Cardinals Hall of Famer Stan Musial dies at age 92

By R.b. Fallstrom

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Jan. 20 2013 1:30 p.m. MST

Musial never struck out 50 times in a season. He led the NL in most every hitting category for at least one year, except homers. He hit a career-high 39 home runs in 1948, falling one short of winning the Triple Crown.

"Major League Baseball has lost one of its true legends in Stan Musial, a Hall of Famer in every sense and a man who led a great American life. He was the heart and soul of the historic St. Louis Cardinals franchise for generations," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "As remarkable as 'Stan the Man' was on the field, he was a true gentleman in life. All of Major League Baseball mourns his passing."

In all, Musial held 55 records when he retired in 1963. Fittingly, the accolades on his bronze Hall plaque start off with this fact, rather than flowery prose: "Holds many National League records ..."

He played nearly until his 43rd birthday, adding to his totals. He got a hit with his final swing, sending an RBI single past Cincinnati's rookie second baseman — that was Pete Rose, who would break Musial's league hit record of 3,630 some 18 years later.

Of those hits, Musial got exactly 1,815 at home and exactly 1,815 on the road. He also finished with 1,951 RBIs and scored 1,949 runs.

All that balance despite a most unorthodox left-handed stance. Legs and knees close together, he would cock the bat near his ear and twist his body away from the pitcher. When the ball came, he uncoiled.

Unusual, that aspect of Musial.

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 to another position. It was just the change 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 Cardinals 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 establish a warm atmosphere between blacks and whites on the team.

"I knew Stan very well," Mays said. "He used to take care of me at All-Star games, 24 of them. He was a true gentleman who understood the race thing and did all he could."