I never saw Stan Musial play. My father, who is entering the year of the anniversary of his 50th year since he saw his first live baseball game, never saw him play either. However, neither of us needed to, because what Stan represented was bigger than the Arch in St. Louis: he was simply The Man. The huge statue that has greeted everyone that has come to the last two Busch Stadiums stands guard of his legacy, and has kept his relevance constant. He was the greatest part of the greatest thing in St. Louis, the Cardinals.
Stanley Frank Musial died today at the age of 92. His legendary life as a Cardinals made him a one-man institution in the city of St. Louis. The question about who is the best Cardinal of all-time starts with second place, because what Stan achieved in the uniform was beyond reproach. And what’s truly amazing about it is just how much his greatness is undersold.
Musial is the most underappreciated all-time great in the history of sports. The numbers speak volumes, but only part of it. He was a .331 lifetime hitter, his 3,630 hits are the fourth most of all-time, and his 725 doubles are third most ever the 6,134 total bases he reached is the second highest amount ever, and the 2,562 runs created by him are the third most in the game’s history. He led the National League in hits six different times, going over the 200 hit mark seven different seasons. He hit over .350 in four seasons, with a high of .376 in 1948. In 1946, he led the National League in TWELVE different categories himself.
The numbers game ends up with him holding 17 MLB records at the time of his retirement in 1963, being a 24-time All-Star (tied for the most ever with Willie Mays), a 3-time World Series Champion, as well as a 3-time Most Valuable Player. There was no stone not only unturned by Stan, there wasn’t one that he didn’t smash completely. Stan was so good, I’m not sure that the Cardinals should’ve issued out numbers 5 or 7 over the years, just so that nobody gets the idea of being too close to Stan.
It’s been debated many times whether so and so player is worthy of their nickname. Well “The Man” was so deserving of his, it didn’t even start in his own ballpark. It was bestowed to him by the by the Brooklyn Dodger faithful, in Brooklyn. “Here comes The Man” they’d say, indeed.
However, this is largely lost when the greatest players of all-time are mentioned. Hopefully, with the usual retrospective that death brings, some of this will be shown in the light it deservedly should be. Stan wouldn’t have cared; he never did. Mostly because he didn’t need too, he had all the guys that everybody else talks about, talking about him. “The Man” was ultimately not just a testament to his play, but to, well, the man. He was a humble and personable of person as there could be, the unknowing person that stumbled upon Stan, may have just taken him for any other older gentleman, with that uncanny knack for conversation that many of us get after a life of seeing so much. It is perhaps the most appropriate nickname of all-time, and one that ultimately superseded is real one, and rightfully so.
It’s a sad note for the city, the game and for his family, both by blood and by citywide extension. But the Field of Dreams got a new starting left fielder today. As well as a hell of a harmonica solo for the National Anthem too.
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