As we all know, baseball is a game in which the goal is consistency. The players who endure peaks and valleys typically find it difficult to make their mark on the game. The goal is to take the field every day with the same amount of effort and find ways to help your team win. In the history of baseball, few players have been as consistent day in day out and year in year out as St. Louis Cardinals legend 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.”
Many who saw Musial play deemed him a natural, but that may not have been the case. He was no doubt a gifted athlete, but he was not necessarily born to hit a baseball. Growing up, Musical was both an accomplished baseball and basketball player. Coming out of high school, he was offered a basketball scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh that his father almost forced him to take. However, having played semi-pro baseball since he was 15, he convinced his father to let him pursue baseball.
Originally, Musial was poised to make his name in baseball as a pitcher. But he also showed potential as a hitter and an outfielder, and because of the small roster sizes in the minors, he was used in both roles. However, while playing the outfield during a minor league game in 1938, Musial hurt his shoulder diving for a fly ball, an injury that would all but end his days as a pitcher. Upon moving to the outfield full time, Musial had plenty of critics because of a rather unusual batting stance from the left side of the plate that was once described as “a kid peeking around the corner to see if the cops were coming.”
But Musial made it work for him, and after making his major league debut in September 1941, Musial became one of the most consistent performers in baseball for nearly two decades. He helped the Cardinals win the World Series in 1942 and 1944, winning his first MVP award in 1943. With many players off serving in World War II during this time, Musial emerged as one of the game’s elite players.
“How good was Stan Musial? He was good enough to take your breath away.”
Of course, Musial did his duty, joining the Navy in January 1945. He returned in 1946 and won MVP for the second time while helping the Cardinals win another World Series. From 1946 to 1958, he hit no lower than .310 and no higher than .376 in any season.
He was the model of consistency and became a player the Cardinals could rely on every day. At one point, Musial played in 895 straight games until a torn muscle and chipped bone forced him to the sidelines. He did this by always dedicating himself to staying in shape, giving him the stamina to perform consistently day after day.
“Musial also helped–mainly by working as hard as he did on his own perfect swing. If this immortal felt the need for frequent extra practice, how could I hope to prosper on less effort?”
When all was said and done, Musial was selected to 24 all-star games, tied for the most of all time. He won three MVPs, three World Series rings, and seven batting titles. In 1948, he came one home run shy of a triple crown. At the time of his retirement, he held 17 all-time major league records, including the record for most total bases.
As a testament to his consistency, he finished his career with the same number of hits at home as he did on the road. That stat says everything you need to know about Musial’s unparalleled consistency.