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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Stan Musial remembered fondly by fans, players

stan musialBaseball Hall of Famer and lifetime St. Louis Cardinal Stan Musial died on Saturday at the age of 92. There has been an outpour of tributes for the legend, which is a testament to his accomplishments and character.

I wasn’t born until 20 years after Stan the Man’s career ended, so I obviously never saw him play. But what I do know is that based on his statistics, Musial is far too frequently overlooked when it comes to discussions about the best players of all time.

Musial broke into the big leagues as a 20-year-old in 1941. He hit .426 in 47 at-bats, and that was a premonition of what was to come. Musial went on to win seven batting titles — including one at age 36 — and he finished with a lifetime .331 average. His bat control and strikeout-to-walk ratio is among the best of all time. He walked over 100 times three seasons, yet he never struck out more than 46 times.

Musial was a three-time MVP and 24-time All-Star over his 22-year career (there were multiple All-Star Games a few years). He is fourth all time in career hits with 3,630, and the best part is he recorded exactly half at home, and half on the road. Musial led the league in offensive categories numerous times. Let’s count them down:

    - Doubles 8 times
    – Batting average 7 times
    – OPS 7 times
    – OBP 6 times
    – Slugging 6 times
    – Total bases 6 times
    – Runs 5 times
    – Hits 5 times
    – Triples 5 times

Musial was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969 after receiving 93.2 percent of the votes. He had a spectacular peak, and he also had longevity.

Musial led the Cardinals to the World Series four straight seasons (he missed 1945 to serve in the military during World War II), three of which they won. He led the league in WAR three of those seasons.

For as much as we talk about his offense Musial actually was a pitcher when he began his career and didn’t switch to the outfield until injuring his arm. According to CBS’ Eye on Baseball, Musial went 18-5 with a 2.62 ERA as a 19-year-old minor-league pitcher.

The story of Musial isn’t complete if you stop it after listing his unreal accomplishments on the field. According to most people who tell it, he also had Hall of Fame character.

“Stan Musial is the nicest man I ever met in baseball.” Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson said of his teammate. “And, to be honest, I can’t relate to that. I never knew that nice and baseball went together.”

“It is a very sad day for me,” Willie Mays told ESPN’s Willie Weinbaum of Outside The Lines at the Baseball Writers’ Association of America dinner in New York. “I knew Stan very well. He used to take care of me at All-Star games, 24 of them. He was a true gentleman who understood the race thing and did all he could. Again, a true gentleman on and off the field — I never heard anybody say a bad word about him, ever.”

Ozzie Smith shared his thoughts on Musial over Twitter:

Even the current players appreciated Musial. Albert Pujols, another Cardinals legend, hardly ever tweets. He’s only sent 28 in about two years. But he made sure to honor Musial on Saturday:

And there was this from Stephen Strasburg:

Current Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday shared similar honors:

Multiple fans showed up at the Musial statue outside Busch Stadium in St. Louis to pay their respects. Many left items at the statue Saturday:

To truly get a good feeling about who Stan Musial was, I encourage you to read a few stories by Joe Posnanski. The August 2, 2010 Sports Illustrated cover story Posnanski wrote on Musial is outstanding. We also recommend the Musial Redux Posnanski posted on his blog in November.

We’ll also pass along links to two good photo galleries of Musial — one from Time, and the other from CBS Sports.



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