Musial, out of the box and going for two

Like most baseball folk, I’ve been thinking of how to pay tribute to the late Stan Musial. Since I like to look at baseball history through a box-score lens, and since Musial played 3,049 games (counting World Series) — in a NL career that stretched from Gabby Hartnett (1922-41) to Pete Rose (1963-86), spanning Pearl Harbor and the Civil Rights March on Washington (“I have a dream…”) — I decided to honor Stan the Man with what I do best.

What follows is an unscientific sampling of Musial box scores and related comments — often tangential, sometimes frivolous — but let’s open with a couple of broad stat-facts:


  1. During his career (1941-63), Musial led all players by margins of: 1,056 Hits (roughly Al Rosen‘s career total) … 1,154 Times On Base (safely) … 1,927 Total Bases … 426 extra-base hits … 250 Doubles … 57 Triples … 8 HRs (although he never led the league) … 370 RBI … 416 Runs … 16.2 Wins Above Replacement.
  2. From 1941-63 alone, 46 players had 4 or more extra-base hits in a game, with 3 such games by Joe DiMaggio and 2 each by Pat Seerey (164 career XBH) and Jim Russell (293) among others, and one apiece by more truly unknowns than you can shake a Louisville Slugger at. (Sam VicoJack LohrkePhil Weintraub?) Even Charlie Lau did it. Yet the Man who had far more hits and extra-base hits than anyone in this span — more games with one, two or three extra-base hits — never had 4 extra-base hits in a game. Maybe that would have been too flashy.


And here we go. I apologize for the length; but, y’know … 3,049 games.


September 17, 1941: Not two years since converting from pitcher, the 20-year-old Musial debuts in a pennant race with two knocks against Jim “Abba Dabba” Tobin, with a double and 2 RBI, pacing St. Louis to a 3-2 win and a doubleheader sweep of Boston that kept them a game behind Brooklyn with 12 to play. Musial hit 3rd, which seems odd for a contending team. But the ’41 Cards never did settle on a #3 hitter, giving four guys at least 29 starts there. And while the slot was productive overall (2nd in Runs, 3rd in OPS and RBI), leading up to Musial’s debut, the #3 spot had produced 1 RBI in 23 games. Musial would bat 3rd, 4th or 5th in all 11 starts, going 20 for 47 with a 1.023 OPS; he would nearly match that lofty figure over the next 15 years.

  • Estel Crabtree (of Crabtree, OH) — who returned that year at 37 after a 7-year absence from the majors, and hit .341 in 77 games — homered in the twinbill opener, then won the nightcap with a walk-off shot, the only time he ever connected in consecutive games.
  • In his first full year at the Cardinals’ helm was Billy Southworth. As a player, Southworth led the Cards to their first championship in 1926, batting .345 with a Series-best 6 Runs and 10 hits. In 1940 he took the reins of a 15-29 squad and led them to a 69-40 finish. The Cards fell short in ’41, but won the next 3 pennants and 2 World Series under Southworth, who amassed a .657 winning percentage from 1940-45. Moving to Boston in ’46 (for a salary the Cards wouldn’t match), Southworth took over a Braves franchise that hadn’t contended in 30 years, and brought them home 4th, then 3rd, and finally 1st in 1948. He was belatedly elected to the Hall of Fame in 2008, almost 40 years after his death; while he has the fewest games and wins of any HOF manager, his .597 winning percentage ranks 3rd in that group, and only 9 managers have won more World Series.
  • In the visitors’ dugout was Casey Stengel, in his seventh managerial year. His first nine teams all finished in the second division; his 10th squad began a record streak of five straight championships. Taking nothing away from The Perfessor, the fact remains: It’s amazing what a pinstriped suit can do for a feller.
  • Jim Tobin, a good pitcher stuck on bad Braves teams most of his career, led the majors in IP and CG for 1941-45 combined, with a 108 ERA+ but a 69-85 record in that span. In a happy ending, he joined Detroit for the ’45 stretch drive, and capped his career as a World Champion.


August 24, 1943: One of two 1-0 games wherein Musial plates the game’s only run, which he does here with a triple in the 10th. Reigning MVP Mort Cooper goes the distance for his 18th win. Younger brother Walker Cooper does not fare as well, going 0-for-5 with a GDP in the cleanup spot, but he’ll run 2nd to Musial for the ’43 MVP. From 1939-46, 15 out of 16 MVPs went to pennant winners; the exception was Hal Newhouser‘s first award in 1944 (29-9), when the Browns edged the Tigers on the final day.) From 1925-44, nine different Cardinals won the MVP.

  • Losing pitcher Al Javery (who?) led the NL with 303 innings that year and won 17, one-fourth of Boston’s total. He also struck out the side in the All-Star game (George CaseKen KeltnerVern Stephens) — which may help to explain why he was selected for the next All-Star game despite a 3-12 record at the break (he finished 10-19).
  • More family connections: Cards #2 hitter Harry Walker is the son of one Dixie Walker, the brother of another, and the nephew of Ernie Walker. Speaking of Walkers, Walker Cooper returned to St. Louis to finish his career in 1956-57, age 41-42; his daughter married Don Blasingame, the Cards’ regular 2B from 1956-59. Marty Marion‘s older brother, Red, played a few games in the majors. Marty put in 11 years as an every-day player, plus 5 more full years as a manager, all before he turned 39; he died at 93 not two years ago.
  • Braves’ 2B Eddie Joost goes 0-for-3 and is justifiably lifted for pinch-hitting pitcher Jim Tobin, who can actually hit, and singles. Joost bats .185 that year, the lowest qualifying BA from 1919-90; the glasses (and the walks & HRs) are still years away. Joost died a month after Marion in 2011, age 94.
  • Boston cleanup man Butch Nieman averages 111 games and a 116 OPS from 1943-45, but he’s gone from the majors once the veterans return. Nieman plays 1947-51 for class C Topeka (near his hometown), winning 5 straight Western Association HR crowns, including margins of 29-14, 34-20, and 26-19. In 1950, Nieman out-homers young Mickey Mantle, 28-26, though Mick leads in BA, SLG and TB. Nieman also averaged 141 walks from 1947-50 (per B-R Bullpen).
  • Braves’ RF Chuck Workman hit 10 HRs in ’43 … and led the team, whose 39 taters tied for last in the NL. But then, NL HRs were scarce as hens’ teeth in 1943; no NL year since 1921 saw a lower HR total or average per game.
  • Fun with names: Boston’s #7-8 hitters were Whitey Wietelmann and Heinie Heltzel, who was replaced by Clyde Kluttz. (Name the source: “Despite all evidence to the contrary, there has never been, nor could there ever be, a major league ballplayer named Clyde Kluttz.”)


September 28, 1943: His second 2-triple game of the year gives Musial 20 three-baggers, tying the club’s live-ball record which has not been reached since. The only later Redbird with two 2-triple games in a year, or with 19+ triples in a year, is Garry Templeton (in 1980 and 1979, respectively). Templeton is also the only Cardinal with a 200-hit season younger than Musial.

  • Rookie 2B Lou Klein plays 159 games for the ’43 Cards (including WS), batting .287 with a 111 OPS+, and ranks 3rd in the league with 5.8 WAR (2.9 dWAR). But he’s replaced by Emil Verban the next year, and Klein plays just 151 games the rest of his career. Klein was born in New Orleans in 1918, the same year my dad was born in nearby Golden Meadow, and he died in Metairie, LA in 1976, the last year I lived in that N.O. suburb.


August 6, 1944: After a 13-game hitting streak (.510, 18 Runs, 14 walks, 2 strikeouts), Musial goes 0-for-7 in 14 innings, his worst oh-fer.

  • St. Louis wins anyway; they’ve been running away from the pack since May, going 49-11 in July & August to reach a pinnacle of 91-30. Of all the .700 teams — 1902 Pirates1906 Cubs, 1907 Cubs1909 Pirates1927 Yankees, 1931 A’s, 1939 Yankees1954 Indians, 1998 Yankees and 2001 Mariners — only the ’98 Yanks matched that 91-30 start.  The Pirates are playing .600 ball, better than any AL team, and they win the season series from the Cards by 12-10 (no one else better than 8-14) — yet they’re dead before Labor Day. The Cards coast home to 105 wins, their 3rd straight year of 105+. No other team has won at least 103 games for three straight years.
  • In spite of this, the only Hall of Famers from this Cardinals dynasty are Musial, Enos Slaughter (1942 and ’46) and Red Schoendienst (1946).
  • Out of 2,413 games with at least 4 PAs, Musial reaches safely in 89.0%. (Bonds 89.8%, Ruth 91.8%, Williams 92.9%.)


August 22, 1944: In a 2-1 defeat of Boston that caps a twinbill sweep, Musial drives in both runs separately, while Max Lanier (the defending ERA and ERA+ champ) throws his only 1-hitter, allowing just Butch Nieman‘s infield hit in the 1st. No Cardinal threw a no-hitter during Musial’s career. Lon Warneke tossed one the month before Musial’s 1941 debut, and the next came from Ray Washburn in 1968. There were 14 Cardinal 1-hitters between Musial’s first and last game, including this near-perfecto.

