Stan Musial as a rookie
Late September, 1941:
- Stan Musial had been with the St. Louis Cardinals for all of four days after being called up from Rochester of the International League.
- It was the ninth inning of the first game of a doubleheader with theChicago Cubs as the Cardinals chased the Brooklyn Dodgers for the NL pennant.
- Stan already had three hits when he came to the plate with the score tied 5-5.
In those days, a rookie with three hits could expect to be decked, and that's what happened.
- But Musial picked himself up from the dirt and lined a single to right center.
- An infield out sent him to second. Then Coaker Triplett dribbled a roller in front of the plate. C Clyde McCullough pounced on the ball and fired to first.
- As Musial streaked around third, he noticed that McCullough, torn between admiration for his own throw and indignation that the umpire had ruled Triplett safe, was neglecting to cover the plate. So Stan kept going and slid in with what turned out to be the winning run.
Afterwards, manager Billy Southworth said of his rookie: "That kid was born to play baseball." St. Louis didn't overhaul the Dodgers. But Stan hit .426 in 12 games to become a Redbird fixture until his retirement 22 years later.
To add to his story, he had begun the 1941 campaign at class C Springfield. Furthermore, he had been a pitcher in previous seasons.
Stan Musial was born of Polish immigrants in Donora PA in 1920.
- In high school, he starred not only in baseball but also in basketball, being picked as a forward on the All-Western Pennslvania high school team. Several colleges offered scholarships that Lukasz Musialconsidered his son's ticket to escape working in the steel mills.
- Andrew French, owner of the Monessen team in the Pennsylvania State Association, saw southpaw Stan strike out batter after batter for theDonora Zinc Works. So French visited the Musials to sign Stan to a pro contract. However, Lukasz didn't want his son to give up a college scholarship. When 16-year-old Stan started to cry, the old man relented.
Stanley's work at Williamson WV in the Mountain State League in 1938 and 1939 did not offer convincing evidence that he had made the right decision.
- He went 6-6 his first year.
- While he was 9-2 the next, he appeared in only 13 games.
Then in 1940 came the turning point in his pro career.
- He was assigned to Daytona Beach in the Class D Florida State League.
- The manager was Dickie Kerr, the White Sox hurler who won two games in the 1919 Fall Classic despite efforts by his teammates to throw the Series.
- Musial won 15 and lost only 5 as a pitcher.
- But, more importantly, Kerr appreciated his value as a hitter and employed him as a fly chaser when he wasn't pitching, a la the Red Soxwith Babe Ruth.
However, on August 11, 1940, Stan's career received a jolt.
- Playing CF, he made a shoe string catch but fell heavily on his left shoulder.
- When a big knot formed, his career as a P ended, although he did try the mound twice more.
- He won the first game 5-4 on luck and guts but then was pounded by Orlando.
Recently married to his high school sweetheart, Lillian Labash, Stan found it difficult to support her on his $100 monthly salary, especially with a baby on the way.
- He took his troubles to his manager, asking if he should quit baseball and get a year-round job in the steel mill back home.
- Kerr urged Stan not to quit, assuring him that he would make it to the majors as an outfielder.
- Kerr and his wife also rented a larger home and took in Stan and his bride. When the baby was born, he was christened Richard Stanley Musial after Dickie Kerr.
Stan reported to the Cardinals' tryout camp at Columbus GA in the spring of 1941. Managers of six St. Louis farm clubs were looking for talent.
- Although they all could see that Stan could hit, they were reluctant because of his "dead" arm.
- Finally, Ollie Vanek, skipper of the Class C Springfield (MO) club, with a shortage of OFs, took a chance. Stan opened in RF and proceeded to tear up the league, batting .369 in 87 games with 24 doubles, nine triples, and 26 HRs.
- Also, his arm proved to be stronger than anticipated as he threw out many runners who tried to take advantage of his supposed lame wing.
- Manager Tony Kaufmann of Rochester of the International League, needing an OF, received approval from Branch Rickey, Cardinal GM who had masterminded the club's extensive farm system, to jump Musial from C to AA.
- In his first at-bat with his new club, Stan walloped a homer. By September, he had hit .327 in 51 games, prompting manager Billy Southworth to complete Stan's rise from Class C to the National League in one season.
The rest, as they say, is history. Stan amassed over 3,000 hits and 400 HRs and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1968 as soon as the mandatory five-year wait after retirement ended. Thank you, Dickie Kerr, for saving my favorite all-time player's career.