On September 22, 1948, the Cardinals stopped an eight game winning streak, and prevented the Braves from clinching the National League Pennant for the first time since 1914 by beating them 8-2 in Boston. The Birds unleashed 17 hits, and Stan "The Man" Musial owned five of them. The 5 for 5 performance included a homer, a double, and three singles, as well as two RBIs, and three runs scored. Many years later when Stan was asked about the best game of his career it was said he did not even have to think about it. It came on that day in Boston.
He had come into the contest with a pair of sore wrists that resulted from a diving catch in the outfield one day, and beanball on another. The wrists were so bad that the team doctor wanted to tape him up, but Stan took tape off because it hampered his swing. The Cards were set to face Warren Spahn, so Musial decided to try to hit everything to left against the lefty. He just could not snap his wrists enough to pull the ball. Needless to say the strategy worked. His first hit was a looped single to left. He followed it up by knocking a ball over the left fielder's head for a double in the third, and by the fourth the Birds had helped send Spahn to the showers early. Red Barrett was on the mound in the fifth when Musial sailed one into the bullpen in right for his 38th home run of the year. He said he swung from his heel, and that his wrists were tied in knots when he connected on that one, and his wrists were on fire when he was able to shoot a Clyde Shoun pitch through the hole at third and short for his fourth hit of the day in the sixth.
Stan had come into that game knowing about a record set by Ty Cobb in 1922. That record was the record for most five-hit games during a single season. That was record was four. Stan also knew he was one hit away from tying that record. He had battled, he had worked his way through the pain, and he going to tie that record. The chance to do so came in the eighth. At that point the Braves had Al Lyons on the bump. Described as a righty who lacked control, he lived up to the description by throwing issuing back-to-back balls to Musial. The Cardinals bench chimed in quickly, as they yelled for Lyons to put one over. Stan was not even sure if the next pitch was in the strike zone or not, he just swung at it, and for a fraction of a second he thought it was going to be an out, before it was rolling on the grass in right. He had match Cobb's longstanding record, and he did it in just five swings. His wrists had hurt him so bad that he decided not to waste swings, so he put the wood on the ball when he took a cut, and each cut he took turned into a hit.
The game also saw Enos Slaughter get his nose broken when struck by a line drive off the bat of Nippy Jones while on the basepaths in the fourth. It was terrible luck, and with just handful of games left Slaughter's season was done. With that said, Slaughter bounced back from it the next year, and had many more years left on the major league diamond.
I would bet it is safe to say that Stan hated to see his season end that way, but as we all know the beat goes on after an injury, and "The Man" continued to swing the stick. The moment he tied Ty Cobb's record of four five-hit games in a single season had to be a great moment. Especially knowing how much he went through to get them. That feat has only been accomplished two times since that day: Tony Gwynn (1993) and Ichiro Suzuki (2004).
Stan enjoyed the finest season of his storied career during that '48 campaign. Musial's led the league with a .376 average, 230 hits, 46 doubles, 18 triples, 429 total bases, and a .702 slugging percentage. Musial would have taken the Triple Crown had it not been for a lost home run due to a rainout. Just think a few clouds spoutin some rain denied Stan of a Triple Crown. Even though that might be the case, Stan was awarded the MVP award for the third time in his career.
From ownership, to management, down to the players, and the fans alike, there had to be some level of disappointment with that a second place finish. However, after that disappointment subsided they could look back and smile at what the man who wore the number 6 on his back did, and we can smile about it today.
Check out the box score here: http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/BSN/BSN194809220.shtml
Stats of a legend: http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/m/musiast01.shtml