Continued from page 2

One last thing, he said: “Make it a point to bat .300.”

As for how he did that, Musial offered a secret.

“I consciously memorized the speed at which every pitcher in the league threw his fastball, curve, and slider,” he 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.”

It worked pretty well, considering Musial began his baseball career as a pitcher in the low minors. And by his account, as he said during his induction speech in Cooperstown, an injury had left him as a “dead, left-handed pitcher just out of Class D.”

Hoping to still reach the majors, he turned to another position. It was just the change he needed.

Musial made his major league debut late in 1941, the season that Williams batted .406 for the Boston Red Sox and DiMaggio hit in a record 56 straight games for the New York Yankees.

Musial never expressed regret or remorse that he didn’t attract more attention than the cool DiMaggio or prickly Williams. Fact is, Musial was plenty familiar in every place he played.

Few could bring themselves to boo baseball’s nicest superstar, not even the Brooklyn Dodgers crowds that helped give him his nickname, a sign of weary respect for his .359 batting average at Ebbets Field.

Many, many years before any sports fans yelled “You’re the man!” at their favorite athletes, Stan was indeed the Man.

Dodgers pitcher Preacher Roe once joked about how to handle Musial: “I throw him four wide ones and then I try to pick him off first base.”

Brooklynites had another reason to think well of Musial: Unlike Enos Slaughter and other Cardinals teammates, he was supportive when the Dodgers’ Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier in 1947. Bob Gibson, who started out with the Cardinals in the late 1950s, would recall how Musial had helped established a warm atmosphere between blacks and whites on the team.

“I knew Stan very well,” Mays said. “He used to take care of me at All-Star games, 24 of them. He was a true gentleman who understood the race thing and did all he could.”

Like DiMaggio and Williams, Musial embodied a time when the greats stayed with one team. He joined the Cardinals during the last remnants of the Gas House Gang and stayed in St. Louis until Gibson and Curt Flood ushered in a new era of greatness.

“Sad to hear about Stan the Man, it’s an honor to wear the same uniform,” current Cardinals slugger Matt Holliday tweeted.

The only year Musial missed with the Cardinals was 1945, when he was in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He was based in Pearl Harbor, assigned to a unit that helped with ship repair.

Story Continues →