Sunday, June 05, 2011

He was Stan “The Man”

Stan “The Man” Musial starred for the St. Louis Cardinals for 22 seasons and was the first National League player to win three Most Valuable Player Awards.

Stanley Frank Musial was born in 1920 in Donora, western Pennsylvania, an area that produced many great athletes. When Musial was a youngster he was the batboy for a local team until they gave him the opportunity to pitch and he rang up 13 Ks in six innings. When he was just 18 years old in 1938, he went to see the Pirates play the Giants, and he turned to his friend and said that he thought that he could hit big-league pitching. That year, Musial joined the Cardinals organization as a pitcher.

Assigned to Daytona Beach in the Florida State League in 1940, Stan was pitching very well and hitting over .300. He played in the outfield on the days that he didn’t pitch. On one of those days he attempted a diving catch and injured his left (pitching) shoulder so badly that his career on the mound was over. The Cards, aware of his great athletic talent, moved him to the outfield full time, and he performed so well that he was in the majors by the end of 1941.

In 1942, the emerging Cardinal powerhouse won the first of three straight pennants and the World Series as the rookie Musial hit .315. In 1943, he won his first MVP Award, leading the league with a .357 batting average, 220 base hits, 48 doubles, and 20 triples. He again led the NL in hits and doubles in 1944.

Musial had good home run power, terrific doubles power, and for his time, was a spectacular triples hitter. He was terrifically fast -- one of his nicknames was “The Donora Greyhound.” He was also a fine fielder in left and later as a first baseman. Though he never led the league in homers, he won six slugging titles and in 1954 hit five round-trippers in a doubleheader.

His unique corkscrew batting stance, described by Ted Lyons as “like a kid peeking around the corner to see if the cops are coming,” resulted in seven batting crowns. He posted a lifetime .416 on-base average, scoring at least 105 runs in 11 straight seasons.
After leaving the Navy in 1945, Stan the Man came back to win his second MVP Award in 1946 as the Cards won another world championship. He led the league with a .365 batting average, 50 doubles, 20 triples, and 124 runs scored. He won his third Most Valuable Player trophy in 1948. He missed the Triple Crown by a single home run, hitting a career-high 39 to Johnny Mize’s and Ralph Kiner’s 40. He had a .376 average (the NL’s highest since Bill Terry hit .401 in 1930), 230 base hits, 46 doubles, 18 triples, 131 RBI, and 135 runs scored, all of which led the National League.

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