They remember Stan
Published: January 31, 2013
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ST. LOUIS - Stan Musial, the St. Louis Cardinals star with the corkscrew stance and too many batting records to fit on his Hall of Fame plaque, died Saturday, Jan. 19. He was 92.
"Stan the Man" was so revered in St. Louis that two statues in his honor stand outside Busch Stadium - one just wouldn't do him justice.
He was one of baseball's greatest hitters, every bit the equal of Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio even without the bright lights of the big city. Musial won seven National League batting titles, was a three-time MVP and helped the Cardinals capture three World Series championships in the 1940s.
The Cardinals announced Musial's death in a news release. They said he died Saturday evening at his home in Ladue, a St. Louis suburb, surrounded by his family. The team said Musial's son-in-law, Dave Edmonds, informed the club of Musial's death.
"I never heard anybody say a bad word about him, ever," Willie Mays said in a statement released by the Hall of Fame. Musial spent his entire 22-year career with the Cardinals and made the All-Star team 24 times - baseball held two All-Star games each summer for a few seasons. He was the longest-tenured living Hall of Famer.
"Stan will be remembered in baseball annals as one of the pillars of our game," Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson said. "The mold broke with Stan. There will never be another like him."
A pitcher in the low minors until he injured his arm, Musial turned to playing the outfield and first base. It was a stroke of luck for him, as he went on to hit .331 with 475 home runs before retiring in 1963.
Widely considered the greatest Cardinals player ever, the outfielder and first baseman was the first person in team history to have his number retired. Ol' 6 probably was the most popular, too, especially after Albert Pujols skipped town.
"I will cherish my friendship with Stan for as long as I live," Pujols wrote on Twitter.
At the suggestion of a pal, actor John Wayne, Musial carried around autographed cards of himself to give away.
He enjoyed doing magic tricks for kids and was fond of pulling out a harmonica to entertain crowds with a favorite, "The Wabash Cannonball."
Humble, scandal-free, and eager to play everyday, Musial struck a chord with fans throughout the Midwest and beyond. For much of his career, St. Louis was the most western outpost in the majors, and the Cardinals' vast radio network spread word about him in all directions.
Farmers in the field and families on the porch would tune in, as did a future president - Bill Clinton recalled doing his homework listening to Musial's exploits.
"We have lost the most beloved member of the Cardinals family," team chairman William DeWitt Jr. said.
Musial's public appearances dwindled in recent years, though he took part in the pregame festivities at Busch during the 2011 postseason as the Cardinals won the World Series. And he was at the White House in February 2011 when President Barack Obama presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America's highest civilian honor for contributions to society.
At the ceremony, President Obama said: "Stan remains to this day an icon untarnished, a beloved pillar of the community, a gentleman you'd want your kids to emulate."
He certainly delivered at the plate.
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.