Wednesday, September 17, 2014

September 17, 1941:The Storybook Begins; Stan Musial

   On September 17, 1941, page one was written in the major league career of Stan Musial. The 20-year-old kid from Donora, Pennsylvania sat on the bench for the first game of a doubleheader against the Boston Braves, and he enjoyed watching his club win 6-1, behind a strong pitching performance by Howie Pollet, as well as a big fly off the bat off of Estel Crabtree. When Billy Southworth filled out his lineup card for the next game the name Musial was in the three hole. It was the beginning of what has to be considered the finest era by any individual that has worn the Birds on the Bat.

     The kid that would become known as "The Man" did not disappoint his new skipper, as he picked up a two RBI double in his second plate appearance. The two runs looked like they might be enough for Max Lanier to lock down a win, until he allowed two runs in the seventh that tied it up at 2-2. Lanier got past the misfortune, and kept the Birds in it. He was rewarded with a W because of his efforts in the ninth, as Crabtree hit his second home run of the day. The walk off blast was a solo shot that gave the Cardinals a 3-2 victory, and made Stan's first day on a major league diamond one to remember.

     The Cardinals were hoping to grab the flag as the season winded down in '41, and that kid from Donora gave them everything he had, as he hit .426 in 12 games. They were on the heels of the Brooklyn Dodgers, and Stan's debut win put them just a game back. They would come as close as a half game, but ultimately the Brooklyn squad won the race by 2 1/2 games. With that said the best was yet to come for the man who wore the number 6. Two other players, Harry Walker and Pep Young had worn the number 6 on their backs that '41 season. Once Stan put it on no other Cardinals player would wear it again.

     In 22 seasons Stan topped the .300 mark 17 times, and won seven batting titles with the famous corkscrew stance that produced 3,630 hits. My favorite Stan stat will forever be the fact that 1,815 of those hits came at home, and 1,815 of them came on the road. I often call it the perfect split for baseball's perfect knight. The famous stance also produced 1,951 RBIs, and 475 home home runs. In 1943 he took home his first of three MVP awards. The other two came in 1946 and 1948. He also helped the Cardinals capture three championship titles, and appeared in a record setting 24 All Star games. Only Willie Mays and Hank Aaron have matched that mark. Stan's major league storybook was documented in newspapers all across America during those days on the diamond, and the story featured in the photo was the first page written. This particular story appeared in the Pittsburgh Press.  They loved him there because of the Pennsylvania ties. While the story does not have his name splashed across the headline the Donora boy was mentioned. That page, and the pages that followed were the pages to a Hall of Fame resume. 

If you enjoy the great tales from the rich history of the Cardinals organization you can follow On This Day In Cardinal Nation on twitter: @CardinalHistory, or catch up with me at on Facebook at: I also welcome people to follow on google plus as well. 

If you would like to read more about the life and times of Stan Musial check out his SABR bio here: I would also highly recommend the book: Stan Musial: An American Life by George Vecsey.  It's a personal favorite.

Correction 10/19/2014: With Stan Musial serving his country in 1945, Red Schoendienst actually wore the number 6 during his rookie campaign. I was just looking over some of Red's stats, and noticed the number on his list of numbers worn. The 6 caught my eye pretty quick. When Stan returned his number was returned to him, and Red put on the number 2, and as they say the rest was history. What great history it was. 

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