Stanley Frank Musial (/ˈmjuːziəl/ or /ˈmjuːʒəl/; born Stanisław Franciszek Musiał; November 21, 1920 – January 19, 2013), nicknamed Stan the Man, was an American Major League Baseball (MLB) outfielder and first baseman. He spent 22 seasons playing for the St. Louis Cardinals, from 1941 to 1944 and 1946 to 1963. Widely considered to be one of the greatest and most consistent hitters in baseball history, Musial was a first-ballot inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969, and was also selected to the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame in the inaugural class of 2014.
Musial batted .331 over the course of his career and set National League (NL) records for career hits(3,630), runs batted in (1,951), games played (3,026), at bats (10,972), runs scored (1,949) and doubles(725), most of which were later broken by Pete Rose; his 475 career home runs then ranked second in NL history behind Mel Ott‘s total of 511. His 6,134 total bases remained a major league record until surpassed by Hank Aaron, and his hit total still ranks fourth all-time, and is the highest by any player who spent his career with only one team. A seven-time batting champion with identical totals of 1,815 hits at home and 1,815 hits on the road, he was named the National League‘s (NL) Most Valuable Player (MVP) three times and led St. Louis to three World Series championships. He also shares the major league record for the most All-Star Games played (24) with Hank Aaron and Willie Mays.
Musial was born in Donora, Pennsylvania, where he frequently played baseball informally or in organized settings, and eventually played on the baseball team at Donora High School. Signed to a professional contract by the St. Louis Cardinals as a pitcher in 1938, Musial was converted into an outfielder prior to his major league debut in 1941. Noted for his unique batting stance, he quickly established himself as a consistent and productive hitter. In his first full season, 1942, the Cardinals won the World Series. The following year, he led the NL in six different offensive categories and earned his first MVP award. He was also named to the NL All-Star squad for the first time; he appeared in every All-Star game in every subsequent season he played. Musial won his second World Series championship in 1944, then missed the entire 1945 season while serving in the Navy.
From Baseball in Wartime:
Stanley F “Stan” Musial was born on November 21, 1920, in Donora, Pennsylvania. He started his professional career as a pitcher with Williamson in 1938, and went to Daytona Beach in 1940, where a shoulder injury prompted a move to the outfield. He moved up to Springfield of the Western Association in 1941 and played 12 games for the Cardinals before the year was out.
Musial batted .357 to win the National League batting title and MVP award in 1943. During the winter months of 1943-1944, Musial, along with Danny Litwhiler, Hank Borowy, Dixie Walker and Frankie Frisch, was part of a USO sponsored group that traveled to Alaska and the Aleutian Islands entertaining troops.
When it became obvious that Musial would be inducted, Pete Reiser tried to convince him to sign up with the Army. That way, Reiser could get Musial to Fort Riley where he could play with the service team. “I told Pete, ‘Naw, I’m going into the Navy’,” he explained to author Frederick Turner. “I just liked the Navy for some reason – the water and all. You know where a lot of those guys wound up who were at Fort Riley? At the Battle of the Bulge.”
In 1944, Musial was 23 years old and batted .347 to guide the Cardinals to the World Series. He passed his Naval physical examination in June 1944 and reported for induction on January 23, 1945. Musial was assigned to Bainbridge Naval Training Center in Maryland on March 17, and played for the Bainbridge NTC Commodores baseball team. The Commodores line-up included Lum Harris, Dick Wakefield, Thurman Tucker, Stan Spence and Dick Sisler, and Musial credits his time at Bainbridge with helping him develop as a power hitter, stating that he altered his stance to pull the ball so he could hit more home runs to entertain the servicemen.
In June 1945, he was assigned to Special Services and sent to Hawaii. Attached to a ship launch unit at Pearl Harbor, he ran a launch out to battle-damaged ships that came in, ferrying personnel back to port. Three or four afternoons a week he played baseball for the Ship Repair Unit in the 14th Naval District League. “Ten thousand every game,” he recalled. “You know, there were so many men around Hawaii, goddamn thousands and thousands of guys, so this was good diversion for them.” In August 1945, he even resurrected his pitching career, blanking an Army all-star team with a four-hitter in a game at Maui.
In the fall of 1945, Musial’s father fell seriously ill at home in Donora. Stan was granted emergency leave orders to visit home. After his father recovered he was assigned duty in Philadelphia and back at Bainbridge.
Musial was discharged from the Navy on March 15, 1946, and promptly returned to the Cardinals. He enjoyed an MVP season batting .365 with 103 RBIs. At the time of his retirement in 1963, Musial held 17 major league, 29 National League, and 9 All-Star game records. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 1969.
Stan Musial, aged 92, passed away at his home in Ladue, Missourie, surrounded by his family.