Stan Musial’s death ends era of MLB’s Mount Rushmore
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In retirement, he became well-known throughout baseball for his, um, forthright high-decibel opinions on anything and everything. We’ll let it go at that. Respected he was, but beloved he was not.
Musial’s career twist was simple. He was a lefthanded pitcher right through 1940 until he hurt his arm. By late 1941, he was in the Cardinals lineup as an outfielder, breaking in with a .426 September BA. When he retired 22 years later, he was the all-time National League leader in everything meaningful, including Best Musician (harmonica). My favorite Musial stat: 3,630 lifetime hits — 1,815 at home and 1,815 on the road. No Coors Field effect for him.
A Brooklyn fan supposedly gave him the nickname in 1947 or so, sighing, “Here comes that man again,” as Stan strode to the plate.
The Man was the least touched by WWII, serving only in 1945 in a non-combat role.
The Yankee Clipper spent all of 1943, 1944, and 1945 stateside, and, according to one commanding officer, he did so moaning and groaning every single day. His official job was phys ed instructor. He did not want to play ball, sign autographs, or give interviews.
The Thumper went in kicking and screaming after the 1942 season, trying to get a deferment on behalf of his widowed mother. The Naval Corps folks quickly deemed him too valuable to be sent to the skies because he was far more useful to them as an instructor. His celebrated combat missions (37 of them) came in the Korean War.
Rapid Robert was the true WWII icon. Enlisting with the Navy in January of 1942, he adamantly refused any celeb status, demanding a real assignment. And so he served as a gunner on the USS Alabama for three years. He was proud of his service to his dying day, as he should have been.
Each of these icons had enormous followings. But there was only one among the four of whom no bad words were uttered or negative thoughts broached, and that was The Man. There are two statues of him at Busch Stadium, and the inscription on the first pretty much sets him apart from his fellow Rushmorites. The words are attributed to former National League president Ford Frick, and they read as follows:
“Here stands baseball’s perfect warrior. Here stands baseball’s perfect knight.”
Sounds like a life well-lived.
Bob Ryan's column appears regularly in the Globe. He can be reached at email@example.com.