  • Hal Lanier, son of Max, plays 10 years in the majors, compiling a 50 OPS+ — the worst of any live-ball hitter with 3,000 PAs. On the bright side, in his managerial debut, Hal leads the 1986 Astros to the 2nd division title in club history, and is named Manager of the Year. Two years later, he’s gone, never to return as a big-league skipper.


October 7, 1944: After the underdog Browns took 2 of the first 3 games in the Trolley Series, Musial helps turn the tide with his best World Series effort: 3-for-4 with a walk, a double and a 2-run HR in the 1st that stands up all day and breaks a 9-WS-game ribbie drought.

  • The Cards win game 5 by 2-0 behind Mort Cooper‘s 12 strikeouts (only Gibson ’68 had more Ks in a WS shutout) and HRs from Ray Sanders and Danny Litwhiler. It’s the 2nd WS game ever where the winning team scored only on solo HRs.
  • The game 6 clincher turns on clutch relief work by Ted Wilks: When the Browns get the tying runs into scoring position with 1 out in the 6, the rookie Wilks — 17-4 on the year, but torched in his game 3 start — comes in and thwarts the rally, retiring the last 11 batters in a row, with 4 strikeouts. It remains the longest perfect relief stint in WS history. Wilks is going so well that when the Cards have a chance to stretch the lead in the 8th (2 RISP with 2 out), the sick-swinging Wilks is allowed to bat; he whiffs and they don’t score, but the champagne still flows.
  • In 23 career WS games, this is Musial’s only HR and only 3-hit game.


May 19, 1948: In Ebbets Field, Musial’s home away from home, he goes 5-5-5-2 with a walk, his only 5-run game, as the Cards rally to win, 14-7, on 18 hits and no HRs. The next day’s line is 6-3-4-2, HR, 2 doubles, completing an 11-for-15 series that lifts his BA over .400, and he’s hitting .403 at the All-Star break. He “fades” to .376, the highest NL average from 1936-98. His .702 slugging is the NL high for 1931-93, and his 429 Total Bases are the most in either league in the last 80 years.

  • In 11 Ebbets Field games that year, Musial hits .522/1.582 and scores 17 Runs. In 163 career games in Brooklyn, he batted .359/1.108 (his best marks of any field with 40+ games), with 141 Runs and 126 RBI.


July 24, 1949: In an Ebbets Field battle for 1st place, Musial’s double off Carl Erskine in the 7th puts the Cards up 13-1 and completes his only cycle.

  • Starter Don Newcombe, the eventual Rookie of the Year, is knocked out before retiring a batter for the only time in his career.
  • St. Louis held the lead almost continuously into the final week, and with 5 games left they led by 2 in the loss column. But they lost 4 of 5 against second-division Pittsburgh and Chicago, while Brooklyn won 3 of 4, including a 10-inning road win on the final day to capture the flag. In the Cards’ 4-game skid, Musial went 6-for-18 with 3 doubles, but the rest of the club hit .236.
  • The Cards finish 2nd for the 3rd straight year. They copped the pennant each of Musial’s first four full years, but were never close again until his final year.


July 27, 1950: St. Louis scores 10 in the last 2 innings to blow out Brooklyn, 13-3. Five different Dodgers allow at least a hit and a run, but none serves up a hit to Musial, and his 30-game hitting streak ends 3 games shy of Rogers Hornsby‘s club record (1922). Albert Pujols matched Musial’s 30 in 2003, the only other Cardinal ever to reach that mark.

  • During Musial’s career, the only other streaks of 30+ are Joe DiMaggio‘s record 56 in 1941 (ended before Musial’s debut), Tommy Holmes‘s 37 in 1945 (then the modern NL record), and Dom DiMaggio‘s 34 in 1949. The next to reach 30 in a season was Willie Davis with 31 in 1969.
  • The Cards knock a season-high 5 HRs, with 2 by Chuck Diering (3 for the year, 14 career).


September 3, 1950: In a Forbes Field slugfest, Musial logs a (known) career-best .908 WPA with a line of 4-4-4-3 and 2 walks. His third hit is a 2-run HR, off former teammate Murry Dickson, with 2 gone in the 8th, flipping the Birds into the lead. The Bucs go back in front on Ralph Kiner‘s second HR of the game — his 210th HR in 728 career games, by far the fastest such start to date (since topped by Ryan Howard). Rookie CF Hopalong Howerton ties it with a HR in the 9th, and Musial grabs the lead with an RBI single in the 10th, then scores on Enos Slaughter‘s triple. But in the home 10th, Harry “The Cat” Brecheen sheds the lead on consecutive HRs by Pete Castiglione and Bob Dillinger — respectively, the lone pinch-HR, and one of 10 career taters. With 2 down and the bags empty, Brecheen intentionally walks Kiner — the only searchable bases-empty IBB of Kiner’s career, and the only one in the majors from 1946-52. Gus Bell, who already has 2 triples and a single, lifts a double that brings Kiner all the way around with the winning run.

  • Pittsburgh had five walk-off RBI that year, including both times they saw Brecheen. On July 8, he gave up the only game-ending slam in the league that year to Jack Phillips (9 career HRs), his only career slam and only pinch-HR. Brecheen ends his career 10-13 against the Pirates; against his other six NL foes, he’s 118-66 (.641).
  • What happened to Bill Howerton’s career? After a cup o’ joe at 27, the left-swinging OF played 110 games for the 1950 Cards, batting .281 with a .375 OBP and some power. But in ’51 he couldn’t crack the lineup, and after just 75 PAs in the first 53 games, he was packaged in trade to the Pirates (the same deal that exiled local boy Joe Garagiola). There he started regularly, with a 124 OPS+ in 80 games. His combined stats for 1950-51 were 685 PAs, 122 OPS+, 22 HRs, 100 RBI, 36 doubles, 11 triples, 83 walks and a .365 OBP. Yet in ’52, the woeful Pirates — a team that totaled 22 HRs from LHBs, en route to 112 losses and a .231 team BA, with 19-year-old Bobby Del Greco in CF (he had never played above class C and hit .217 with 1 HR and a 60 OPS+ for the Bucs, then went back to the minors for three years), and 20-year-old Tony Bartirome at 1B (.220, no HRs, 48 OPS+, never again seen in the majors) — would not put Howerton into their lineup. After 31 PAs in the first 20 games (.320 BA, .452 OBP), Howerton was waived to the Giants, where he played even less (18 PAs in 6 weeks), and was finally sent to Minneapolis in June. Despite leading the American Association with an 1.127 OPS, he was released at the end of 1952 and never got back to the majors.


May 12, 1951: After sitting out two games while his team’s losing streak reached five, Musial comes off the bench for the first time in over a year — pinch-hitting for a pinch-hitter in the 8th — and slugs a 3-run HR off Reds relief ace Frank Smith, creating a 6-4 lead. It’s his only pinch-HR until 1962.

  • Musial starts the next 133 games of 1951, sitting out the season finale (2nd game of a doubleheader). From Opening Day 1952, he starts 862 straight games through July 21, 1957 (not starting the 2nd game of that doubleheader), and plays in a NL-record 895 consecutive games.
  • Sept. 24, 1963 — Counting down the last four games of his own career, Musial plays against the Cubs and Billy Williams, who homers off Bob Gibson — one game after starting the streak that would reach 1,117 consecutive games, breaking Musial’s NL record.


July 24, 1953: With his team behind 1-0 in the 6th, 2 outs and the whiff-prone slugger Steve Bilko at bat, Musial steals home for the 5th and final time in his career. But the Phillies win it, 2-1, on Granny Hamner‘s walk-off HR, completing the only 2-HR game of his career. Both shots came off rookie Harvey Haddix, who finished 20-9, 3.06, but lost the ROY vote to Jim Gilliam.


September 7, 1953: Musial’s other 1-0 winning RBI comes on a double off Cincinnati’s Herm Wehmeier, in the only quality start Wehmeier managed that year in 10 tries. Out of 610 modern pitchers with at least 200 starts, only Jimmy Haynes had a worse ERA+ than Wehmeier’s 84. But he had his moments, especially with the 1956 Cards:

  • In a 12-IP, 2-1 win over Warren Spahn in the next-to-last game of 1956, Wehmeier allowed a HR in the 1st, then blanked the Braves for 11 frames, knocking them out of 1st place; Musial doubled and scored the winning run in the 12th. (Meanwhile, Brooklyn swept Pittsburgh on the final weekend to pass the Braves for their 6th pennant in 10 years with Jackie Robinson.)
  • Wehmeier also outlasted the 1st-place Braves in August for a 10-inning, 3-2 win, driving in Bobby Del Greco (who still couldn’t hit) with the go-ahead run against Lew Burdette. The Cards played three games that year in which both starters went 10+ IP, and Wehmeier started and won all three.
  • Musial faced Spahn more than any other pitcher, and treated him like every other Tom, Dick and Harry: .330 BA, 1.016 OPS in 327 PAs.


