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Stan Musial - Baseball Ambassador

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In 1949, Musial opened his own restaurant in St. Louis. In a few years he had become one of the city's most prominent figures, and he would remain an outstanding citizen long after his playing career ended. Generally quiet, as a player he avoided controversy and stayed out of the public eye. He never was thrown out of a game. But when the Cardinals tried to take advantage of his easygoing nature to keep down his salary, he fought back by staging several holdouts during spring training. In those days, with players bound by the reserve clause which tied them to teams for life, it was the only weapon players had to leverage their salaries.

In the era after World War II, many "franchise" players stayed with teams for their entire careers. Many of these stalwarts played away from the media spotlight, in the working class towns of middle America. Besides Musial, they included Al Kaline of the Detroit Tigers, Ernie Banks of the Chicago Cubs, and Roberto Clemente of the Pittsburgh Pirates. None of these steady performers achieved the status of nationally known superstars. If Musial had played in New York, he would have been known widely as the greatest hitter of his generation. As it was, he was content to let his play speak for itself.

Career Statistics

Yr Team AVG GP AB R H HR RBI BB SO SB E
STL: St. Louis Cardinals.
1941 STL .426 12 47 8 20 1 7 2 1 1 0
1942 STL .315 140 467 87 147 10 72 62 25 6 5
1943 STL .357 157 617 108 220 13 81 72 18 9 7
1944 STL .347 146 568 112 197 12 94 90 28 7 5
1946 STL .365 156 624 124 228 16 103 73 31 7 15
1947 STL .312 149 587 113 183 19 95 80 24 4 8
1948 STL .376 155 611 135 230 39 131 79 34 7 7
1949 STL .338 157 612 128 207 36 123 107 38 3 3
1950 STL .346 146 555 105 192 28 109 87 36 5 8
1951 STL .355 152 578 124 205 32 108 98 40 4 10
1952 STL .336 154 578 105 194 21 91 96 29 7 5
1953 STL .337 157 593 127 200 30 113 105 32 3 5
1954 STL .330 153 591 120 195 35 126 103 39 1 5
1955 STL .319 154 562 97 179 33 108 80 39 5 9
1956 STL .310 156 594 87 184 27 109 75 39 2 8
1957 STL .351 134 502 82 176 29 102 66 34 1 10
1958 STL .337 135 472 64 159 17 62 72 26 0 13
1959 STL .255 115 341 37 87 14 44 60 25 0 7
1960 STL .275 116 331 49 91 17 63 41 34 1 3
1961 STL .288 123 372 46 107 15 70 52 35 0 1
1962 STL .330 135 433 57 143 19 82 64 46 3 4
1963 STL .255 124 337 34 86 12 58 35 43 2 4
TOTAL .331 3026 10972 1949 3630 475 1951 1599 696 78 142

And his numbers speak volumes. Besides his seven batting titles, Musial led the National League in slugging percentage six times, in on-base percentage six times, in hits six times, in doubles eight times, in triples five times, in runs five times, in RBIs twice, and in walks once. For sixteen consecutive seasons, from 1942 through 1958, he batted over .300 (not including his short stint in 1941)—only Ty Cobb had a longer streak of.300 batting averages.

After failing to hit .300 in 1959, Musial considered retiring. The Cardinals had a new young first baseman, Bill White. But Musial's bat was still potent. "I was having too much fun hitting to want to quit," Musial recalled in his autobiography. Instead, he switched back to left field and played four more seasons, though sitting out frequently because of age and injuries. At age 41, in 1962, he hit .330 with nineteen home runs and eighty-two RBIs. Following the 1963 season, he hung up his spikes after twenty-two years with St. Louis. On the last day of the season, he was honored in pre-game ceremonies and gave a speech, then had two hits in the game.

In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson named Musial the director of the National Council on Physical Fitness. In 1967, Musial served one season as general manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. With his friend Red Schoendienst as manager, the Cardinals won the National League championship and beat the Boston Red Sox in the World Series.

In 1969, Musial was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. Like Williams, Musial was a consummate hitter who lacked the speed and defensive abilities to be considered as one of the greatest all-round players in baseball history. But it could be argued that Musial was a more accomplished pure hitter than Williams, who is usually considered the game's best hitter. In almost every offensive category, Musial has much higher all-time totals than Williams. Musial is fourth all-time in career hits with 3,630, eighth in runs scored with 1,949 (Williams had 1,798), third in doubles with 725, fifth in RBIs (1,951), second in total bases (6,134), second in extra-base hits (1,377), sixth in games played (3,026), ninth in at-bats (10,972), and 11th in walks (1,599). Musial is tied for 19th in triples with 177, but he is first in triples among players who played after World War II. And since Musial stopped playing, only Tony Gwynn retired with a higher career batting average than Musial's .331.

After his retirement from playing, Musial became one of baseball's greatest ambassadors. He appeared frequently at the annual Hall of Fame induction ceremonies and at other important baseball events. When Busch Stadium opened, local baseball writers held a testimonial dinner for Musial and raised $40,000 to erect a statue of him outside the ballpark. The statue says: "Here stands baseball's perfect warrior. Here stands baseball's perfect knight."

Musial continued to express gratitude for his long career. "I was a poor boy who struck it rich in many ways through the wonders of baseball," he said in his autobiography. "I believe baseball was a great game, is a great game, and will be a great game."

Man to Man

"I could always hit. I learned to hit with a broomstick and a ball of tape and I could always get that bat on the ball. One great asset for me (as a youngster) was we had a small right field with a hill over it, and we had only one ball and our left field had a hillside, and I learned how to hit to the opposite field by accident. That's a great asset, to be able to hit that ball to the opposite field. It came natural to me, and early in my years I hit to the opposite field. I waited a little longer and hit the ball to left field, so I guess I was a natural hitter."

Source: Stan Musial, in an interview with The Sporting News. (July 28, 1997): 8.

Where Is He Now?

Stan Musial has remained one of St. Louis's civic treasures. In his early 80s, though retired from active management of his famous restaurant, Stan Musial and Biggie's, Musial continues to make frequent visits there. Visiting sports stars and other celebrities often will make a pilgrimage there, and Musial holds court. As he's done all his life, he freely gives autographs and pauses to talk with anyone who wishes to greet him.

Musial spends most of his time with his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. He also has countless friends in St. Louis and still frequently donates his time to charities and civic events, such as the Stan Musial Golf Classic, which benefits a local helping organization, Covenant House. Musial remains active at Major League Baseball functions and with the St. Louis Cardinals. He frequently attends the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Cooperstown, New York, and is often present at Cardinals home games.

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