Stan Musial Good Enough to Take Your Breath Away
LiveAuctionTalk.com: by Rosemary McKittrick
Photo Courtesy of Heritage Auction Galleries.
How good of a baseball player was Stan Musial? “He was good enough to take your breath away,” broadcaster Vin Scully said.
And so it was.
The St. Louis Cardinals outfielder and first baseman was a hitting machine. He ended his career in 1963 with 3,630 hits, 1,815 at home and 1,815 on the road.
“I consciously memorized the speed at which every pitcher in the league threw his fastball, curve, and slider,” Musial said. “Then, I'd pick up the speed of the ball in the first 30 feet of its flight and knew how it would move once it has crossed the plate.”
He hit 475 career home runs and won seven National League batting titles. For 16 straight seasons Musial batted over .300. He was also named the National League’s most valuable player three times. In 1963, Musial’s No. 6 uniform number was retired.
That’s mastery. Musial almost never struck out. For 22 seasons, from 1941 through 1963, “Stan the Man” proved himself to be one of the greatest hitters in baseball history.
Musial’s stance in the batting box was like no other. He crouched like a corkscrew. Early in his career coaches tried to get him to stop. He looked shaky and they figured a good pitcher could take him out easily.
The batting whiz insisted the stance not only helped him see the pitches but also sense them He said he could tell the pitch just by how fast it was coming at him. Some people didn’t know what he was talking about. Still don’t.
As a kid Musial played on a field with a short left-field fence. He learned how to go with the pitch and smack the ball toward the short left-field wall because there were trolley tracks behind it. A lefty hitter, Musial aimed at the short fence and that’s how he developed his ability as an outstanding opposite-field hitter.
"The nicest man I ever met in baseball," Cardinal’s pitcher Bob Gibson said. Musial never got thrown out of a game and played in 3,026 games.
He married his high school sweetheart and led a life without any scandal. He even smoked under stairwells to be sure no kid saw him doing it. He wanted to be a role model and actually was.
One time Joe Black, the Brooklyn Dodgers, right-hand, black pitcher was pitching against the Cardinals. He was listening to racial slurs while he was doing it.
“Don’t worry Stan,” someone in the Cardinals dugout shouted, “with that dark background on the mound you shouldn’t have any problem hitting the ball.”
Musial kicked the dirt, spat, and acted like he heard nothing. After the game, Black was in the clubhouse. He looked up and Stan Musial was standing there.
“I’m sorry that happened,” Musial whispered. “But don’t you worry about it. You’re a great pitcher. You will win a lot of games.”
That was Stan Musial.
On Nov. 8, Heritage Auction Galleries featured The Stan Musial Collection on the block.
Here are some current values.
Spikes; game-worn; early-1960s; late-career; Spalding; possibly the shoes worn for his final farewells to the game; $6,275.
Baseball and Photo; 1,000 run batted in baseball and photo; Sept. 12, 1952; an 8th inning long ball at Ebbets Field off Dodgers ace Joe Black; 12 inches by 14 inches; $10,158.
Rookie Card; 1948; Musial’s personally owned rookie card; Bowman #36; $11,950.
Letter; 1963; Branch Rickey handwritten signed letter to Musial; on personal letterhead; “I am simply downright proud of you,” $19,120.
World Championship Ring; 2011; presented to Musial; St. Louis Cardinals; red ruby cardinal perches on a golden bat on a field of diamonds; $191,200.
Rosemary McKittrick is a storyteller. For 26 years she has brought the world of collecting to life in her column. Her LiveAuctionTalk.com website is a motherlode of information about art, antiques and collectibles. Rosemary received her education in the trenches working as a professional appraiser.