May 2, 1954: Game 1 is the first of Stan’s two career 3-HR games. The second HR, a 2-run shot in the 5th off southpaw Johnny Antonelli, reverses a 1-run deficit; the third is a 3-run clout that busts a 6-all tie in the 8th. In the nightcap, Musial homers twice against Hoyt Wilhelm. Five HRs in a doubleheader sets a new record that has been equaled just once.

  • Also enjoying a career day in the twinbill is rookie Tom Alston, the first black player in Cardinals history. (Only seven years after integration!) He goes 5 for 6 with a HR, a double, 5 RBI and 3 walks. Alston’s first month is a roaring success; 27 RBI in 28 games, hitting .308/.930. But he slumps in the next six weeks and is sent back to AAA, virtually ending his big-league career.
  • Willie Mays goes 1-for-7 in the doubleheader. Through 17 games (and following his 2-year Army stint), the Say-Hey Kid is hitting .229. Then he breaks out: 26 games, 13 HRs, .419 BA. Going into the season finale, Mays trails teammate Don Mueller by less than a quarter of a point in the batting race. Each gets a hit his first time up and makes out the second. Mays pulls ahead with a triple and double, while Mueller makes two outs. But the game goes into extra innings, and Mueller doubles to start the 10th, with Mays two spots away. If Mueller gets one more hit while Mays makes two more outs, Mueller would win the crown by .3441 to .3339. But Mays is intentionally walked, Mueller makes an out in the 11th, and Mays wins his only batting title.
  • In game 2, Royce Lint relieves during New York’s 8-run 3rd and winds up with his first big-league loss, the day after notching his first win. At 33 and in his 13th pro season, Lint has finally reached the majors after a 22-10 year in the PCL. He won’t last the season, but he does make one very nice memory: On July 4 in Wrigley, he shuts out the Cubs and rips a 2-run double off Jim Brosnan for his only MLB hit. Lint is one of 58 pitchers who had a shutout and no more than 2 career wins.
  • Lint also played a small role in this freak game — the first time that a team used 8 or more pitchers in a 9-inning win. From the 6th through 8th innings, the lead changed hands in six consecutive half-innings. (Lint’s contribution: allowing a double and a walk, then booting a sac bunt.) There were five such games in 2012, including two straight by the Giants in Denver.


May 5, 1955: In his first career start, Tom Lasorda gets a thrill by whiffing Musial with men on 3rd and 2nd and no outs. Lasorda doesn’t allow a hit, but his 1st inning begins walk, wild pitch, walk, wild pitch, whiff, wild pitch, and he doesn’t come back for the 2nd. Lasorda also faced Musial in his MLB debut (sac fly), and walked him in their other meeting.

  • Lasorda also struck out Mickey Mantle in back-to-back games; unfortunately, Tommy also gave up 9 runs in 4 innings in those contests, and his MLB career ended a month later in a blaze of inglory.


April 17, 1956: In the traditional Opening Day game in Cincinnati, Musial redeems an 0-for-4 day with a tiebreaking 9th-inning HR off Joe Nuxhall after Red Schoendienst‘s 2-out bingle. It’s Musial’s third and last Opening Day home run. Vinegar Bend Mizell gets the win in his return from a 2-year Army hitch, with last-out help from 41-year-old Ellis Kinder in his Cardinals debut. New skipper Fred Hutchinson, hired despite a .397 winning percentage in 2-1/2 years managing Detroit, gets off on the right foot. Five years later, he led the Reds to their first pennant in two decades; but three years after that, he died of cancer at age 45.

  • Nuxhall is one of the few pitchers Musial saw a lot but didn’t master: .254 BA, .686 OPS, 2 HRs in 140 known PAs. With data known for 1946-63, there were 16 pitchers Musial faced in 100+ PAs. Only Nuxhall held him below an .842 OPS or .284 BA, and his combined line against these stars was .333/.983, each a hair above his career marks.
  • Frank Robinson debuts in this game, batting 7th, and knocks a ground-rule double in his first time up; he later draws an intentional walk, and will retire ranked #3 in that category (since the stat became official). The rookie Robinson becomes one of the youngest to start an All-Star game, batting 2nd in front of Musial. Robby strikes out in both his trips, but Musial swats the last of his 6 All-Star game HRs, answering the back-to-back jacks hit by Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle off Warren Spahn.


August 21, 1957: The only time the batting race came down to Mays and Musial, and Stan pulls a Secretariat. Willie trails by 6 points heading into a 3-game set in the Polo Grounds, and he holds his own with 4 for 11. But Stan goes 7 for 9 and homers in each game, building a 14-point bulge that will not be threatened — especially since he hits .500 in an injury-shortened September. It’s the 7th and last batting crown for Musial, and his 15th straight year at .310 or better.

  • Two days after the Mays showdown, Musial misses a game for the first time since the end of 1951, ending his NL record streak at 895. He’ll miss 15 straight games, returning to play part-time in September (despite a fractured shoulder) as the Cards tried to chase down Milwaukee. By my count, it’s the only time he ever missed 10 or more games in a row.
  • Hank Sauer‘s HR makes him the first 40-year-old with 20+ HRs; nine more have gone “20@40” since. When Musial retired, only he, Sauer, Ruth, Ted Williams and Cy Williams had hit 200+ HRs from age 31 onward; 42 more players have since joined those ranks, including 23 in the last 20 years.


April 11, 1962: Beginning his 20th full year, the 41-year-old Musial drives in the first run ever against the newborn Mets with career hit number 3,402. During the year, he will pass Honus WagnerCap Anson and Tris Speaker to trail only Ty Cobb on the all-time hits list. The Mets don’t get him out all day, as Musial adds 2 more hits (including double #698).

  • A week later, facing the Mets in the Polo Grounds, Musial knocks in 3 with a pair of singles and ties Babe Ruth for #2 in Total Bases. On July 8, he treats Mets fans to his second (and last) 3-HR game. He hit .468 against the ’62 Mets (22 for 47) with 4 HRs, all in the Polo Grounds. His career line in that park: .343 BA, 49 HRs in 171 games, his best HR rate of any park.
  • The Cards start off 7-0, yet trail the 9-0 Pirates. After reaching 10-0, the Bucs take their first loss from the 0-10 Mets, and within a month they’re at .500; Pittsburgh musters 93 wins but are never in the race after July.


June 18, 1962: In Dodger Stadium, Musial singles twice off Sandy Koufax and passes Cobb for #1 in  Total Bases. Bob Gibson duels Koufax into a scoreless 9th, but Tommy Davis wins it with a solo HR. Koufax, the reigning strikeout king, gives just 5 singles and fans 9, but Musial is 2 for 3 with a groundout; the Cards’ 9th ended with Ken Boyer caught stealing as Musial stood at bat.

  • Against Koufax, Musial went 13 for 38 with 2 HRs, 6 walks and 5 strikeouts, although most of the damage was done in the ’50s.


September 27, 1962: In Candlestick, with the Giants desperately chasing LA — 2 games back with 4 to play — and Billy O’Dell chasing his 20th win, Musial goes 5-for-5 in a 7-4 win, his last 5-hit game (a day after hitting his second 3-run pinch-HR, off southpaw Billy Pierce). The Cards then do the Giants a huge favor, sweeping the Dodgers in LA on the final weekend. In the 3-2 opener, Musial drives in the tying run in the 5th after a Curt Flood sacrifice, then sets up the winner in the 9th, pulling a hit into RF off lefty relief ace Ron Perranoski that sends Flood to 3rd with no outs. Then Ernie Broglio stones LA on 2 hits in a 2-0 win, and Curt Simmons completes the sweep, 1-0, on Gene Oliver‘s 8th-inning HR off Johnny Podres.

  • In 1962, Stan hit .330 with .508 SLG and .924 OPS, still the highest modern marks for a player age 41 or older.


May 2, 1963: “It’s 715!” … doubles, that is, as Musial clears the bases and becomes the 6th player to reach 1,900 RBI. The next day in Cincinnati, Stan the Man rests while Charlie Hustle strokes the first triple and HR of his career (and first 2 RBI) off Ernie Broglio, while Joe Nuxhall shuts out the Cards.

  • After 14 games, Rose has 2 triples and that home run, but the first of his 746 career doubles is still a week away. Rose totaled 38 doubles in his first 2 years, then averaged 38 per year for his next 16 seasons. Rose and Musial played against each other 14 times, but they never doubled in the same game; Musial sat out three other Cards-Reds games that year, and Rose doubled in each one.
  • Musial was there at Nuxhall’s debut 19 years before, when he became the youngest ever to play in the majors (then didn’t resurface for eight years). The Cards won that game, 18-0, with 19 singles, 2 doubles and 14 walks (5 by Nuxhall, 6 by Buck Fausett — even if you’ve never heard of him, you know his nickname was Leaky); Musial went 4-4-3-3 with 3 walks in his first 4-Run game. In ’63, Nuxhall — now 34, having been released by three teams in the past two years — notched career highs of 4.6 WAR, 169 SO and 4.33 SO/BB.
  • For 1960-63, Broglio ranked 5th in ERA+ and WAR, and 15th in Wins and Strikeouts. Landing Broglio in ’64 (plus others) for Lou Brock, who at that point owned a .306 OBP in 1,300 PAs, could have been a coup for Chicago, but his arm went bad and he won just 7 games after the trade, while Brock immediately transformed into a star.


