By Paul T. Butler
Special to The Globe
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Please indulge me and let me reminisce about “Stan the Man” Musial.
I remember seeing Stan play for the Springfield, Mo., Cardinals in the old “White City” ballpark at Booneville and Division streets.
That was class C baseball in the Western Association. It was 1941 and he hit 27 doubles, 26 home runs, batted .379 with 94 RBIs in just 87 games. I belonged to the “knothole gang” and would go to day games when my folks turned loose of enough money for a “knothole” ticket.
My father worked for the Springfield Gas and Electric Co. as a lineman, and it was often his duty to install burned-out lights at night games. He would get a pass and take me with him.
As a youngster, I kept a scrapbook of clippings about Stan Musial. Stan was promoted to the Red Wings at Rochester, N.Y. — Triple A baseball. His performance at Rochester was also phenomenal, helping them win the International League crown. Shortly thereafter he received a telegram to report to St. Louis to the big leagues. The rest is phenomenal baseball history.
I was fortunate to see one of the greatest St. Louis Cardinals teams ever at old Sportsman’s Park — the 1942 World Series champs who beat the “hated” Brooklyn Dodgers for the NL pennant and go on to beat the “unbeatable” N.Y. Yankees. That 1942 team I saw consisted of Mort and Walker Cooper as the “battery,” Whitey Kurowski at third, Marty Marion at shortstop, Jimmy Brown at second, Ray Sanders at first, Enos Slaughter in left field, Terry Moore in center field, Stan Musial in right field. What a lineup.
Rob Rains, in his book “Big Stix, The Greatest Hitters in the History of the Major Leagues,” examines six offensive categories, rating the top 25 on home runs, hits, RBIs, doubles, triples and total bases. He rates Henry Aaron No. 1, Ty Cobb second and Stan Musial third. Ted Williams comes in at 24th and Mickey Mantle doesn’t make the list of the top 25.
Ty Cobb is quoted by Rains in “Big Stix” as saying, “No man has ever been a perfect ballplayer. Stan Musial, however, is the closest thing to perfection in the game today. He’s certainly one of the greatest hitters of all time.” It says even more when one is aware that Mr. Cobb considers himself “the” greatest ballplayer of all time, and had the stats to back it up.
Stan, along with others of his era, played his game without steroids. He never argued with an umpire, never rode opposing players from the dugout. If you want a definitive history of this greatest of all ballplayers, buy the book “Stan the Man, the Life and Times of Stan Musial” by Wayne Stewart, published by Triumph Books.
Paul T. Butler