Guest post: Stan the Man

Stan Musial represented everything that I believed baseball was when I was a kid. He represented everything that is sorely missing from the game today. He played the game and loved the game for the sake and the beauty of the game. Above and beyond his tremendous accomplishments on the field, Musial was a rarity in life, a class act.

Musial died on January 19 at 92. I hadn’t given him much thought over the years I must admit but his passing has somehow struck me more than anyone not a friend or a relative. I saw him on television in his final major league at bat (the weekly New York Yankee Saturday Game of the Week was interrupted for this) and at the time I had little idea of who he was and what he had accomplished.

The numbers of course speak for themselves. Loudly. 3,630 hit (in an odd quirk he had the exact same number of hits at home and on the road). A career batting average of .331. 1,951 RBI. Three National League MVP awards. He was an All Star 24 times. He was a World champion three times. At the time of his retirement in 1963, Musial held or shared 17 major league records, 29 National League records and nine All star game records.

Off the field he was a successful entrepreneur in the restaurant business. He played his entire 23 year career with the St. Louis cardinals. He has two statues at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. He was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969 on the first ballot.

In 2011, Musial was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award which can be given to an American civilian.

Born in Donora, Pennsylvania, one of five children, Musial played semi pro baseball at 15 and quickly became a star despite playing against adults. His father had initially resisted the dream of playing baseball professionally but Stan and his mother, after much debate with his father, eventually changed his father’s mind about making the game of baseball into a viable livelihood.

He was originally signed as a pitcher. His batting skills soon outshone any notion the St. Louis organization might have had about Musial being a big league pitcher. His second season in the minor leagues, Musial won nine games but his .352. As with Babe Ruth before him, his batting skills were too great to ignore.

Musial reportedly almost gave up the game in 1940 as he was newly married, had one child and was trying to make ends meet on $16 a week. A shoulder injury in 1939 didn’t help the situation but his then manager and later lifelong friend Dickie Kerr convinced Musial to keep at it, seeing the potential that was lying just below the surface.

In the fall of 1941, Musial was promoted to the Cardinals. The legacy was about to begin.

In the 12 games Musial played in St. Louis in 1941, Musial hit .462 almost helping the Cardinals win the National League pennant that season. The following season he led St. Louis to the World Series, along the way winning the NL rookie of the year award.

In 1954 he became the first player (Nate Colbert replicated the feat in 1972) to hit five home runs in a double header. That day, he also became the only player to ever total 21 bases in a double header.

The highlights go on and on and on.

Stanley Frank “Stan” Musial had the ability and personality fitting one of the all-time greats.

Ty Cobb noted in a 1952 Life magazine article:

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.

Guest post: In defense of Tim McCarver

Editor’s note: Please welcome the latest from Doug Bird.


As many baseball fans may be aware, Tim McCarver received the Ford C. Frick Award for his broadcasting, Saturday in a ceremony at the Hall of Fame. I have heard much criticism of McCarver’s broadcasting skills over his 20-plus years behind the microphone.  His many critics lament him for explaining the painfully obvious far too often and for the fact he can’t seem to stop talking about catching for Bob Gibson on those great St. Louis Cardinal teams. I’ve always enjoyed his easy southern style and his obvious love of the game. All I can say is that it can’t be easy trying to find a spot to sit in the broadcast booth beside the massive ego of fellow announcer Joe Buck. Anyone who can accomplish that Saturday after Saturday and during the World Series deserves any baseball award he might receive.

Putting all of his broadcasting accomplishments aside, I believe that Tim McCarver should be in the Hall of Fame for his playing career. His accomplishments as one of the best catchers of his era and as he has stated many times, his catching of the legendary Gibson and Steve Carlton show something of the winning character and ability of McCarver on the baseball field.

McCarver played briefly in the majors from 1959 and returned to the minors until making the Show for good in 1963. He played his last full season in 1979 and briefly came out of retirement in September 1980 making him one of only 29 players to have played in four different decades.

