Bith Date: December 21, 1920
Place of Birth: Donora, Pennsylvania, United States of America Nationality: American
Occupations: baseball player
Stan Musial (born 1920), one of baseball's greatest hitters, enjoyed an extraordinary career with the St. Louis Cardinals from 1941 through 1963. Called "Stan the Man" because of his intimidating presence at the plate, Musial won seven batting championships and three Most Valuable Player awards.
Accommodating to fans and the media both during and after his playing career, Musial was considered one of the game's most gentlemanly and down-to-earth ambassadors. He came from rural Pennsylvania, never graduated from high school, and sometimes stammered in public. His love for baseball overcame all obstacles, however, and he became known nationwide as a symbol of batting excellence. "I was a poor boy who struck it rich in many ways through the wonders of baseball," Musial said in his autobiography.
The Cardinals' greatest player was born Stanislaus Musial in Donora, a mill town in southwestern Pennsylvania's Monongahela Valley on December 21, 1920. His father, Lukasz Musial, was a shy Polish immigrant who worked in the shipping department of a local mill. The parents of his mother, Mary Lancos, had migrated from Czechoslovakia, and her father was a coal miner. Mary and Lukasz Musial had four girls before their son, Stanislaus, was born in 1920. Stan also had a younger brother, who played minor league baseball after World War II.
Musial, a bashful boy, became interested in baseball because he had a neighbor who played semi-pro ball. "I could always hit," Musial told the Sporting News. "I learned to hit with a broomstick and a ball of tape and I could always get that bat on the ball." Musial, who batted and threw left-handed, acquired the habit of hitting to the opposite field while playing for the Donora Zinc Works team in 1937. At the hometown field, trolley tracks shortened the distance to the left-field fence, so Musial tried to aim that way. The ability to go the opposite way became one of his greatest weapons.
Musial was 16 and a flame-throwing but erratic pitcher when he signed his first professional contract. Pittsburgh never courted him. Instead, he signed with the St. Louis Cardinals, whose owner Branch Rickey was known for his scouting system. In the winter of 1937-1938, Musial starred on Donora High School's basketball team. The next two summers he pitched for Williamson, WV, in the Class D Mountain States League of the low minors. In 1939, the Williamson manager, Harrison Wickel, reported to the Cardinals that Musial, who had struck out 85 batters and walked 84 others in 91 innings, was the wildest pitcher he had ever seen. He recommended Musial be released. But an injury to an outfielder forced Musial into the lineup, and he batted .352.
After the 1939 season, Musial married his high school sweetheart, Lillian Labash. They would have an enduring marriage and four children: son Dick and daughters Gerry, Janet and Jeanie.
In 1940, playing for Class D Daytona Beach in the Florida State League, Musial hit .311, playing the outfield between pitching assignments. During one game he injured his shoulder trying to make a diving catch in center field. It ruined his pitching arm, and his career seemed in jeopardy. But the Cardinals organization had recognized his remarkable hitting ability.
In 1941, Musial went from being an unknown, minor league player to a hitter who won a regular job in the major leagues. He was quickly promoted from Class C Springfield (Missouri), where he hit .379 with 24 home runs in 87 games, to Class B Rochester (New York). After Rochester finished its season, Musial was called up to St. Louis. He had six hits in a doubleheader and hit .426 in 12 games. No one ever asked him to pitch again.
The Cardinals' Man
The next season, Musial was installed in left...