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Stan Musial: Cardinals Hall of Famer dead at 92
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.”
Scandal-free and eager to play every day, Musial struck a chord with fans throughout America’s heartland 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.
Musial’s public appearances dwindled in recent years, though he took part in the pregame festivities at Busch Stadium 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.
All that balance despite a most unorthodox left-handed stance. Legs and knees close together, he would cock the bat near his ear and twist his body away from the pitcher. When the ball came, he uncoiled.
Unusual, that aspect of Musial.
Asked to describe the habits that kept him in baseball for so long, Musial once said: “Get eight hours of sleep regularly. Keep your weight down, run a mile a day. If you must smoke, try light cigars. They cut down on inhaling.”
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