We all knew this day was coming, even if we didn’t want it to. Stan Musial, Greatest Cardinal of them all, one of the ten best hitters ever (by WAR), passed away of old age on Saturday. He was 92.
How good was Musial? Mediocre players don’t win 3 MVP awards, 7 batting titles, or get voted onto 24 All-Star games. Here’s something to think about: When he retired the all-time HR list looked like this: Babe Ruth 714, Jimmy Foxx 534, Ted Williams 521, Mel Ott 511, Lou Gehrig 493, Stan 475. Through the end of the 1963 season, Mickey Mantle had hit 419 HR, Willie Mays 406, Hank Aaron had only 342 HR, Frank Robinson 262, and Harmon Killebrew 223 HR. The power surge since the 1960s has relegated Musial to 28th on the all-time list and help obscure how dominant he once was.
In case you needed more proof, here’s this: only Aaron and Barry Bonds collected more extra-base hits than Musial.
He was idolized by fans of the team. Stan Musial was my father’s favorite Cardinal. Years later, when I met my wife, I discovered her father, who grew up in Cubs country, was a Cardinal fan. Guess who his favorite player is. I don’t believe my story is unique. I never saw him play – my favorite Cardinal growing up was Lou Brock – but I have a signed Musial photo, a signed Musial baseball, and a 1961 Topps baseball card of The Man in my office. The room would be drab without them.
One could argue he has a supernatural pull with the local populus. How else to explain the Blues dismantling Detroit 6-0 last night?
It is difficult to come to grips with the death of someone you care about. Obviously the next few days will be extremely difficult for the extended Musial family. It will be less difficult for us, the extended Cardinal family. Stan played his last game in a Cardinal uniform 50 years ago. Most of us never saw him play; we heard about his exploits from those who did, or saw old footage of him hitting somewhere. There will be an outpouring of respect and love for the man, which will hopefully make their loss a little less painful.
We will see, and read, multiple eulogies of the man and his baseball legacy, and there will be tears because he’s gone. It is sad he’s gone. But he lived a rich, full life. I would hope that all of us get to live until we are at least 92 years old. And his legacy, the memory of the player he was – the man he was – will live as long as we remember him.
RIP Stan Musial. You are gone from this Earth, but you will never be forgotten.