Open Mic: A Salute to Stan "The Man" Musial
I have an autographed picture of Stan Musial framed in a plaque in my room. It's a commemorative picture of his 3,000th hit on May 13, 1958 that has a gold overlayed medallion with "3,000" etched into it. A fantastic-looking piece that any collector would be proud to own.
Who could have thought he would have had the kind of career he did? Not many.
Stan Musial did it all in his career: .331 career average, 475 home runs, and 3,630 hits. Tied for first in All-Star appearances with 24, three-time NL MVP, three-time world champion, sixth in career RBI's with 1,951, and third in career doubles.
He led the National League in slugging percentage six times, in on-base percentage six times, and runs scored five times. He was also a seven-time NL batting champion—including three consecutive years, from 1950-52.
He was the epitome of a consistent hitter. He batted a career .336 at home and .326 on the road. He batted .340 in day games and .320 at night. He was an uncanny batter who ran on all cylinders at all times.
A very odd fact is that Stan Musial had the most career home runs for a player who had never won a single-season home run title (he was eventually surpassed in this category by Rafael Palmeiro).
It almost seemed like he knew what every pitcher in the league was ready to throw at him, and he knew exactly what to do. In a great quote, Stan Musial recounts exactly how he approached hitting.
"I consciously memorized the speed at which every pitcher in the league threw his fastball, curve, and slider. Then, I'd pick up the speed of the ball in the first thirty feet of its flight and knew how it would move once it had crossed the plate."
Former Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Carl Erskine once described his strategy of pitching to Musial: "I've had pretty good success with Stan by throwing him my best pitch and backing up third."
Hall of fame pitcher Warren Spahn knew exactly what Stan was capable of as he pitched to him.
"Once Musial timed your fastball, your infielders were in jeopardy."
He was feared by many, but respected by all. His nickname of "The Man" was created by Dodgers fans, as he consistently loved to hit in historic Ebbets Field.
Brooklyn fans would see him come to bat, and say, "Uh-oh, here comes the man again. The man is back!" St. Louis sportswriter Bob Broeg picked up on this and said to the fans, "You mean THAT man?" and they said, "No, THE Man." Musial was "Stan the Man" from that point on. Typically, respectful Brooklyn fans did not boo him at Ebbets Field.
It may have been the home run chase of 1998 that originally drew me into watching the Cardinals—but Stan Musial hooked me for good. He was what Albert Pujols is today, a hitter's hitter. Consistent, powerful, hit for average, yet still had underrated speed.
I make the comparisons between Pujols and Musial for obvious reasons—the most obvious being they're associated with same MLB team. however, it is also because I try and connect to the past. Being a young adult, I never got to see Stan Musial play, yet I see similarities between the two sluggers.
The most important similarity? Consistency, which is the hallmark of a Hall of Famer.
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