May 8, 1963: A 4th-inning HR off LA’s Bob Miller gives Musial 1,357 extra-base hits, passing Ruth for the all-time record.

  • The record stands until 1973, broken by Hank Aaron‘s 704th HR. Barry Bonds passed Musial in 2006 (the same year he passed Ruth in HRs).
  • In 1972, Aaron passed Musial in Total Bases. Stan remains 2nd all-time in Total Bases and 3rd in Extra-Base Hits.


July 28, 1963: In the midst of his career year, Chicago’s Dick Ellsworth fans 10 Cardinals in a 5-1 win. In his 3,003rd game (counting WS), Musial finally strikes out 3 times in a game, for the only time in his career. Musial has just 64 games of 2+ strikeouts; Adam Dunn topped that last year alone, and both he and Pedro Alvarez had 20 games of 3+ whiffs in 2012.

  • Ellsworth finishes 22-10 with a 2.11 ERA, pitching 21 of 37 games in Wrigley; the Cubs are 60-70 without him. He leads both leagues with a 167 ERA+, and tops Koufax in total WAR, 9.6-9.5 (including batting), with a better HR rate in spite of their parks — but Sandy goes 25-5 and wins both Cy Young and MVP.


September 16, 1963: After trailing LA by 7 games on August 29, the Cards have won 19 of 20, pulling within a game with 10 games left, starting with three head-to-head in St. Louis. The Dodgers take a 1-0 lead to the 7th, but Musial ties it with a HR off southpaw Johnny Podres; Musial hits Podres .352/1.001 in 122 PAs. (It’s #475, his last HR.) But in the 9th, reliever Bobby Shantz, riding a 14-inning scoreless string, gives up 2 runs, on a Willie Davis single and Julian Javier‘s error, and the Cards go quickly in their half, including a Musial groundout. Game 2 is a Koufax shutout, win #24 en route to his first CYA; he’s 4-0, 0.96 against the Cards.

  • The finale is a crusher in 13 innings. Gibson cruises to the 8th up 5-1, but LA tallies thrice off Gibson and Shantz, and Dick Nen ties it in the 9th with a HR in his MLB debut (2nd AB). After singling in the 7th, Musial comes out for pinch-runner Gary Kolb, who is caught stealing to end that inning. Dick Groat opens the home 10th with a triple, but Kolb (now in Musial’s spot) strikes out, and after two intentional walks, the threat withers on a pair of groundouts. Lew Burdette, acquired by STL at the deadline, squirms out of trouble in the 10th, 11th and 12th, but LA breaks through in the 13th, helped by Javier’s 2-base throwing error. The Cards go in order against Ron Perranoski, who lasts 6 scoreless innings for his 16th relief win. St. Louis now trails by 4 with 7 games left, and they get no closer.
  • St. Louis will win 3 pennants and 2 World Series in their first five years post-Musial. From 1941-68, the Dodgers won 11 pennants, the Cards 7, the Giants and Braves 3 each, and one apiece for the Cubs, Braves, Phillies, and Reds.




Musial, out of the box and going for two — 106 Comments

  1. Ok JA so this is where you’ve been the last couple of days. Because even if it were true, I will not let you tell me that you whipped this thing together in an hour after dinner tonight.

    The scope of this article is breathtaking.

    As always, great job, an effort befitting The Man himself.

    Some notes on your notes:

    -Musial missed playing in the same game with Gabby Hartnett by one day. Hartnett, a career Cub, was finishing out his career with the New York Giants in his age 40 season. NYG was in St. Louis the day before Musial’s debut and the two teams battled to a 1-1 tie in 10 innings. Both Mel Ott and Johnny Mize would go 0 for 5 on that (presumably) rainy day:

    -I’ve always been a little confused about why Stan Musial hit sooo many triples. I understand that everyone hit a lot of triples before Musial, but that had pretty much changed when he entered the league. Usually speed is a major factor in high triples totals. That, and some ballparks (like the one in Kansas City) seem to lend themselves to triple-baggers. But therein lies the rub: Musial only hit 3 more triples at home than away, so there is no homefield advantage.

    If that’s so, why does teammate Enos Slaughter also place in the top ten for triples since 1940 (Musial is #1`and Slaughter is #9)? Slaughter doesn’t show much of a home/away split either, with 76 home triples and 72 on the road. Can anyone offer an explanation as to why these two players, on the same team for much of their careers, can finish so high in career triples without either of them stealing 100 bases in their career?

    • My search for career triples since 1940 cut off Enos Slaughter’s first two years. If you include the 15 triples “Country” hit in ’38 and ’39, that vaults Slaughter into third place, not ninth.

    • bstar- I didn’t read your entire comment before I wrote mine. If you want my explanation Google 1962 Topps baseball card #317 (I’ve looked it up since I typed my comment).

    • Thanks, bstar — and thanks for the note on Hartnett. I did forget to check on them playing in the same game. So, I’ll have to silence Gabby and inject Big Poison.

      P.S. Being a lefty is a big advantage in hitting triples.

      • Actually, John, you can go back further to Johnny Cooney whose first season was 1921. He played in Musial’s debut game. See my comment 12 below.

        • Agreed, Doug, but I was looking for a HOFer or great player. Cooney sure did have an interesting career, though: As a SP in 1924 (119 ERA+), he had Casey Stengel as his RF. As an everyday CF in 1941 (115 OPS+), he had Casey as his manager, and Warren Spahn & Johnny Sain as rookies. As manager of the Braves at the end of 1949, he had Spahn & Sain as tenured aces.

          • Regarding Big Poison, he and Cooney were in lock-step to close out their careers.
            – After being released by the Dodgers, Waner hooked up with Cooney in Boston during the 1941 season.
            – Both were released by the Braves after the 1942 season, and picked up by the Dodgers (on the same day) for 1943
            – Both were released by the Dodgers during the 1944 season and both were picked up by the Yankees who subsequently released both to close out their careers

        • A couple of fun Johnny Cooney box scores:

          August 16, 1925: Cooney shuts out the Giants on 3 hits (no walks, no strikeouts).
          – New York’s #1-2 hitters are Billy Southworth and Frankie Frisch, both of whom will manage the Cardinals to a championship.
          – “Friends of Frankie Frisch,” indeed. The Giants’ lineup contains (player) HOFers Frisch, Bill Terry, Ross Youngs, Highpockets Kelly (2B who leads the NL with 136 RBI), and a rookie Freddie Lindstrom. Southworth and John McGraw will make the Hall as managers. Ex-Giant (and future HOFer) Dave Bancroft is Cooney’s SS and manager.
          – Bill Klem works first base.
          – Boston RF Jimmy Welsh hits 2 HRs for the only time. (Love those Polo Grounds!)

          July 30, 1924: Cooney shuts out the Reds and goes 1 for 3 at bat.
          – Cincinnati’s first baseman is Rube Bressler, who hung up his pitcher’s glove in 1920 and bats .350 from 1924-26. Cooney, Bressler, and Babe Ruth are the only modern players with both 500+ IP and 3,000+ PAs.
          – Boston RF Les Mann is the last remnant of the 1914 Miracle Braves, though he’s left and returned twice.
          – Reds catcher Gus Sandberg is replaced by Bubbles Hargrave, and he in turn by Boob Fowler.

          • Boob had his challenges with the glove. Nine errors in ten fielding games in his debut season at SS. Another 9 in 38 fielding games the next season. And, an error in each of his two games two years after that, his final ML appearances.

          • Rabbit Maranville, (Evers was the only other HOFer on the 1914 Miracle team.) came back to the Braves in 1929 and stayed til the end of his career in 1935.

    • (good speed) + (line-drive power) + (ALWAYS hustling out of the box and running all-out every time a ball is hit to the outfield) =
      lots of triples

      I realize this is an over-simplification – but both Musial and Slaughter had the reputation as guys who hustled all the time, so this isn’t surprising. Stolen bases were at or near an all-time low in the late 30s-early 50s period, when these two were active and still relatively fast; almost all the lowest NL SB/games averages were in these years.

      Also, SB attempt totals are more of a tactical/managerial decision than most other stats. I suspect these two could’ve stolen as many bases as say, Reggie Jackson (228) or Hank Aaron(240) if they really wanted to and were allowed to.

      Triples totals can be very deceptive,though – in 2011 Jacoby Ellsbury had a breakthrough year, hitting 32 HR, while still displaying great speed by stealing 39 bases (4th). His triples total – five, his least in a full year.

      • Good point about the SB rates being down in Musial’s career. I had forgotten to consider that. So Musial was faster than his SB totals suggest, and then of course the longevity factor has a lot to do with his massive total.

