The news of Stan Musial‘s passing, on the same day fellow Hall of Famer Earl Weaver also passed away, didn’t bring any great sadness to me. Granted, I was born five years after Musial ended his brilliant 22-year career with the St. Louis Cardinals. I imagine my father must have been a big Musial fan, though, and it’s fair to say all Cardinals fans — whether they saw Musial play or not — are saddened by this news.
We probably won’t see another player like Musial ever again. All those years spent with the same organization? It simply wouldn’t happen in today’s game.
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I’m not sure if Musial’s 21 straight seasons with double-digit home run production is a record or not, but there can’t be too many others who ever did that.
In taking a quick look at his career stats, this one nearly jumped off the screen at me: In 1948, which was probably the finest statistical season he had, he hit 39 home runs and stuck out just 31 times. Today’s sluggers can rack up more strikeouts in a month than Musial did in nearly 700 plate appearances that season. I don’t have the words to describe what a phenomenal feat that was.
The 3,000th hit of Musial’s career came at Wrigley Field in 1958. Musial went into the game at 2,999 hits and was poised to become the first player in 16 years to reach 3,000 for his career. He was on the bench as a pinch-hitter to preserve his chance at reaching the milestone at home, but when his manager called his number that day, Musial delivered an RBI double off of Moe Drabowski.
What followed next is hard for me to fathom. As the Cardinals took the train south from Chicago to St. Louis, fans lined up along the tracks, hoping to catch a glimpse of the great Stan Musial. The train stopped at Springfield, where Musial signed autographs and addressed the assembled crowd. If my father, who would have been 11 years old at the time, was not among that crowd, I would be stunned. When the train finally arrived in St. Louis, late on a Tuesday night, Musial declared there was no school the next day. I doubt anyone questioned it, either.
So, now my hat is off to a great player; probably one of the very best who ever lived. The Stan Musial memorials will be numerous and eloquent, and all will be greatly deserved.