Monday January 21, 2013
Stan Musial (1920-2013)
Stan Musial at the plate.
How underrated was Stan Musial? When Ken Burns broadcast his 18-hour documentary on the history of baseball on PBS in 1994, he didn't get to Stan Musial, who debuted in September 1941, until after he'd dealt with the following subjects: World War II, Jackie Robinson, the failure yet again of the Boston Red Sox to win the World Series in 1946, integration, the death of the Negro Leagues, the rise of Casey Stengel, Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron, Bobby Thomson's shot heard 'round the world, the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers, the movement of teams out west, the broken heart of Brooklyn, Maz's shot heard 'round the world (from a NY perspective), Roger Maris and 61*, and the rise, such as it was, of the New York Mets. Then it was 1963. Then he got to Musial.
I remember watching the doc back in Sept. 1994. When the words “The Man” flashed on the screen as we were in the early 1960s, I thought: “Wait a minute, we're just getting to him now? WTF?” Burns in his doc is like Alvy Singer in “Annie Hall”: He has trouble leaving New York. And Musial, with seven batting titles in the '40s and '50s, with more extra-base hits than anyone in baseball history upon retirement, is great, sure, but he plays in St. Louis. What's the story there? There's no story there. The story of baseball was always elsewhere in the mind of Ken Burns.
Then he gives him four short minutes. Short shrfit. At the least, we get George Will's great quote:
Baseball is rich in statistics but it's hard to find one more beautiful than Stan Musial's hitting record. Stan Musial got 3,630 hits: 1,815 at home, 1,815 on the road. He didn't care where he was. He just hit.
Where does Musial rank in various stats? Here:
- Hits: 4th with 3,630
- Extra-base hits: 3rd with 1,377
- Runs: 9th with 1,949
- Doubles: 3rd with 725
- Triples: 19th with 177
- Triples, post WWII: 1st
- Runs Created, 3rd
- WAR: 9th
- Offensive WAR: 7th
I like his K-BB ratio. In his career, he struck out 696 times against 1599 walks. He's 6th in games played and 578th in strikeouts. Ted Williams had fewer plate appearances but struck out more. Ted Williams.
Musial, easy-going, had a smile that reminded me of Gene Kelly.
He's the reason why Ken Griffey, Jr. is only the second-best player to come out of Donora, Pennsylvania. He will be missed.