        I guess Slaughter being on the same team as Musial and being third in “modern” career triples is more of an anomaly than anything. That, and there were more triples hit in the ’40s and ’50s than in today’s game.

  2. As great a site as High Heat Stats is, this really needs wider distribution. I’ve read entire books on baseball that didn’t convey as clear and complete a picture of their subject and certainly didn’t tell their story in as entertaining and engaging a fashion. Well done doesn’t begin to cover it.

    – My favorite non-Musial aside was Bill Howerton’s story with the All In The Family bit a close second.

    – I also loved that you included so many of the career categories that Musial led either the National League or all of baseball in at the time of his retirement. We sometimes forget that at the time of his retirement only Honus Wagner could challenge him for the crown of the greatest player in League history although Willie Mays would certainly stake his claim in the next couple of years.

    – I don’t have any memory of seeing Musial on television when I was young but I do remember a baseball card of his that I had (and still have) that went a long ways towards explaining all of those doubles & triples. It’s a 1961 or 62 Topps with a brown border with 3 pictures of Musial’s swing- the beginning, middle & end. And at the end of his swing, before the bat was even out of his hand, he was already a full step down the first baseline and running hard. If more players did that every time they made contact they just might find themselves with another handful of extra base hits in a season. That Musial was still doing it at 40-some years of age goes a long way towards explaining why he’s still among the career leaders in both doubles and triples.

    Thanks for the great story about one of my favorite players.

    • Watching video of Musial’s swing, what strikes me is its quickness and simplicity. Just “see the ball, hit the ball” – a very, very quick and violent stroke, seemingly in one motion, as if attacking the ball with all his might. Pretty much the opposite of the fluidity of, say, a Ted Williams swing.

      • It was Musial’s batting stance—do not try this at home (although we all did in the Fifties)—wound up like a coiled spring, bat held way back and high,body bent, peering out, feet and knees together, then the long powerful stride and the bat lashing like it was suddenly unleashed. It drove the coaches of the Little Leagues crazy saying no, you’re not Stan the Man, young fella.

        • agreed , NSB — still remember practicing in front of the hall mirror.. 36 ounce bat -80 pound kid – couldn’t hold it high enough or back enough. “you’re not Stan the Man” good line- reminds me of the golf teacher — lesson 1 -hold your elbow closer to your body ” ……”
          but Jack Nicklaus holds his out there”
          OK Lesson 2 is ” hold your elbow closer to your body ” lesson 1 is “you’re not Jack Nicklaus”

  3. On Musial and the Mets: Stan had an 1.198 career OPS vs. the Mets — still the highest career OPS against them by anyone with at least 100 PAs facing the Mets. Admittedly, that’s helped by the fact that he only played them in 1962 and 1963, when they were famously bad, but those were also his age 41 and 42 seasons.

  4. Great post John but I do have a comment. For the 9/7/53 game you state that the Dodgers that year won their 6th pennant with Jackie Robinson. That year was their 4th pennant with Jackie.

    • That was murky writing on my part, Richard. Although the passage starts out with the 9/7/53 game, I’m speaking of Herm Wehmeier’s 1956 efforts when I mention Brooklyn’s 6th pennant with Jackie.

  5. Spectacular stuff, John.

    A couple more notes about Ted Wilks, mentioned concerning the 1944 World Series. That was Wilks’ rookie season (as a 28 year-old) and, in addition to his relief work, he also started 21 games, going 15-3 in his starts and 2-1 in relief. He led the league in W-L% and WHIP, and also became the very first pitcher to yield no unearned runs in 200+ IP (previous high IP to do this was only 113.1). Wilks also had 16 complete games to go with 10 games finished, a once common feat that was starting to become less so. Only eight more pitchers after Wilks would have 15+ CG and 10+ games finished, the last being Sam Jones in 1959.

    Despite his heroics in the ’44 WS, Wilks was used in relief only twice in ’45 before becoming basically a full-time reliever starting in ’46. Had a nice 119 ERA+ and 59-30 W-L for his career.

    Another note concerning Musial’s career span. You can actually go back one more year to 1921, as Musial and Johnny Cooney (1921-44) were starting outfielders in Musial’s career debut. Like Musial, Cooney was a converted pitcher (but with much less spectacular results), although, in that 1941 season, 40 year-old Cooney would be runner-up (albeit a distant runner-up) to NL batting champion Pete Reiser. As a matching book-end, Musial and Pete Rose started in Musial’s career finale.

  6. Another Musial factoid. He and Barry Bonds are tied for the most seasons (22) played without ever having an OPS+ below 100. Eddie Collins and Ty Cobb both had 23 seasons of 100+ OPS+ but each debuted as a teenager with a sub-100 OPS+ season (for Collins, a very brief debut of only 18 PA; he also had a sub-100 OPS+ as a 42 year-old in 9 hitless PAs as a pinch-hitter).

  7. Some other factoids:

    On 7-21-57 Musial pinch-ran for Ken Boyer. That was his only PR appearance.

    Pat Seerey is one of two players to accumulate 15 or more TB in a game more than once. Willie Mays is the other.
    Jim Tobin is the only pitcher to hit 3 HR in a game.
    Phil Weintraub had 11 RBI in a game, tied for third best.
    Estel Crabtree was also born in Crabtree, OH, just one of 10 players whose surname matches his town of birth.
    Clyde was not the only Kluttz in baseball, there was also Mickey Klutts.

  8. Musial’s only pitching appearance was in the final game of the 1952 season. Musial and starter Harvey Haddix swapped positions after one batter so that Musial could face Frank Bamholtz of the Cubs. Baumholtz trailed Musial in the batting race and could theoretically have caught Stan had Frank gone 5-5 while Musial went 0-5 (or something like that). So, some kind of gamesmanship involved in having Musial on the mound. At any event, Baumholtz hit a heat-seeking missile that just about took off the 3rd baseman’s head. But, the St. Louis official scorer indefensibly ruled it an error. Haddix returned to the mound and the game proceeded normally from that point. Musial was really shaken about how close the ball had come to his teammate’s head, and vowed never again to take part in any such shenanigans.

  9. I my haste to heap praise on John’s writing I completely forgot about this:

    Name the source: “Despite all evidence to the contrary, there has never been, nor could there ever be, a major league ballplayer named Clyde Kluttz.”

    I’m going with Bill James. That sounds exactly like his wicked sense of humor that he let’s out on occasion.

  10. If anyone can confirm that Musial got a hit in his first career PA, then he is the only player I have found* who had a .300 career average or better for his ENTIRE career. He went 2-4 in his debut and his career BA never dipped below .300 after that.

    *Just doing manual searches among guys with a decent career length.

    • My check shows that he never went below .316 which occurred on 5-4-43, not counting his first AB (I hope I got that right). In his debut game he was 2 for 4 but it is not possible to determine if he got a hit in his first AB. He definitely got a hit in his second AB driving in two runs.

      John Mize was Musial’s teammate for the first two weeks of his (Musial’s) career.

    • Looking at the box, I can confirm that Musial had a hit in his second career PA and could have had the other hit his first time up. Even if he did that, his career BA could still have dipped below .300 if he started his second game 0 for 3 en route to his 1 for 4 day.

      So, other than a possible 0 for 1, or 2 for 7 start, it was clear sailing above .300 all the way after that.

    • Ichiro is another one who is very close. He has been a career .300 hitter since the first AB of his 3rd career game (he singled to stand at 3 for his first 9).

      Pablo Sandoval has been a career .300 hitter since the 3rd AB of his 2nd career game (single to stand 2 for 6).

      Pujols has been above .300 since the first AB of his 5th game.

      Bill Madlock was never below .300 after the 4th AB of his 8th game.

      Frank Thomas never fell below .300 for his career after the 3rd AB of his 39th game.

        • Dale Alexander, who thwarted Jimmie Foxx’s Triple Crown aspirations by winning the AL batting title in 1932, also never fell below .300 in his career.

        • I did some judicious PI searching and some manual searching to come up with these results. The only confirmed players with a constant lifetime .300+ BA are Foxx and Combs as I stated above. I found 5 others who could possibly have done it but cannot be confirmed because it is not possible to determine if they got a hit in their first AB. They are Joe DiMaggio, Riggs Stephenson, Bob Fothergill, Dale Mitchell and Barney McCosky.

      • Yeah this is pretty common, I have looked through a lot of these types of players.

        Looks like Richard below found Jimmie Foxx who you can be certain belongs in the lifetime .300 club

  11. Musial was there at Nuxhall’s debut 19 years before, when he became the youngest ever to play in the majors (then didn’t resurface for eight years).

    Probably a good thing for Nuxhall that he had that eight year hiatus before really starting his career at a more suitable age. Of the eight players to debut before their 17th birthdays, Nuxhall’s career is easily the longest – nobody else lasted past age 27, and half of the eight last played as teenagers.

    • I really thought that Leonidas Lee was going to be one of the greats.

      Then he could have gone back to his given name, Leonidas Pyrrhus Funkhouser.

