Mr. Musial’s nickname of “Stan The Man” was given him by St. Louis sportswriter Bob Broeg, who in 1946 overheard fans at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field react to the outfielder’s success against their pitchers by muttering, “Here comes the man,” when Mr. Musial stepped to the plate. Dodgers pitcher Preacher Roe offered this advice on how to get Mr. Musial out: “I throw him four wide ones and then I try to pick him off first base.”
Primarily an outfielder throughout his career, Mr. Musial also played first base for several years. His 17-year streak of never batting below .300 over a season ended in 1959, and he contemplated retirement. But the year before, he’d joined an elite group by stroking his 3,000th base hit. More records lay within reach and his presence on the team brought fans to the park, so he played on.
“I was having too much fun hitting to want to quit,” he later explained. He had 1,815 base hits in home games during his career and 1,815 on the road.
In 1962, at age 41, he batted .330. The following year his average fell again, but he went out in style with two hits in his last major league game, on Sept. 29, 1963. In 1969 he was inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame.
Shy and inarticulate off the field, Mr. Musial preferred playing the harmonica at public appearances to giving speeches or interviews. After his playing days were over, he worked for the Cardinals in several capacities, including general manager, a post he held for a single season, 1967, in which the Cardinals won the World Series.
For many years, he was co-owner of a St. Louis restaurant, Stan Musial & Biggie’s. He had married his high school sweetheart, Lillian Labash, in 1940. She died in 2012. Survivors include their four children: a son, Dick, and three daughters, Gerry, Janet and Jeanie.
For all his accomplishments, Mr. Musial did not always receive the credit he deserved. Recently, analysts for ESPN put him at the top of its list of underrated athletes. The neglect is attributable both to the conditions he played in and to his own personality.
For the most part, he performed his feats outside the range of the Eastern media limelight that shone steadily on such peers as Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays. After that first rush of titles, the Cardinals were hit by a pennant drought that lasted the remainder of Mr. Musial’s career. And Mr. Musial himself was neither a showboat nor a whiner.
He was so unruffled, in fact, that no umpire ever threw Mr. Musial out of a major-league game. One day he hit what appeared to be a double until an umpire called it foul. Mr. Musial's teammates disagreed vehemently, but the Man kept his cool, trotting back to the plate and asking, “It didn't count?”
When the home-plate umpire allowed as how the call might have been wrong, Mr. Musial said, “Well, there's nothing you can do about it,” and smacked the next pitch to virtually the same spot — this time called fair.
That equanimity, along with a generosity to autograph-seekers and a sunny disposition, inspired Ford Frick, commissioner of baseball during much of Mr. Musial’s career, to pay these respects, which appear on Mr. Musial’s statue outside Busch Stadium in St. Louis: “Here stands baseball's perfect warrior. Here stands baseball’s perfect knight.”
It was at the 2009 All-Star Game in that stadium that Mr. Musial made a notable late-in-life appearance, handing President Obama the ball to throw to the plate in the pre-game ceremonies. In the summer of 2010, at age 89, Mr. Musial made the cover of Sports Illustrated for a theme issue called “Where Are They Now?” In 2011, Obama awarded Mr. Musial the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
Mr. Musial's excellence over a long period offers rich material to stat-hounds. But true athletic greatness resists quantifying. Rather than try to do so with the Man, longtime Dodgers' announcer Vin Scully said this about him: “How good was Stan Musial? He was good enough to take your breath away.”