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Asked to describe the habits that kept him in baseball for so long, Musial once said: "Get eight hours of sleep regularly. Keep your weight down, run a mile a day. If you must smoke, try light cigars. They cut down on inhaling."
One last thing, he said: "Make it a point to bat .300."
As for how he did that, Musial offered a secret.
"I consciously memorized the speed at which every pitcher in the league threw his fastball, curve, and slider," he said. "Then, I’d pick up the speed of the ball in the first 30 feet of its flight and knew how it would move once it has crossed the plate."
It worked pretty well, considering Musial began his baseball career as a pitcher in the low minors. And by his account, as he said during his induction speech in Cooperstown, an injury had left him as a "dead, left-handed pitcher just out of Class D."
Hoping to still reach the majors, he turned toward another position. It was just what he needed.
Musial made his major league debut late in 1941, the season that Williams batted .406 for the Boston Red Sox and DiMaggio hit in a record 56 straight games for the New York Yankees.
Musial never expressed regret or remorse that he didn’t attract more attention than the cool DiMaggio or prickly Williams. Fact is, Musial was plenty familiar in every place he played.
Few could bring themselves to boo baseball’s nicest superstar, not even the Brooklyn Dodgers crowds that helped give him his nickname, a sign of weary respect for his .359 batting average at Ebbets Field.
Many, many years before any sports fans yelled "You’re the man!" at their favorite athletes, Stan was indeed the Man.
Dodgers pitcher Preacher Roe once joked about how to handle Musial: "I throw him four wide ones and then I try to pick him off first base."
Brooklynites had another reason to think well of Musial: Unlike Enos Slaughter and other Cardinal teammates, he was supportive when the Dodgers’ Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier in 1947. Bob Gibson, who started out with the Cardinals in the late 1950s, would recall how Musial had helped established a warm atmosphere between blacks and whites on the team.
Like DiMaggio and Williams, Musial embodied a time when the greats stayed with one team. He joined the Cardinals during the last remnants of the Gas House Gang and stayed in St. Louis until Gibson and Curt Flood ushered in a new era of greatness.
The only year Musial missed with the Cardinals was 1945, when he was in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He was based in Pearl Harbor, assigned to a unit that helped with ship repair.
Before and after his military service, he was a star hitter.
Musial was the NL MVP in 1943, 1946 and 1948, and was runner-up four other years. He enjoyed a career remarkably free of slumps, controversies or rivalries.
The Cardinals were dominant early in Musial’s career. They beat DiMaggio and the Yankees in the 1942 World Series, lost to the Yankees the next year and defeated the St. Louis Browns in 1944. In 1946, the Cardinals beat Williams and the visiting Red Sox in Game 7 at Sportsman’s Park.
Musial, mostly a left fielder then, starred with Terry Moore in center and Slaughter, another future Hall of Famer, in right, making up one of baseball’s greatest outfields. Later on, Musial would switch between the outfield and first base.
Musial never played on another pennant winner after 1946. Yet even after the likes of Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron came to the majors, Musial remained among baseball’s best.
The original Musial statue outside the new Busch Stadium is a popular meeting place before games and carries this inscription: "Here stands baseball’s perfect warrior. Here stands baseball’s perfect knight."
"Everybody’s a Musial fan," former Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog once said.Next Page >
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