      BTW, did anyone know that Leonidas was Rafael Belliard’s middle name? Or that my grandparents lived for many years on Leonidas Street in New Orleans?

      • Leonidas Pyyrhus Funkhouser… wow. Somebody’s parents were fans of ancient Greece. Quite the pair of historical figures too; one famous for losing the battle but winning the war, the other for winning the battle but losing the war.

  12. I really enjoyed this post John. Thank you.

    When I originally read it this morning, I immediately
    thought of Mickey Klutts upon your mentioning Clyde Kluttz.

    Alas, Richard beat me to it. What I can say is how surprised I
    was to see that Klutts had only 24 plate appearances over
    three seasons with the Yankees.

    34 years after his last appearance with the Yankees, and yet
    there he is right on the tip of my tongue. It boggles the mind
    and reminds me of a youth well spent. Thank you.

    The 1956 All-Star game…

    I always figured that once time travel is mastered, if I could go
    back to any All-Star game, it would be 1971. The reason
    being the plethora of future Hall of Famers and the homer by Reggie.

    But now I think it would be 1956. What could be better than seeing
    The Commerce Comet, The Splendid Splinter and The Man all homer
    in the same game. Extraordinary. Babe Ruth’s homer in the first ever
    mid-season classic is also a contender.

    Forgive this diversion, but is anyone else disturbed by the fact that
    President Obama wants to nominate the late Kim Jong-Il to head the SEC?

    Seriously, phenomenal post and thanks to all who posted regarding the
    players who attained a .300 BA at the earliest points of their career’s
    and then maintained it throughout. That is something I never thought about
    before and I found it very entertaining.

    • The year before The Man walked off the all-star game at Milwaukee County Stadium in the 12th inning, one of only 3 AS game walk-off dingers.

  13. Estel Crabtree’s career got me thinking about ultra-late bloomers – guys who were practically nonexistent until they reached an age where most other players are completely finished.

    140 players have accumulated at least 2.5 WAR after age 37. Of them, all but 4 accumulated at least 5 WAR before 37:

    Dickey Pearce 9.5 career WAR/8.2 in age 37 season and beyond
    Bob Boyd 5.6/4.8
    Earle Brucker 4.3/3.1
    Estel Crabtree 3.7/2.5

    All of these players have either extenuating circumstances or bizarre narratives.

    Brucker, a catcher who did not make it to the bigs until two-and-a-half weeks before turning 36, did not play in any professional league between the ages of 26 and 28 due to arm troubles. Crabtree, in addition to the frustration of being stuck in the minors for seven years despite good hitting, also suffered the loss of a kidney due to an outfield collision — presumably in 1940, when he only played 57 games.

    Pearce’s “rookie” season was in 1871 at age 35. He may have accumulated more WAR prior to 1871 had there been a professional league, but this is made uncertain by the fact that his WAR actually increased each season from age 35 to 39.

    Bob Boyd’s career is also defined by extenuating circumstances. His entry into the major leagues was delayed by the color barrier until 1950, when he became the first black player to be signed by the White Sox; he made his major league debut a year later at the tender age of 31. Boyd then was in and out of the majors for several more years before finally playing a full season with the Orioles at age 37 in ’57, when he hit .318/.388/.408 and finished 16th in the MVP voting, picking up 3.3 WAR along the way. It is claimed that he hit over .350 in three consecutive seasons in the Negro Leagues from ’47 to ’49; we can only speculate what kind of Major League performance this would have translated into.

    • To be more clear about how much WAR each player accumulated before age 37:

      Dickey Pearce 9.5 career WAR/1.3 before age 37
      Bob Boyd 5.6/0.8
      Earle Brucker 4.3/1.2
      Estel Crabtree 3.7/2.5

    • You’re missing Connie Marrero from your list. He was a 39 year-old rookie and compiled 9.4 WAR over 4 seasons, before giving back 0.4 WAR in his final year at age 43. Marrero is one of only 7 pitchers since 1901 with 50+ complete games at age 39 or later.

      Marrero is still living in Havana, aiming to reach 102 years in April. According to his SABR bio, he is the only living player from pre-revolutionary Cuba.

      Satchel Paige also should be on the list, 9.7 WAR all after age 42 (he debuted in his age 41 season, but after turning 42). That includes 0.2 WAR earned for his 3 innings at age 59 with Kansas City (that may be a bit hard to fathom, except that Paige fanned 3, walked none and allowed no runs on just one hit in that stint).

      • Glad to hear you mention those two, Doug.

        Satchel at age 49, 50 and 51 was among the International League (AAA) ERA leaders each year, pitching for the original Miami Marlins (with some Veeck involvement).

        Connie Marrero’s record in 3 years “organized ball” before his MLB debut: 70-25, 1.62 ERA.

      • Good catches, Doug. I should have realized there was an error in my research when Satchel Paige didn’t show up on my list. However, I was writing that post pretty late at night; that, combined with the fact that Walter Johnson (13.1 career bWAR!) showed up on the search, made me totally forget that I was only running a batter search. Good thing this isn’t my day job…

        At any rate, thanks for the information about Marrero. I had never heard of him before this; it must be an incredible feeling for somebody to defy Father Time as long as he did.

    • Good stuff, GrandyMan.

      Earle Brucker wasn’t really a slugger, but in 1937, he was one of 7 guys to homer in consecutive games in Griffith Stadium, Washington. All were visitors. There were only 44 HRs hit there by both sides that year.

      I have mixed feelings about long-term bad teams like those Athletics. It must be awful to root for such a team, yet they’re the teams who do unconventional things like making a 36-year-old rookie their starting catcher.

  14. Before the subject of Musial is superseded by something less important—to me—here’s a question I’d like to ask, in view of Musial’s passing and the recent post by Stacey on Mantle:

    Both men were complete players, both led their leagues in multiple categories multiple times; both were clubhouse leaders; both were highly inspirational to players in youth leagues, Musial for his unrelentingness, friendly character, and batting style, Mantle for his overcoming chronic osteomyelitis and many injuries to his fragile but speedy legs and for his unassuming, serious manner on the field, whatever he did off it; both won three MVPs and were in the hunt for others multiple times.

    If you had to choose one or the other for your team, which one would you take?

    • And for the purpose of discussion, lets not split hairs, please, on WAR and OPS+. Both did themselves proud in these categories.

        • Mu: 282.4

          Ma: 277.5

          These are the current combined values assigned by B-Ref, less than 1% difference. And while it’s true that adding them together has no logic to it, what would be the standard approach? Oh, Mantle’s OPS+ is 13 points higher, but look, Musial gets it all back because his WAR—this week, at least—is 17.9 to the good? What is there to discuss concerning these two stats re these two players beyond splitting hairs or stating personal preferences masked as statistical analysis?

          There’s more at stake in life and baseball than what can be measured and quantified. The impact of Musial’s death on the baseball world is far different, or so I’ll predict, from what it will be when Barry Bonds goes on to play with the angels.

          • I wasn’t implying you should combine the stats at all.

            Looking at career WAR and OPS+ (separately) is hardly splitting hairs.

            If you can come up with another number besides WAR that combines value from all aspects of hitting, value on the basepaths, our best guess as to value playing defense, value from hitting into/avoiding double plays, value from playing a tough defensive position, and value from being above the level of a replacement player, I’m all ears.

            Unless you can offer an alternative, WAR is the best we’ve got as far as “one number” goes. OPS+ is pretty good also for a quick and dirty look at the overall effectiveness of an offensive player.

            Sure, there’s clubhouse presence, postseason play, strength of character, etc. to talk about. I wasn’t suggesting we not talk about those things at all.

            As to your jibe about what WAR says about Musial “this week”, oh my. Try to think of the latest version of rWAR as an “improvement”, not a change. Things once estimated are now known. Shouldn’t we refine the calculations to reflect this?

          • bstar:

            1) I was the one who combined the two stats, just out of a perverse desire to do so. Call it the nWO‡. Never thought you or anyone else would be that insane.

            2) My point has been consistently that—while they differed a great deal as players—both reached about the same level (See other comments here, especially JA’s @ #73) overall, and both were, beyond statistics, leaders, inspirational, etc. Given this general equality, which would you take if you could only have one?

            It’s not a trick question but an enigma or conundrum.

    • I love Musial. If I were assembling a real team, on the field, I would probably take Musial over Williams no matter what the stats say. He’s not just a better fielder & far better on the basepaths but I think Williams ego would have created even more problems on a team loaded with stars than it did on those “25 cabs” Sox teams.

      But even with all that I don’t think I would have taken Musial over Mantle.

      • Musial was very good against lefties, as has been noted elsewhere, and Mantle was better batting R than L over his career. When he was in a slump batting L, the subject always came up—why didn’t he turn around and swing from his natural side. Reason? As I recall, he promised his father he would never do it, although B-Ref has him for one AB batting R vs a RH pitcher, but no AB is recorded(?).

          • I was going to guess it was probably against a knuckleballer, who some hitters believe can be more difficult to hit from the opposite side. Similar, a few times over the years, switch hitters have batted right-handed against Mariano Rivera, believing his cutter was much tougher to hit while batting from the opposite side.

