The death of one of baseball’s greatest

We lost one of baseball’s greatest players of all time when Stan “The Man” Musial passed away on January 19th.  He died peacefully of natural causes at his home in Ladue, Missouri at the age of 92.  His family was at his side when he passed away.

Musial played for the St. Louis Cardinals for the entirety of his MLB career.  Francis Slay, the mayor of St. Louis, ordered all flags to be at half-staff to honor Musial’s death.  The mayor also went on St. Louis Publi­c Radio: “St. Louis has lost not just baseball’s ‘perfect knight’ but also its own favorite son.  No figure in St. Louis history has been more greatly or deeply admired than Stan Musial.  No one has brought more joy to more citizens over more years.  No one will be more widely and deeply mourned.  There’s hardly been a child born in this city since 1930 who doesn’t know to whom the No. 6 belongs.  It belongs to The Man—and what a good man he was.”  This goes to show both what an incredible athlete and person Musial was.  He was the player that little kids dreamed of one day being.  He raised the bar for the sport of baseball.

Musial was a hero and idol to many both on and off the field.  In 2010, President Barack Obama awarded Musial with the Medal of Freedom.  The Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian award the United States offers.  It is awarded by the President to a select few per year who do outstanding things in their community.

In addition to being an outstanding person off the field, Musial was an incredible athlete on the field.  According to baseball statistician Bill James, Stan Musial is the 10th greatest player of all time as well as the 2nd best left fielder.  He made his Major League debut on September 17, 1941 as an outfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals.  Stan played for St. Louis for all 22 years of his MLB career.  Stan Musial helped lead the Cardinals to 3 World Series Championships, as well as making 24 All-Star game appearances (All-Star games in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s were double headers.  Hence 24 All-Star appearances in 22 years.)

Musial won many awards throughout his career with the Cardinals.  He was the National League MVP 3 times.  He was also a 7-time National League batting champion.  Stan is one of only 28 players to have every achieved 3,000 career hits.  Although finishing his career with only 475 home runs (average of 21.6 per year), he finished with an outstanding .331 career batting average.  He even led the league at one point in career hits with 3,630.  In 1957, Stan Musial received the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award for his outstanding sportsmanship and courtesy on the field.  The Lou Gehrig Memorial Award is awarded to only 1 player each year who exhibits exceptional behavior while playing.  Talent and athleticism are not factors in this award.

Stan Musial’s most prestigious accomplishment occurred in 1969 when he was inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame.  He was named on 93.2% of the ballots (only 75% is required).  1969 was the first year he was eligible for the Hall of Fame.

Stan retired in 1963.  At the time of his retirement, Musial held or shared 17 major league records, 29 National League records, and 9 All-Star Game records.  Among those records, he ranked as the major league career leader in extra-base hits (1,377) and total bases (6,134). He also held National League career marks in categories such as hits (3,630) games played (3,026), doubles (725), and RBI’s (1,951).  He finished his career with 475 homeruns.  It is likely that Musial would have exceeded 500 home runs and become the second player, behind Babe Ruth, with 2,000 RBIs had he not served in the military from 1945-1946.  His career-hit total was evenly split between 1,815 hits at home and 1,815 hits on the road.  Musial was also the first major league player to appear in more than 1,000 games at two different positions, registering 1,896 games in the outfield and 1,016 at first base.

In 1968, a statue of Musial was erected just outside of one of Busch Stadium’s main entrances.  Inscribed on the side of the statue is a quote from former baseball commissioner Ford Frick that reads, “Here stands baseball’s perfect warrior. Here stands baseball’s perfect knight.”  To this day, it is a common meeting place for those attending Cardinal baseball games.

In all of his 3,026 appearances with the Cardinals, he was never once ejected from a game.  When talking about the reputation he developed within the sport’s history, sportscaster Bob Costas said, “He didn’t hit a homer in his last at-bat; he hit a single. He didn’t hit in 56 straight games. He married his high school sweetheart and stayed married to her. … All Musial represents is more than two decades of sustained excellence and complete decency as a human being.”  His ability to “keep his cool” and composure on the field is exactly why he was awarded the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award.

Stan “The Man” Musial will be greatly missed by more than just Cardinals fans.  His passing will impact anyone who has passion for the game of baseball.

There was a public visitation on Thursday, January 24 for anyone who wished to see him one last time.  Fans were reported lining up hours before the visitation was scheduled to begin.  Steven Martin, one of those lined up hours prior to the doors were opened, had just wanted to give his respects to Musial.  “When you think of the Cardinals, you think Stan Musial,” he said. “He gave 22 seasons for us. The least we can do is give one day for him.”