Cardinals Hall of Famer Stan Musial dies at age 92

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 20, 2013 at 12:38 pm •  Published: January 20, 2013
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"I knew Stan very well," Mays said. "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."

Like DiMaggio and Williams, Musial embodied a time when the greats stayed with one team. He joined the Cardinals during the last remnants of the Gas House Gang and stayed in St. Louis until Gibson and Curt Flood ushered in a new era of greatness.

"Sad to hear about Stan the Man, it's an honor to wear the same uniform," current Cardinals slugger Matt Holliday tweeted.

The only year Musial missed with the Cardinals was 1945, when he was in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He was based in Pearl Harbor, assigned to a unit that helped with ship repair.

Before and after his military service, he was a star hitter.

"St. Louis has been lucky to have a player like Stan Musial. He will always be Mr. Baseball," Hall of Fame Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog said. "It's a very big loss. You can go around the world and you'll never find a better human being than Stan Musial."

Musial was the NL MVP in 1943, 1946 and 1948, and was runner-up four other years. He enjoyed a career remarkably free of slumps, controversies or rivalries.

"Stan was a favorite in Cooperstown, from his harmonica rendition of 'Take Me Out to the Ball Game' during Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies, to the reverence he commanded among other Hall of Fame members and all fans of the game. More than just a baseball hero, Stan was an American icon and we will very much miss him in Cooperstown," Hall of Fame chairman Jane Forbes Clark said.

The Cardinals were dominant early in Musial's career. They beat DiMaggio and the Yankees in the 1942 World Series, lost to the Yankees the next year and defeated the St. Louis Browns in 1944. In 1946, the Cardinals beat Williams and the visiting Red Sox in Game 7 at Sportsman's Park.

Musial, mostly a left fielder then, starred with Terry Moore in center and Slaughter, another future Hall of Famer, in right, making up one of baseball's greatest outfields. Later on, Musial would switch between the outfield and first base.

Musial never played on another pennant winner after 1946. Yet even after the likes of Mays, Mickey Mantle and Hank Aaron came to the majors, Musial remained among baseball's best.

The original Musial statue outside the new Busch Stadium is a popular meeting place before games and carries this inscription: "Here stands baseball's perfect warrior. Here stands baseball's perfect knight."

"Everybody's a Musial fan," Herzog once said.

Musial gave the press little to write about beyond his grace and greatness on the field. He didn't date movie stars, spike opponents or chew out reporters or umpires.

In 1958, he reached the 3,000-hit level and became the NL's first $100,000-a-year player. Years earlier, he had turned down a huge offer to join the short-lived Mexican League. He never showed resentment over the multimillion dollar salaries of modern players. He thought they had more fun in his days.

"I enjoyed coming to the ballpark every day and I think we enjoyed the game," Musial said in a 1991 Associated Press interview. "We had a lot of train travel, so we had more time together. We socialized quite a bit and we'd go out after ballgames."

He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1969, his first year of eligibility.

"It was, you know, a dream come true," Musial once said. "I always wanted to be a ballplayer."

After retiring as a player, Musial served for years in the Cardinals' front office, including as general manager in 1967, when the Cardinals won the World Series.

In the 1970s, he occasionally played in Old-Timers' Day games and could still line the ball to the wall. He was a fixture for decades at the Cooperstown induction ceremonies and also was a member of the Hall's Veterans Committee. Often, after the Vets panel had voted, he'd pull out a harmonica conveniently located in his jacket pocket and lead the other members in a rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."

Into the 2000s, Musial would spend time with the Cardinals at spring training, thrilling veterans and rookies alike with his stories.

Ever ready, he performed the national anthem on his harmonica at least one opening day at Busch Stadium. Musial learned his music during overnight train trips in the 1940s and in the 1990s was a member of a trio known as "Geriatric Jazz" and collaborated on a harmonica instructional book.

Stanley Frank Musial was born in Donora, Pa., on Nov. 21, 1920, son of a Polish immigrant steelworker. He began his minor league career straight out of high school, in June 1938, and soon after married high school sweetheart Lillian Labash, with whom he had four children.

Musial fell in 1940 while trying to make a tough catch and hurt his left arm, damaging his pitching prospects. Encouraged by minor league manager Dickie Kerr to try playing the outfield, he did so well in 1941 that the Cardinals moved him up to the majors in mid-September — and he racked up a .426 average during the final weeks of the season.

In his best year, 1948, he had four five-hit games and batted .376, best in the National League. He also led his league that year in runs scored (135), hits (230), total bases (429), doubles (46), and triples (18).

In 1954, he set a major league record with five home runs in a doubleheader against the New York Giants. He hit .300 or better in 16 consecutive seasons and hit a record six home runs in All-Star play, including a 12th-inning, game-winning shot in 1955.

In 1962, at age 41, he batted .330 and hit 19 home runs. In his final game, on Sept. 29, 1963, he had two hits at Busch Stadium against the Reds and the Cardinals retired his uniform number.

He was active in business, too. He served as a director of the St. Louis-based Southwest Bank. He was co-owner of a popular St. Louis steakhouse, "Stan Musial and Biggie's," and a bowling alley with former teammate Joe Garagiola (leading to a bitter fallout that eventually got resolved). He later ran Stan the Man Inc., specializing in merchandise he autographed. Musial was known for handing out folded $1 bills.

A prominent Polish-American, he was a charter member of the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame and was warmly regarded by his ancestral country, which in 2000 dedicated Stan Musial Stadium in Kutno, Poland. Musial also was involved politically, campaigning for John F. Kennedy in 1960 and serving as Lyndon Johnson's director of the President's Council on Physical Fitness.

Musial's versatility was immortalized in verse, by popular poet of the times Ogden Nash, who in "The Tycoon" wrote of the Cardinals star and entrepreneur:

"And, between the slugging and the greeting,

To the bank for a directors' meeting.

Yet no one grudges success to Stan,

Good citizen and family man,

Though I would love to have his job

One half tycoon, one half Ty Cobb."

The Cardinals said Musial is survived by his four children, Richard, Gerry, Janet and Jean, as well as 11 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren.

Musial's wife died in May 2012.

Funeral arrangements had not yet been finalized, the Cardinals said. The team set up a memorial site around one of Musial's statues at Busch Stadium.

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Associated Press writer Hillel Italie contributed to this report.