had helped established a warm atmosphere between blacks and whites on the team.
Humble, scandal-free, and eager to play every day, Musial struck a chord with fans throughout the Midwest and beyond. For much of his career, St. Louis was the most western outpost in the majors, and the Cardinals’ vast radio network spread word about him in all directions.
Stan Musial, one of baseball’s greatest hitters and a Hall of Famer with the St. Louis Cardinals for more than two decades, died Saturday. He was 92.
Stan the Man won seven National League batting titles, was a three-time MVP and helped the Cardinals capture three World Series championships in the 1940s.
W wieku 92 lat w Laude w stanie Missouri zmarł legendarny amerykański baseballista polskiego pochodzenia Stan Musial – poinformował w niedzielę klub Saint Louis Cardinals, którego barwy reprezentował przez 22 lata.
Z zespołem z Saint Louis był związany przez całą karierę, wywalczył z nim siedmiokrotnie tytuł mistrzowski. Trzy razy był wybierany najlepszym zawodnikiem ligi. Uznano go za gracza dekady 1946-1956. Wystąpił w 24 Meczach Gwiazd. W 1968 roku przed stadionem Cardinals stanął jego pomnik.
Musial był honorowym obywatelem Kutna, skąd pochodził jego ojciec Łukasz. Słynny baseballista nosił przydomek “Stan the Man”.