    • Hmmm, which inner-circle HOFer would I’d like to have?

      I’ll be happy with either one. Musial went on to had the greater career because he played at a high level into his 40s. Musial was also a fine fielder, although much in LF and 1B. (Forgotten by many is Musial played a lot in RF and even CF; he was quite versatile defensively.) Mantle played center, but indications are his fielding was not as great as his reputation, both from accounts of the time and what we can see in fielding metrics today (granted, should be viewed quite skeptically). Yet he did play CF, covering the huge grounds at the old Stadium in CF and left CF.

      If you’re talking about somehow getting the young Mantle or the young Musial today, and knowing what we know, I’m taking Mantle. I’m making sure he doesn’t trip over a damn drain in the OF wrecking his knee and I’m making sure there is no Billy Martin influence on the team. Put him in today’s Yankee Stadium with the more fair center and RF, add in time at DH greatly lengthening his career as he ages, and I’ll sit back and watch him hit an “authentic” 700+ HRs (that’s for you, Bob Costas).

      I say this all half seriously, since really no way of knowing how their stats would translate to today’s game, which has continued to improve on the margins. I am quite confident they would be great, so I’ll take either one.

    • nsb, I loved Musial. I rooted against Mantle with great fervor. But I have to say that in his prime, I never saw a player whom I felt – to my dismay – dominated the field during a game the way Mantle did (not even Mays, though perhaps that’s just because I saw less of him up close).
      Musial, I think, drained every ounce from his great talents to create one of the finest careers ever; Mantle, for reasons both within and beyond his control, left a lot on the table, and had one of the finest careers ever. I think his talents surpassed Mays’s, much as I do not like to say so.

      That said, if I were picking Musial or Mantle for my team, as a manager or GM, I’d feel peace of mind choosing Musial. A Mantle on a non-Yankee team – without the packed talent to accommodate a player clique out of control – would be, I think, a bad bet for ordinary management (which is the best I can imagine myself being). What if my team turned out to be the Kansas City A’s? Imagine what it would have been like to try to deal with Mantle on an ordinary or sub-par team? There’s tremendous value to having a star who is a good influence on everyone else, and who performs as steadily in 6th place as 1st.

      • If you were running the Kansas City A’s in the 1950s, there’s better than a 99% probability that the New York Yankees would have taken Mantle off your hands.

      • EPU-

        You really couldn’t go wrong with Musial or Mantle.

        Lately, we have heard alot about Musial. It is sad
        that someone has to die before we all take the time
        to appreciate their exploits.

        But I just want to add this point.

        Mickey Mantle was a hero within the Yankee clubhouse.

        He was well respected for two reasons. He led by example
        as he was an outstanding player.

        Number two, he played injured for almost his entire career.
        Frankly, his teammates were amazed at the level of pain
        he played through.

        In Jane Leavy’ biography she has an orthopedic surgeon analyze Mantle’s medical case history. The conclusion reached was that
        he played most of his career with a torn ACL.

        A healthy Mickey Mantle might have been the best ever.

        A chronically injured Mantle was awesome…

      • Steven @70: Touche!

        JasonZ @74: I think you’re absolutely right about Mantle’s potential and the fact that his teammates admired him. That isn’t, though, the aspect of leadership I meant. I haven’t read Leavy’s book (or any biography), but my recollection is that Mantle was at the heart of the Yankee clubhouse group that was led by Martin’s frathouse example (MikeD referred to it above), and that, perhaps for reasons of personal history (I’m thinking primarily of the impact of his father’s early death, but also of his dramatic reactions to stress as a young man), he was probably inclined in that direction. I don’t mean to be judgmental, but these sorts of issues seem utterly alien to Musial’s character – think about how quickly he rebounded from the apparent end of his own career as a pitcher in the minors – and that would make a difference to me in the real world, given a choice between those two as prospects. JA@73 says he can’t imagine regretting either choice. I can imagine grinding my teeth at watching a full-potential Mantle whom I’d passed by, and I can also imagine selling my beloved KC A’s because I could find no one to control my superstar Mantle, or placing a desperate call to George Weiss because the Yankees were unaccountably slow in offering me a few thousand bucks and a back-up third baseman (which, as owner of the A’s, I would have accepted, sending a bouquet of gratitude to Mr. Webb).

        PS: Thanks for addressing me as EPU and alerting me that I’d mistyped my own name! “e pluribus unum” – what the heck would that mean?

        • epm — Not sure if I’m reading you right, but you seem to assume that Mantle on some other team would have had more behavioral problems. Isn’t it possible that his lifestyle was accelerated by the limelight and nightlife of NYC?

          I don’t imagine that he’d have been a boy scout in another environment. But to the extent that any alcoholics have thrived in any MLB city, I’m not so sure that the caliber of the club is a big factor.

          For instance … I don’t know the chronology of Pete Alexander’s drinking problem, but he turned in several fine years for so-so Cubs teams from 1919-25.

        • EPM:

          I would add three other possible explanations for Mantle’s drinking..

          1. He may have drank to help deal with the constant

          2. Mickey assumed he would die young. Both his father
          and uncle died young. As he regrettably remarked
          late in life, if I knew I would live this long, I
          would have taken better care of myself.

          I also agree with John’s comment @83. The
          nightlife in New York must have also had an

          3. Finally, back in a time when many more day
          games were played, there was alot of free
          time in the evenings. Mickey, Billy and
          Whitey filled there free time with drinks.

          Regardless of the drinking, Mantle was
          respected by teammates and opponents alike.

          The following story is from September 18, 1965.

          It was the first Mickey Mantle Day at the stadium.
          The Yankees fearful that he would retire at seasons
          end, put this one together on the fly.

          The following is from page 362 of Marty Appel’s
          Pinstripe empire.

          “When Mantle came to bat that day in the first,
          Detroit pitcher Joe Sparma walked in from the
          mound to shake his hand. This was the esteem
          in which Mantle was now held throughout baseball.
          Everyone appreciated how he played in pain and
          played the game right. He never showed anyone
          up. He was, in fact, a great teammate and a
          great opponent.”

        • John @83 You’re right that I’m projecting from what did happen to what might; the question nsb asked seemed to call for it. And yes, Mantle might have been less wild in a smaller town; my focus was on the impact his off-field example might have had on a team without alternative stars and leaders. Put Musial wherever, you don’t have to think about that stuff.

          Jason Z @93 I wouldn’t disagree with any of what you write, except, perhaps, to add that my impression at the time was that Mantle matured a lot as a person after 1961, as the dynamics of his team environment changed (not that I was in a particularly good position to judge as a teenager reading sports page journalism). I was thinking of him at his on-field peak. But, as I’d hoped to indicate in @81, I was not speaking judgmentally about Mantle’s character or the reasons that led to his off-field behavior, which seem to me part of a complex human story. My point was that in the real world, choosing between Musial and Mantle for my team, I’d factor in that Musial would come with nothing but positives, while Mantle would come with substantial off-field risks. (Nice story about Sparma.)

          And a last word to JA – my understanding was that Alex’s drinking went out of control after the First War, but never so far that it negated his quality (nor did drinking negate Mantle’s). I love Alex as a historical figure, but in the real world I’d choose, say, Mathewson over Alex for the same sorts of reasons I’d probably choose Musial.

    • Any measurable difference I can find between Mantle and Musial looks no bigger than a rounding error.

      One might think that Musial’s WAR edge comes from playing 25% more games. But if you lop off his career after age 37, giving him virtually the same games as Mantle, Stan still has more total WAR and oWAR.

      And yet, I wouldn’t say I prefer Musial.

      Imagine your team picking between the two as amateurs, and then reaping their exact, actual careers. Could you imagine looking back afterwards and thinking, Gee, I wish we’d had the other guy instead? I can’t.

      • Since my query seems to have run out of steam—sooner than I’d hoped—I’ll give my own preference now, but with some preliminary blather. Mantle was my favorite player growing up, Musial my second favorite. I was following the majors via the newspaper from 1954 on, the only way you could at the time in a small Midwestern city away from the metropolises. Musial’s peak was passing by the time I was aware of him, but I witnessed from afar Mantle’s maturity, saw him play on TV a lot of Saturdays on the Game of the Week, and twice at Old Comiskey Park. Musial I heard about far more frequently via radio, the local station carrying the Cardinal games, even though Chicago was much closer than St,Louis either by two-lane blacktop—no superhighways then—or on a direct line. Saw Stan play just once in person, a rainy double header at Sportsman’s or old Busch, whatever they were calling it in 1959, the worst year he ever had.

        These two men had a powerful effect on my own behavior as a youth-league player, and they also had an effect on my outlook on life, Stan the happy warrior and Mickey the flawed Atlas.
        Both, though in different ways, provided lessons about life, how you leave the box running, no matter how dismal your prospects of success, how you play on in spite of pain, injury, and demons that haunt you.

