ST. LOUIS – Stan “The Man” Musial, who played his entire 22-year major-league career (1941-63) for the St. Louis Cardinals, died this evening at his home in Ladue, Mo., surrounded by his family. He was 92.
The origins of “The Man” nickname fit the profile he earned among the opposition. A Cardinals’ traveling secretary relayed a story to Bob Broeg, a late St. Louis Post-Dispatch sportswriter, about Brooklyn Dodgers fans mumbling, “Here comes the man again,” when Musial approached the plate at Ebbets Field. He was a paradox in the batter’s box, someone with a swing that could break hearts but a gentlemanly demeanor that could uplift them.
With that gift, Musial turned Major League Baseball’s record book into a personal time capsule. In 22 years with the Cardinals, he ranked first or near the top of all-time lists in each offensive category. He won three World Series titles, three MVP awards and seven National League batting titles. He batted better than .300 in 17 consecutive seasons and played in 24 All-Star Games. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969.
The respect for him went beyond numbers. Peers admired him for his complete profile as a player. Ty Cobb once considered him to be better than famed New York Yankees outfielder Joe DiMaggio, the closest talent in the game to perfect. He was a superb fielder and runner, a rare blend of athletic and physical gifts.
Musial was part legend, his legacy looming over the jewel of St. Louis’ sports landscape in the nearly five decades since he walked away. On Sept. 29, 1963, during an hour-long retirement ceremony at Sportsman’s Park, then-MLB commissioner Ford Frick placed an appropriate frame around a sterling career by saying, “Here stands baseball’s perfect warrior. Here stands baseball’s perfect knight.”
In the years since, Musial became Cardinals royalty. He was immortalized with a 10-foot bronze statue outside Busch Stadium, revered when paraded in a red blazer before fans on Opening Day and in the postseason, treasured for being a living tie between the present and a golden past. In St. Louis, he was king.
The Man grew to represent more than a singular career. He became the collective pride of an organization that has produced 11 World Series titles and 18 National League pennants, someone a passionate fan base valued calling their own.
The player with humble beginnings from Donora, Pa., who made his major-league debut at age 20, became a national treasure. When he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, President Obama said: “Stans remains, to this day, an icon, untarnished – a beloved pillar of the community, a gentleman you’d want your kids to emulate.”