Stan Musial, one of the greatest baseball players of the twentieth century, was born in Donora, Pennsylvania, a small town south of Pittsburgh on the Monongahela River. Recalling his home and his family in his 1969 Baseball Hall of Fame inauguration speech, Musial noted, “The Musials were poor people then, like so many of our friends in Donora, Pennsylvania. But I never felt like I wanted for anything because I had a baseball. My first toy was a baseball.” And though Donora may have been the birthplace for this great man of baseball, it was St. Louis, Missouri, that played host to Musial’s talent.
The numbers, of course, do not tell the story of the man, but in the instance of Stan Musial, the numbers go a long way toward explaining a great career. For instance, in 1946 Musial had more at-bats than in any other year of his twenty-two-year career. It was certainly a stellar year for him, as he carried a .365 batting average and had 228 hits, 50 of which were doubles. In that same year, he recorded only 31 strikeouts.
By contrast, every year of the sixteen years Babe Ruth had more than 350 at-bats, he had at least 50 strikeouts; in half of those years he had more than 80 strikeouts. In the eighteen years Musial had at least 350 at-bats, he never recorded more than 50 strike-outs in a season and only went over 40 during three seasons.
Stan Musial could also get on base. In 12,717 lifetime at-bats, he carried a .331 average—he batted his way to base almost one in every three times at the plate. Again, however, the numbers only tell part of the story. Musial was a gentleman and an athlete; he served his country in World War II, he lived a scandal-free life, and he enriched baseball by appreciating the sport and playing it superlatively.
Although his family in Donora was skeptical in his early days about playing a sport as a vocation, Musial became not only one of baseball’s supreme hitters, but also one of its greatest ambassadors. Stan Musial died on January 19 at the age of ninety-two.
—Warren Perry, Catalog of American Portraits, National Portrait Gallery
Stanley Frank Musial / Boris Chaliapin / Watercolor, gouache and pencil on paper illustration board, undated / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Mrs. Boris Chaliapin, ©2008 Estate of Helcia Chaliapin