McCarver, along with Detroit Tiger star Bill Freehan, was considered one of the best catchers in baseball during the 1960s. Their statistics rank among the best at that position for that era, an era when offense was considered merely an afterthought for a catcher in the big leagues. McCarver’s stats don’t jump out at you, certainly not by some of today’s standards. His stats were solid and consistent giving him a career batting average of .271 and 97 home runs. To maintain such an average over so many seasons and so many games behind the plate in my opinion, elevates such statistics  to higher heights than merely raw numbers.

He was considered a team leader by teammates and a fierce competitor by those who played against him.  Often intangibles are used as justification for those players elected into the Hall of Fame when those type of debates are bantered back and forth as to the merits of this player or that. I myself have been guilty of claiming that this player or that simply doesn’t have the numbers which should be required to get the necessary votes. But on occasion I believe such an argument is valid and goes beyond mere numbers.

McCarver  had, and has, a deep understanding and appreciation of what it takes to play many seasons in the major leagues. McCarver has the championship rings to prove he was a winning player and a player who represented all that we hold dear in a professional baseball player. I feel his playing career has been sorely overlooked and forgotten.

Guest post: Curt Flood, the forgotten man

The Curt Flood story is a sad one indeed. It is the story of a proud man who refused to compromise his beliefs. It is the story of a man who took on the baseball establishment with little or no support from his fellow players for the future benefit of all players. It is the story of a man ahead of his times and a rare human being who refused to back down when he knew that what he was doing was right, no matter the consequences. He paid dearly for those convictions and deserved much better than he got.

Flood died January 20, 1997 with only a brief mention from the press and few comments from those who played with and against him. He made his major league debut September 9, 1956 with Cincinnati and finished his career with the Washington Senators in 1971.  His recognition as a legitimate major league star came during his tenure with the St. Louis Cardinals Flood won seven consecutive Gold Glove awards and batted over .300 six times. He was an integral part of the Cardinals championship teams in 1964 and 1967 and their National League champion team of 1968.

The off season of 1969 proved to be the most pivotal of his baseball career and his life. Flood found himself part of a package of players being sent to the then lowly Philadelphia Phillies by the St. Louis Cardinals. Up until this moment, trades were made with no regard to those players involved and players had no recourse to challenge being sent to this city or that. The accepted attitude amongst players, at least publicly, was a quiet acceptance of their circumstances. They had no rights under the laws of baseball and once a contract was signed, a team owned that players for a time period designated solely by the whim of the team. If a player was unhappy about being traded, his only option was to retire from baseball. His ability to earn a living and play a game he loved was completely out of his hands.

Curt Flood tried to change all of that in the winter of 1968-69. Flood at the time was making a salary of $100,000, a salary only the very best in baseball were able to command. $100,000 was a number players sought, not only because of the amount, but because it showed that they were among the best players in baseball. Flood, by his refusal to report to the Philadelphia Phillies stood to lose money and prestige.

After a meeting with then Major League Baseball Players Association president Marvin Miller during which Miller told Flood that the union was prepared to sue baseball over the Reserve Clause, Flood decided to challenge baseball.

On December 24, 1969, Flood wrote the following letter to then baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn.

After twelve years in the major leagues, I do not feel I am a piece of property to be bought and sold irrespective of my wishes. I believe that any system which produces that result violates my basic rights as a citizen and is inconsistent with the laws of the United States and of the several States.

It is my desire to play baseball in 1970, and I am capable of playing. I have received a contract offer from the Philadelphia club, but I believe I have the right to consider offers from other clubs before making any decision. I, therefore, request that you make known to all Major League clubs my feelings in this matter, and advise them of my availability for the 1970 season.

Kuhn refused Flood’s request, and in January 1970, Flood filed a $1 million lawsuit against Kuhn and major league baseball. In a vote of 5-3, the Supreme Court decided to set aside any decision and leave things the way they were (stare decisis). Flood sat out the 1970 season and returned in 1971 to play for the Senators but his career was, in effect, over.

Four years later, arbitrator Peter Seitz ruled that two pitchers who had followed Flood and sat out an entire season were now considered free agents. The era of freedom for players had finally begun. For Curt Flood, this decision was too little too late. Flood had stood up to the establishment and lost. His legacy was finally acknowledged by Congress in 1997 and legislation the next year was introduced to formally protect baseball players, the Curt Flood Act of 1998. Flood finally won. Sadly, he died before realizing his dream.