How Stan Musial Went from Wretched to Record-Breaker

It must have been in the stars for Stan Musial to play baseball, or one of the many obstacles would have detoured the young man from his cherished road to diamond fame.

Stan the Man
John Falter
May 1, 1954

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This article and other features about baseball can be found in the Post’s Special Collector’s Edition, Baseball: The Glory Years. This edition can be ordered here. 

It must have been in the stars for Musial to play baseball, or one of many obstacles would have detoured the young man from his cherished road to diamond fame.

Naturally, this spring Stan was the most-talked-about recruit in the 1942 Grapefruit League. The head-lines he won last fall put the spotlight, and the pressure, on him. But he was only warming up for another kicking around by the fickle fates of baseball.

For this spring that injured shoulder — and perhaps the coast-to-coast ballyhoo about his September razzle- dazzle — handicapped Musial.

He couldn’t hit and his throwing was so weak that observers shook their heads. Manager Billy Southworth, however, stayed doggedly with the young out elder.

“I can’t quit on him,” he would say.

“He won’t give up, and I certainly won’t.” And so Billy benched him for a rest and put him back in the outfield a week later, against a right-handed pitcher. Musial plastered the fences with line drives. When a left-hander took over for the other side in a late inning, Southworth started to bow to percentage and send in a right-handed batter for Musial. But he changed his mind and let Musial hit, and the Donora Greyhound got another safety, a triple that drove in two runs and gave the St. Louis Cards a victory in the exhibition.

“That’s why I can’t quit on him,” Billy grinned that evening, under the palms in front of the hotel. “He’s that kind of a boy. Slump, maybe. We all have ’em. Pressure, yes. It’s been terrific. Everybody wants to know where’s that guy Musial they’ve been hearing so much about. The kid naturally thinks he ought to hit a home run every time up. But he was born to play baseball and he’ll make it.”

“The kid is an iceberg,” says Rochester’s Tony Kaufmann. “If you tapped him, you’d find ice water in his veins. Yankee Stadium or cow pasture — just another place to play ball, to him.”

Baseball fans like a boy who can run like a deer and hit like a Cobb, and the cash customers quickly took the modest Musial to their hearts. They gave him an ovation the first time he stepped to the plate as the season opened in St. Louis, and it was the same in every city — even in Brooklyn. There a noisy Flatbush bleacher fan, the most vicious of the species, complainingly complimented the Donora Greyhound after a particularly adroit running catch.

“Hey, music box,” the fan raucoused, “how in de woild kin ennybody run so fast and see so good, yuh bum, yuh?” It is a rare caress for a Flatbush fan to glorify an enemy thus by calling him a bum, an elegance jealously guarded for home heroes. Guess Southworth was right about Musial and his birthright.

— “Rookie of the Year” by J. Roy Stockton, Sept. 12, 1942

Click to read the complete article, “Rookie of the Year,” from the September 12, 1942, issue of the Post.

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