Stan "the Man" Musial was a professional baseball player who spent all of his career with the St. Louis Cardinals, playing in 24 All-Star games during his 22-year career. He was one of the greatest hitters ever, rivaling and even surpassing Ted Williams and Babe Ruth according to some analysts. Musial had an unusual batting style that resembled a corkscrew as he unwound to hit the ball. He could hit to any field, and had better speed running the bases than Williams or Ruth had. Musial struck out substantially less often than Williams, Ruth, and Barry Bonds. Musial had many extraordinary seasons. Interestingly, of his 3,630 career hits, he had exactly as many on the road as at home (1,815).
Ty Cobb, the top vote-getter among the initial inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame, said about Stan Musial:
|“||No man has ever been a perfect ballplayer. Stan Musial, however, is the closest to being perfect in the game today.... He plays as hard when his club is away out in front of a game as he does when they're just a run or two behind.||”|
He would supposedly gauge the speed of the ball thrown by the pitcher in its first 30 feet, and based on his memorization of the different speeds used by that pitcher Musial could predict whether the ball was a fastball, curve or slider. Then he could estimate how the ball would move as it approached the plate. That might explain his phenomenal performance against star pitchers he faced repeatedly, such as Sandy Koufax, while not performing as well in World Series games against unfamiliar pitchers.
The nickname "the Man" was given to Musial by Brooklyn fans, illustrating how much Musial was liked by many fans far from St. Louis. Despite being left-handed Musial batted exceeding well against Brooklyn lefty Sandy Koufax (see below), which Brooklyn fans apparently admired. Musial was a big reason that the Cardinals attained a national following, despite being a small-market team.
A left-handed hitter, Musial had an incredible .342 batting average against the outstanding southpaw Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax, including 2 doubles and 2 home runs out of 38 at-bats. Musial was also one of only four players to finish in the top two for MVP for four consecutive seasons.
A shoulder injury cut short Musial's pitching career, but the misfortune turned out to be an enormous benefit to him and to the baseball world.
Unlike Williams, Musial often hit to the opposite field. Indeed, he said that the first four to five years, he "didn't pull the ball." Musial explained further:
|“||My theory was relax, concentrate and don't hit the ball to center field. After about five years, I started pulling the ball. The toughest thing about hitting is trying to pull that outside pitch. That's where everybody makes outs now, trying to pull that pitch. After five years, I got more confidence. I was hitting .350 or whatever and started pulling the ball and hitting it out, so pulling the ball is a tough thing to do.||”|
- Life Magazine, 1952, quoted in https://bleacherreport.com/articles/1493164-making-a-case-for-stan-musial-as-the-greatest-hitter-in-baseball-history
- The other three players who did this were Mike Trout, Barry Bonds, and Yogi Berra.