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Stan Musial - Stan The Man

home line career field

Musial acquired the nickname "Stan the Man" from Brooklyn Dodgers fans who would groan when he came up to bat with runners on base, yelling: "Oh no! Here comes that man again." Because he concentrated so much and was such an apt learner, "Stan the Man" was very difficult for pitchers to figure out. He rarely was fooled on a pitch. "If I freed my mind of all distracting thoughts, I could tell what a pitch was going to be when it got about halfway to the plate," Musial wrote in his autobiography. He told the Sporting News: "I had a sixth sense. I don't know what else you call it, but it never deceived me." Musial feasted on fastballs, and always seemed to know when one was coming. But early in his career pitchers started throwing him breaking pitches, and he learned how to hit them too.

Musial didn't look like a fence-busting hitter. He dug his left foot into the back line of the batter's box and crouched down in a drastically closed stance. He held his bat back until the last possible moment, then unwound like a corkscrew and quickly slashed at the ball with the thin-handled, lightweight bats he preferred to use (he would scrape the bats to make the handles even thinner). He punched many of his hits to the opposite field, but he was impossible to defense. He might deliver a blooping single to any field, a screaming line drive down either foul line or up the gap for a double or triple, or a wicked liner at an infielder—and most opposing infielders quivered when he came to bat. He was a very tough man to strike out; he never had more than forty strikeouts in a season and for his career averaged one strikeout for every 158 at-bats. Although he was not primarily a power hitter, he ended up with 475 career home runs because his prodigious line drives often cleared the fences. He feasted on all types of pitching and always relaxed mentally and physically before entering the batter's box. Disciplined and consistent, Musial rarely fell into slumps and was reliably productive.

In 1947, Musial "slipped" to a .312 average—mostly because he suffered from appendicitis and put off surgery until the season's end—and spent the entire year playing first base. It was the only time during his first twelve full seasons that he failed to lead the league in any offensive category. In 1948, Musial switched back to left field and had his best season. He led the league with 230 hits, forty-six doubles, eighteen triples, 135 runs, 131 runs batted in, a .376 batting average, .450 on-base percentage, and .702 slugging percentage. These were all his career best marks except for the doubles and triples. It was one of the most dominating seasons in baseball history, and it included thirty-nine home runs—one short of league leader Johnny Mize. Musial had a home run taken away from him when one of his blasts hit a speaker at Philadelphia's Shibe Park, bounced back on the field, and was ruled a double. Another home run came in a game that was rained out before completion, so it also did not count. In recognition of his achievements, Musial was named the league's MVP for the third time.

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