Year Inducted: 1969 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 317/340)
Player salaries today are huge, which is what a free agent market tends to do. No one should really begrudge a player for seeking out the highest bidder, as most people would do the same if that option was open. Still, baseball wasn’t always like that. In 1958, a player on the Cardinals hit .337/.423/.528, an impressive line made even moreso by the fact that he was 37 years old. The next season, he slumped badly to a line of .255/.364/.428. Most players would take it as a down year and try again the next season. Only one man would go to the team’s front office and ask for a pay cut, because he didn’t earn his pay. That was Stan Musial in a nutshell.
Outside of Busch Stadium’s main gate (and Busch Stadium is basically Saint Stan’s cathedral), there is a statue of Stan Musial, in his trademark corkscrew stance, with the oft-repeated quote from Commissioner Ford Frick “Here stands baseball’s perfect warrior, here stands baseball’s perfect knight.” Musial earned that phrase by being, not only a great player, but a great gentleman as well. For 22 seasons, Musial terrorized National League pitchers while wearing the Birds on the Bat. In addition to setting nearly every Cardinal record, Musial hit .331/.417/.559 with a wRC+ of 158. While never leading the NL in home runs, Musial did lead the league in doubles eight times and triples five times. In total, among his 3630 hits were 725 doubles, 177 triples and 475 homers. Despite only leading the league in RBI twice, Musial still had 10 seasons of 100 or more RBI and a career total of 1951. While not the fleetest of feet, Musial still was a net-positive baserunner, worth +6 runs on the bases, stealing 78 bases in his career and scoring 1949 runs.
When first coming up, Musial was actually a pitcher. However, with his bat, he would occasionally play the outfield so he could get some reps as a hitter. While playing in the outfield and attempting a difficult catch, Musial banged his shoulder against the ground and suffered from a dead arm. While it ended his time as a pitcher, it allowed him to concentrate entirely on his hitting and fielding. Starting in left field, then moving to first base, Musial was a decent fielder. He certainly wasn’t a Gold Glove winner, but was a very good defensive outfielder before having to convert in his career to first base, where he was slightly below average. In total, Musial’s fielding runs of +52 show him to be more than capable with the glove.
There were absolutely no reasons to not vote for Stanley Frank Musial when Hall of Fame balloting was done in the year 1969. He held several NL records at the time of his retirement, and was sixth on the all-time home run list and fourth in career RBI. He was also one of only eight position players at the time to be worth more than 120 fWAR (he ranked seventh on the list), and one of two players who were recent at the time (Ted Williams the other). In addition to that, there were few, if any, character strikes against Musial. Musial was always seen as the gentle giant, stopping for hours after games to sign autographs for any kid that wanted one, constantly posing for pictures, etc. So, why did 23 people not vote for Musial? Probably the whole “if [fill in the blank] wasn’t unanimous, no one should be” argument. Musial, along with being a great player, was one of the finest people to ever play the game and will always be one of the gold standards of players.
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