Stan Musial: The Subtle Greatness of Baseball's Perfect Knight

Gavin AndrewsCorrespondent IIJanuary 20, 2013

SAINT LOUIS, MO - MAY 18: Former St. Louis Cardinals' player Stan Musial is honored during a ceremony prior to the Cardinals playing the Tampa Bay Rays on May 18, 2008 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. The Cardinals beat the Rays 5-4.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

If there is one word that epitomizes the late Stanley Frank Musial, it is most certainly "subtle," an unassuming adjective with which Musial characterized his unassuming life.

Subtlety pervaded each nook and every cranny of Musial's existence from his humble beginnings in Donora, Pennsylvania as the child of a Polish immigrant to his humility and kindness that endeared him greatly to the city of St. Louis.

Perhaps in a sense, Musial's subtlety was the very characteristic that paradoxically set him apart from his peers—the very entities that kept his legendary greatness relatively anonymous on the national scale for a sizable period of time.

While Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio were being glorified, immortalized and canonized in Boston, New York and American households everywhere, Musial quietly went to work every day in St. Louis and simply became quite possibly the best hitter to ever grace the Senior Circuit. 

It is especially difficult to write about Musial because of this subtlety. His feats weren't superhuman, and more tragically, he didn't play a brand of baseball that would allow sportswriters to paint Musial as if he were.

Rather, Musial just played ordinary, fundamentally sound baseball extraordinarily well. 

He was not a home-run hitter, hitting line drives from gap to gap instead of trying to launch every fastball to the moon. Though every now and then, 475 would leave the yard.

He played hard, using his hustle to stretch singles to doubles and doubles to triples.

He did not complain, but kept his head down and did what was asked of him.

He played without the grace of Griffey, the flash of Mays or the heroism of Mantle, but rather with a consistency nothing short of incredible.

Most of all, though, he'll be remembered for his uncommon kindness and unwavering smile. One of baseball's truly great guys, Musial loved his job, his coworkers and his family, treating everyone with the utmost respect and dignity.

Maybe what makes Musial so special is that he wasn't larger than life, but rather a regular guy.

He married his high school sweetheart; the two of them had four children and saw more than 70 years of marriage.

He loved coming to work--almost as much as he loved making people smile. 

And did he ever love his harmonica.

It's been written that nice guys finish last, but Musial is proof that every now and then, they can do a little better than that.

Former commissioner Ford Frick dubbed Musial "baseball's perfect warrior, baseball's perfect knight," and perhaps no praise could be as perfect for Musial. 

But I guarantee you that Musial didn't think of himself as a perfect warrior or a perfect knight. 

He simply thought of himself as a regular guy.

And he was.