RIP Stan Musial, 1920-2013

20 01 2013

Wow, you’d never expect to have two baseball greats die on the same day.

Sparky Anderson died in late 2010, which was shortly after I’d really gotten started on this blog.  Since then, I’ve done a post each time a Hall of Famer passed away.  Unfortunately, this is my 8th such post – Sparky, Santo, Feller, Snider, Killebrew, Carter, Weaver and now Stan Musial.

Those are some great players, but Musial is up there in the pantheon of true greats.  Musial was the longest-tenured Hall of Famer still alive – inducted in 1969.  He was arguably the greatest living player, certainly one of the greatest 4 living players before he died yesterday (Mays, Bonds, Aaron would be the others).  Musial was special in another kind of way – he played for the same franchise in the same city.  Of the players generally considered as one of the 10 greatest in the history of the game, only Musial and Williams can claim that.  Like Aaron, he is universally revered by baseball fans.  Yesterday, Mays was asked about his death, and he pointed out that Musial always saw past race and he appreciated that.  By all accounts, Musial was an even better human being than a baseball player – he truly was “the Man”.

Some interesting tidbits about Musial:

  • He was born on November 21, 1920, in Donora, Pennsylvania.  Exactly 49 years to the day, another of baseball’s all-time greats was born on November 21, 1969 – Ken Griffey, Jr.
  • At the beginning of his career, Musial batted against New York Giant HOF pitcher Carl Hubbell, who once struck out Lou Gehrig (in the 1934 All-Star game).  At the end of his career, he faced off against San Francisco Giant HOF pitcher Gaylord Perry – who would later go on to strike out Cal Ripken Jr. (in 1982).
  • The last hit of his career was a single by a Reds’ rookie, first baseman Pete Rose – who would break Musial’s National League hits record nearly 2 decades later.
  • I’m pretty sure he’s the only player to play against both Jimmie Foxx and Pete Rose.
  • His 3 MVPs are eclipsed only by Bonds, and he actually finished 2nd in the MVP voting another 4 times – those 7 top 2 finishes is also only eclipsed by Bonds.  And his career MVP voting share is also behind just Bonds.
  • He finished with 3,630 hits – 1,815 on the road, 1,815 at home.
  • He was almost as symmetrical with scoring runs (1,949) and knocking them in (1,951).
  • He led the league in every hitting category but one – home runs.  His 39 homers in 1948 were one behind Ralph Kiner and Johnny Mize, which put him as close as you can get to a triple crown without winning it.
  • He is tied with Mays for the second-most All-Star appearances all-time, with 24 (one behind Aaron).
  • His 7 NL batting titles are one behind Tony Gwynn and Honus Wagner for the most in league history.
  • Musial, Williams and Johnny Callison are the only 3 players to hit a walk-off home run in the All-Star game.
  • He had 7 Hall of Fame teammates: Johnny Mize, Enos Slaughter, Red Schoendienst, Ducky Medwick, Hoyt Wilhelm, Bob Gibson, and manager Billy Southworth.
  • He missed by 5 years or less being Cardinal teammates with 8 other Hall of Famers – Lou Brock (1964), Steve Carlton (1965), and Orlando Cepeda (1966), Dizzy Dean (1937), Leo Durocher (1937), Frankie Frisch (1938), Walter Alston (1936), Jesse Haines (1937),

Below is Stan’s last Topps card – from 1963.  I think he may have been in the 1964 set in a subtle way – on the Cardinals team checklist card (though I don’t have a copy, so I can’t verify).

1963 Topps Stan Musial

I also think his Gypsy Queen card from last year’s set is one of the best in the whole set:

2012 Gypsy Queen 2nd best card Musial


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