Glancing Back, and Remembering Stan Musial
For more than two decades, Stan Musial epitomized consistent excellence for the St. Louis Cardinals, the only major league team he ever played for. Musial hit for average (with seven batting titles to his credit), hit for power (with 475 career home runs), drove in runs (with 100 or more RBIs in 10 different seasons), and drove National League pitchers nutty. He played for three World Series champions, and won the National League Most Valuable Player award three times.
Musial started his professional baseball career as a pitcher, signed by the Cardinals while still in high school in 1938. He suffered a shoulder injury in the minors that ended his career as a pitcher and nearly ended his baseball career. But he made his debut in St. Louis as a 20-year-old outfielder in 1941, batting .426 over the last 12 games of that season. In his 1942 rookie season, he batted .315 with 10 home runs and 72 RBIs. He followed up in 1943 by hitting a league-leading .357, also leading the National League in hits (220), doubles (48) and triples (20). That performance earned him his first MVP award. He batted .347 in 1944, finishing second to Brooklyn’s Dixie Walker in hitting.
Musial missed the 1945 campaign by serving a tour in the Navy, and returned in 1946 to claim his second batting title (.365) and second MVP, while leading the Cardinals to their third World Series championship in five years. He won his third batting title in 1948 with a career-best .376 average. He led the NL again in hits (230), doubles (46), triples (18), runs batted in (131) and slugging percentage (.450). He also won his third Most Valuable Player award in five years.
As dominant as Musial was in the 1940s, he performed at nearly the same consistently high level throughout the 1950s. He won four more batting titles and hit for a combined .330 during the 1950s, averaging 40 doubles, 30 home runs and 108 RBIs per season.
He played four seasons into the 1960s, hitting .330 in 1962 (at age 41) with 19 home runs and 82 RBIs. In 1963, Musial batted .255 in his final campaign, the lowest batting average of his 22-season career. He finished with 3,630 hits – amazingly, with identical hit totals of 1,815 at home and on the road. He finished with a career batting average of .331, and held or shared 17 major league records, 29 National League records and nine All-Star Game records (including the most All-Star appearances, tied with Willie Mays at 24).
Musial was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969.