Stan Musial, “Stan the Man,” who was the National League’s preeminent player in the decade after World War II and whose 22 seasons playing the outfield and first base for the St. Louis Cardinals earned him a place in baseball’s Hall of Fame, died at his home in Ladue, Mo., at the age of 92, according to the Cardinals.
“We have lost the most beloved member of the Cardinals family,” said William DeWitt Jr., chairman of the St. Louis Cardinals in a statement posted on the team’s website. “Stan Musial was the greatest player in Cardinals history and one of the best players in the history of baseball.”
In a 1952 article, the legendary Hall of Fame outfielder Ty Cobb wrote, “No man has ever been a perfect ballplayer. Stan Musial, however, is the closest to being perfect in the game today.”
For all that Mr. Musial may have approached perfection, he never had a mystique, the way his slightly older counterparts Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams did, or the somewhat younger Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle. Mr. Musial played far from the New York media spotlight. He had no hallowed statistic attached to his name, like DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak or Williams’ .406 batting average in 1941.
Mr. Musial, the sportswriter Jimmy Cannon said, “plays ball with a methodical gaiety and does not surrender to the moods which govern the other great ball players.” Among those alien moods was anxiety. An enthusiastic harmonica player, Mr. Musial performed the national anthem at opening day in St. Louis in 1994 with the conductor of the St. Louis Symphony’s pops concerts. Mr. Musial confided to him it was the first time he had ever felt “nervous on the field.”
The most distinctive thing about Mr. Musial was his batting stance, a coiled crouch once compared to “a man peeking around the corner.” What made Mr. Musial extraordinary was what he did, not who he was. There was nothing flamboyant or colorful about him, either on the field or off. It was no small irony that “Stan the Man” inspired one of the most memorable baseball nicknames of the 1970s when a teammate dubbed the notably eccentric relief pitcher Don Stanhouse “Stan the Man Unusual.”
The only thing unusual about Mr. Musial was his achievements. In the words of a friend, the novelist James Michener, “He is an almost epic case … that what you see is what you get.”
What baseball fans got with Mr. Musial was one of the all-time great hitters, a model of steadiness and consistency. How consistent was he? Of his 3,630 hits, 1,815 came at home and 1,815 on the road.
“Here stands baseball’s perfect warrior,” baseball’s commissioner, Ford Frick, declared of Mr. Musial in 1963. “Here stands baseball’s perfect knight.”
When Mr. Musial retired from play, in 1963, he held or shared 17 major league, 29 National League, and nine All-Star records. Major league records included most extra-base hits and total bases. He held National League records for games played, hits, doubles, at-bats, runs scored, runs batted in, and total bases. The left-handed-hitting Mr. Musial was the eighth man in major league history to reach 3,000 hits and required fewer seasons to do so (16) than any player before or since.
Asked once how best to handle Mr. Musial, Brooklyn Dodger pitcher Carl Erskine said, “I just throw him my best stuff, then run over to back up third base.”
Mr. Musial, who hit 475 home runs and had a lifetime batting average of .331, won seven batting titles and led the league in hits six times, doubles eight times, triples five times, and runs five times. The first player in major league history to hit 400 home runs and reach 3,000 hits, he was picked to the All-Star team 20 times. He was a three-time National League Most Valuable Player and four-time runner-up.
“Once Musial timed your fastball,” said Hall of Fame pitcher Warren Spahn, “your infielders were in jeopardy.”
Mr. Musial saw nothing complicated in succeeding at the plate. “The secret of hitting?” he once said. “Relax, concentrate — and don’t hit a fly ball to center field.”
He told a fellow Hall of Famer, Ralph Kiner, “If you want to hit ground balls, hit the top third of the ball. If you want to hit line drives, hit the center. If you want home runs, hit the bottom third of the ball. It’s simple.”
Stanislaus Frank Musial was born on Nov. 21, 1920, the son of Lukasz Musial, an immigrant Polish steelworker, and Mary (Lancos) Musial, a housewife, in Donora, Penn., an industrial town 30 miles south of Pittsburgh. His name was anglicized to Stanley when he started school. Continued...