Stan 'the Man' Musial, all-time baseball great, dies at 92

Stan Musial had one of the greatest careers in baseball history. Here, he hacks against the Phillies at Shibe Park in 1946. AP
Stan Musial had one of the greatest careers in baseball history. Here, he hacks against the Phillies at Shibe Park in 1946. AP
Posted: January 21, 2013

ST. LOUIS - Stan Musial, 92, the St. Louis Cardinals star with the corkscrew stance and too many batting records to fit on his Hall of Fame plaque, died Saturday.

Stan the Man was so revered in St. Louis that he has two statues outside Busch Stadium - one just wouldn't do him justice. He was one of baseball's greatest hitters, shining in the mold of Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio even without the bright lights of the big city.

Mr. Musial, a native of Donora, Pa., won seven National League batting titles, was a three-time MVP, and helped the Cardinals capture three World Series championships in the 1940s.

The Cardinals announced Mr. Musial's death in a news release. They said he died Saturday evening at his home in Ladue surrounded by family. The team said Mr. Musial's son-in-law, Dave Edmonds, informed the club of Musial's death.

"We have lost the most beloved member of the Cardinals family," team chairman William DeWitt Jr. said. "Stan Musial was the greatest player in Cardinals history and one of the best players in the history of baseball."

Mr. Musial spent his entire 22-year career with the Cardinals and made the all-star team 24 times - baseball held two All-Star Games each summer for a few seasons.

A pitcher in the low minors until he injured his arm, Mr. Musial turned to playing the outfield and first base. It was a stroke of luck for him, as he went on to hit .331 with 475 home runs before retiring in 1963.

Widely considered the greatest Cardinals player ever, the outfielder and first baseman was the first person in team history to have his number retired. Ol' No. 6 probably was the most popular, too.

Humble, scandal-free, and eager to play every day, Mr. 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.

Farmers in the field and families on the porch would tune in, as did a future president: Bill Clinton recalled doing his homework listening to Mr. Musial's exploits.

In February 2011 President Obama presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America's highest civilian honor for contributions to society.

At the ceremony, Obama said: "Stan remains to this day an icon untarnished, a beloved pillar of the community, a gentleman you'd want your kids to emulate."

Mr. 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, Mr. Musial held 55 records when he retired in 1963.

He played nearly until his 43d 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 Mr. Musial's league hit record of 3,630 some 18 years later.

Of those hits, Mr. Musial got 1,815 at home and 1,815 on the road. He also finished with 1,951 RBIs and scored 1,949 runs.

Mr. Musial made his major-league debut late in 1941, the season that Williams batted .406 for the Boston Red Sox and DiMaggio hit in a record 56 straight games for the New York Yankees.

Few could bring themselves to boo baseball's nicest superstar, not even the Brooklyn Dodgers crowds that helped give him his nickname, a sign of weary respect for his .359 batting average at Ebbets Field.

Many, many years before any sports fans yelled "You're the man!" at their favorite athletes, Stan was indeed the Man.

Mr. 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.

"I enjoyed coming to the ballpark every day, and I think we enjoyed the game," Mr. Musial said in a 1991 Associated Press interview. "We had a lot of train travel, so we had more time together. We socialized quite a bit, and we'd go out after ball games."

He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1969, his first year of eligibility.

"It was, you know, a dream come true," Mr. Musial once said. "I always wanted to be a ballplayer."

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