        Mantle was my favorite, but in answer to the conundrum I posed above I’d have to take Musial on the basis of his steadiness and long term durability. By the end of too many seasons Mantle was on the disabled list, trying to heal so that he could play in the WS. In 1955 and 1961 his WS appearances were minor, a hobbled thoroughbred, and in 1957 he played when he shouldn’t have.

        Otherwise, as most have said here, the two are so close that the point is moot.

        • nsb — Do you remember what Musial did in that ’59 doubleheader you witnessed?

          Worst season notwithstanding, his performance in home doubleheaders was astonishing that year: In 14 games (9 starts), he went 16 for 37 with 3 HRs, a triple, 5 doubles, and 9 RBI.

          I clock that as .432 BA and .865 SLG. In the starts alone, I have him at .469 BA and .969 SLG.

          There was only one start where he went hitless (July 5, game 2), and he’d gone 2 for 2 with a double and a walk in the opener.

          Anyway, I hope it’s a good memory. :)

          • Unfortunately no, it was the following day when the Cards lost both times. I remember Musial’s pinch hit single in the second game and the crowd roaring in spite of the rain. The day before, I was playing on the Danville Pony League team in East St. Louis across the river in the Illinois Pony League State Tournament. We lost, otherwise I would have been playing that Sunday and missed seeing Musial entirely.

            Can you imagine either 1) teams playing double headers two days in a row now, or 2) a rain delayed double header lasting just over five hours?

          • nsb — The ’59 Cards, coming out of the All-Star break, played 37 games in 34 days (July 9-August 11), with 2 days off. You caught them near the end of that run.

            2B Don Blasingame, LF Bill White and CF Gino Cimoli started all 37 games. White played every inning but one. (Gene Oliver pinch-hit for White in the 9th inning of the last game, with the Cards down 2 and in the midst of the tying rally. It was a platoon maneuver.)

            Catcher Hal Smith started 32 of 37, and caught in all but 1.

            3B Ken Boyer started and finished 36 of 37.

            Larry Jackson and Ernie Broglio started 9 games apiece; Broglio also relieved once.

            Relief ace Lindy McDaniel pitched in 18 games. At the end of the stretch, he worked 4 days in a row; in 2 of those he allowed 4 runs in 1 IP or less.

            All this on a team that was going nowhere.

            Gee, I just can’t understand why they never won under Solly Hemus. Or why he never got another managing job after the Cards fired him.

  15. I just saw the funeral on TV here, in the St. Louis area. First time I ever saw Bob Costas almost break down while speaking. Really impressive service for Number Six. RIP Stan.

    • I missed the ceremony. Not even sure it was on in my area since I don’t live in St. Louis. I would have loved to have seen the tribute to The Man.

      Changing the topic slightly, Costas is a true baseball fan. He loves the game, so I forgive his rare, but ocassional off-the-rails moments, such as as he did with his lame comments toward bloggers a few years back. I don’t particuarly like his “authentic” narrative when talking about baseball stats and PEDs. Yet I understand where it comes from. It’s the the adult man who is a reporter wrestling with the little boy in him that still loves baseball, and still idolizes Mickey Mantle and Stan Musial, and the players he watched or the legends he read about as a kid. No explanation required, Bob. Even the most hardened stats advocate grew up a regular fan and that little boy never entirely goes away, especially as it relates to baseball.

      Costas is thoughtful, and even in his annoyance with the PED users, he has remained open-minded and does not seem to want to lock all them out of the HOF, understanding not only is the HOF a museum, but that there is an entirely new generation of young fans who grew up idolizing certain players, just as he did in a different generation. Overall, he adds intelligence and a bit more, so I’m happy he’s part of MLBN. He elevates its frat-house vibe. (Can they get rid of Mitch Williams, at least?)

      Yet, the other question I have about Costas is WTF, dude, when are you going to age? I swear, I’ve been watching him since I was a kid, and I’ve passed by him physically on the age scale. Someone break into his attic. There’s a Dorian Gray-like picture in there somewhere.

    • Thanks for the kindness, Jimbo. Factual corrections are always, ALWAYS welcome here. And since there was no point to my remark besides the “highest” claim, your correction is not a nitpick at all.

      I don’t know how I could have missed Gwynn ’94. Maybe I clicked the “502 PAs” button instead of “Qualified for Batting Title” in the Play Index.

  16. A few things not mentioned yet. Musial led the NL in SLG 3 times while hitting 2B and >3B. Only Cobb and Speaker have > 2B + 3B. And playing all his career after 1920 is not the only reason he had > 4* their HR. Maybe the greatest line drive hitter ever.

    • kds — Beware of greater-than and less-than signs in comments. They often get interpreted as part of HTML tags, which basically eats part of the comment. I hope you’ll make your point again.

      • Tried to redo that post and it got eaten. I should have remembered not to use >< for HTML reasons.

        Musial led the NL in SLG 3 times in seasons in which he hit < 20 HR. These were 43,44,46 so WW2 and the balata ball had a big impact. What other post 1920 seasons had the SLG leader hit so few HR?

        Only Speaker hit more of both 2B and 3B. only Cobb and Speaker hit more 2B + 3B. Musial hit a lot more HR, and not just because he played all of his career in the lively ball era.

        I think Musial was probably one of the greatest line drive hitters ever. I don't think that he tried to uppercut the ball as much as Ruth and Williams taught.

        I don't think anyone has mentioned that Stan's hometown of Donora PA (near Pittsburgh) was also the Birth place of both Ken Griffeys.

        • “What other post 1920 seasons had the SLG leader hit [less than 20] HR?”

          I don’t mean to detract from Mr. Musial, but it’s been done a few times:

          1923 NL, Hornsby, 17 HR, .627 SLG
          1927 NL, Hafey, 18 HR, .590 SLG
          1935 NL, Vaughan, 19 HR, .607 SLG
          1941 NL, Reiser, 14 HR, .558 SLG
          1944 AL, Doerr, 14 HR, .528 SLG
          1945 AL, Stirnweiss, 10 HR, .476 SLG

          • Richard @102 — Dang it! I didn’t click his name on the leaderboard because I assumed it was his 41-HR year or his 30-HR year. Well done, sir.

          • Reply to #103:

            John: I did it with the PI. I used Seasons Finder Player Batting, Single Season Totals, 1920 to 2012, Qualified for Batting Title, sorted by SLG, set HR equal to or less than 19 and clicked Get Report. Then I scrolled down the list looking for black ink.

        • Also Rogers Hornsby in 1920 NL, 9 HR, .559 SLG. Hornsby also led the NL in SLG in 1921 and 1928, each time with 21 HR.

          Post-war, lowest HRs for a slugging leader

          1952 NL, Musial, 21 HR, .538 SLG
          1965 AL, Yastrzemski, 20 HR, .536 SLG
          1975 AL, Fred Lynn, 21 HR, .566 SLG

          Since Lynn, lowest HRs for a SLG leader (excl. strike years) were by George Brett with 24/.664 in 1980. That .664 in 1980 is the highest SLG for that number of HR or less since Hugh Duffy’s 1894 season.

          Lowest HR for recent SLG leaders is 28/.587 by Joe Mauer in 2009.

  17. I don’t know if this has been mentioned but after skimming through Musial’s SABR bio, I read that on 9-11-62 Musial became the first grandfather to hit a HR in the Majors. The bio implies that the HR was hit on the 10th but it was actually the 11th.

    • I would not have guessed that, Richard. Let’s see …

      Oldest players to hit a HR before Musial:

      – Jack Quinn (last HR at 46, 1930) had no children.

      – Cap Anson (last HR at 45, 1897) was married in 1876 and had four daughters, all of whom survived to adulthood, but I can’t find any birthdates or further info.

      – Sam Rice (last HR at 44, 1934) had children born in 1909 and 1911, so they’d have been about 25 and 23 in 1934. Can’t find anything about Rice’s grandkids, though.

      – Dazzy Vance (!) (last HR at 43, 1934) had a son born 1918, so let’s hope Dazzy wasn’t a grandpa by ’34.

      – Enos Slaughter (last HR at 43, 1959) had at least 4 daughters, but I can’t find more.

      OK, I give up.

      • On May 4, 2007, 48-year-old Julio Franco hit the final
        homer of his career.

        It came in Arizona off 1963 COG inductee, “Death To Flying Things”, and landed in the swimming pool in right center

        I have no idea regarding his reproductive prowess.

        He certainly could have been a pop pop.

        Regardless, he is the oldest player to hit a home run
        in MLB history. He is also the oldest player to hit a
        pinch hit home run, a grand slam and homer twice in the
        same game.

        Finally, after homering in the second inning for the final time in his career, he stole a base in the 9th inning.

        He stole two bases that final season.

        I have not been able to confirm if this was his final stolen
        base. If it was, final home run and final stolen base in the
        same game…

        Pretty cool.

          • Musial batted .341 in his 16 games as a grandpa. Based on JA’s post #89 I guess it’s safe to say that Musial holds all of the grandpa records.

          • I knew you would Richard. So confident that I didn’t even ask.


            I must admit that I was hoping the final HR and the final SB had come in the same game.

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