Stan Musial: The Greatest Baseball Player When It Meant the Most

Harold FriendChief Writer INovember 18, 2011

Hall of Famer Speaking at the Hall of Fame
Hall of Famer Speaking at the Hall of FameEzra Shaw/Getty Images

There are endless discussions about who was the greatest baseball player after Babe Ruth, but Stan Musial has made it unnecessary to debate who was the greatest human being that ever played the game.

Writer Tom Bohnen recalled an incident at Wrigley Field when he was 11 years old that epitomizes Stan Musial.

The St. Louis Cardinals were playing the defending National League champion Chicago Cubs. If you haven't guessed, the year was 1946 because that was the last time the Cubs were defending winning a pennant.

Bohnen and a few of his friends were leaning over the low wall on the first base side of the field, watching batting practice and hoping to get some autographs. Enos Slaughter was within shouting range.

"Hey, Enos! Sign my scorecard." Bohnen's shout was ignored.  "C'mon, Enos! What're you, stuck up?"  There was still no response. Slaughter continued his pepper game without even looking at the 11-year-old.

Slaughter was all business all the time. He was one of the most intense players this side of Ty Cobb, or more recently, Pete Rose. He let nothing interfere with preparation.

Then an easily recognizable St. Louis Cardinal walked over to the kids. In a quiet, strong voice that demanded respect, he spoke.

"You boys shouldn't be yelling at Mr. Slaughter that way. Mr. Slaughter is fighting for a pennant. He's very tired. We're all very tired, and we have a lot of work to do. Mr. Slaughter is trying to play baseball. He doesn't have time to sign for everybody. You boys are fans, you should be able to understand that.

"Now, if you want an autograph, maybe I could sign one for you. My name is Stan Musial, and I could put that on your scorecards for you, if that would be all right."

Bohnen and his friends never forgot the incident. He wrote that Musial's generous gesture and the warmth of his words would always remain vivid in his memory.

At his Hall of Fame induction, Musial expressed his love of baseball as well as his gratitude.

"I was making $100 a month for six months of the year. But that wasn’t too bad because in the wintertime I was working in my father-in-law’s grocery store."

"But I’ve been extremely fortunate, of course, and I’ll tell you this; I would have played baseball and stayed for a lot less, because what better way is there to make a living than something you like that you do and get paid for doing this."

Stan Musial has not changed, but America and baseball no longer even resemble the America and baseball following World War II. How about some dirt from torn-down Yankee Stadium for a few hundred dollars?

Bohnen treasured Stan Musial's autograph for many reasons. It proved that he and Musial had met and had spoken. Having Robinson Cano's autograph proves that one has Robinson Cano's autograph.

But Stan Musial is an excellent businessman. When one visits his website , the first page offers signed baseball. photos, bats and other items.

Stan Musial has adapted—but he hasn't changed.

Source Citation

Bohnen, Tom. "The man." American Heritage Oct. 1992: 35+. General OneFile. Web. 18 Nov. 2011.