The Greatest Cardinal Of All
Stan Musial, Braves Field in Boston. 1942
I never had the chance to meet Stan Musial, but like all Cardinal fans, I got to know The Man.
Former Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa frequently talks about “playing the game the right way.” Musial did that—on and off the field.
On field, he played hard, smart aggressive baseball. That was already a franchise trademark when Musial first arrived in St. Louis late in the 1941 season. Before coming to the majors, he put in a tremendous amount of work to build up a throwing arm injured as a minor league pitcher. His arm was never the same after that injury, but it was more than adequate for playing the outfield and first base for 22 years.
As a hitter, few others have ever been on Musial’s level. He hit .331 over 12-thousand plus at bats. The list of hitters who have matched that is very short. Musial teammate and long time Cardinal broadcaster Mike Shannon expressed wonder early in his career over how the marks from the baseball on Musial’s bats were always on the sweet spot.
That’s very unusual.
For those of you who play slow pitch softball, take a look at where the ball marks are on your bat. All over the place. Right? And it’s relatively easy to make good contact most of the time in that game. Then, consider Shannon’s observation about where the marks were on Musial’s bats.
From the time I became aware of Musial in the late 1960’s he was retired as an active player. He remained as a face and voice of the franchise. He was available as a resource for Cardinal ballplayers until the end.
I’ve heard dozens of stories of how gracious and accommodating Musial was for autograph seekers over the years.
That personal contact makes--and keeps baseball fans. Not everyone handles that situation well. Everyone has a bad days—ballplayers included—and they can become a bit testy every now and then. I suspect that Musial had his off moments somewhere, but those were by all accounts, very isolated incidents.
Cardinal Nation is better place because of Stan Musial.