I wanted to talk more about Stan Musial today. First of all, Happy Birthday Stan. On the heels of Veterans Day, Stan being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and his 90th birthday today, I wanted to talk about Stan and the impact of WWII. The first thing I want to say about it is that it’s amazing to me that great players such as Stan Musial, Ted Williams, Hank Greenberg, Ralph Kiner, Joe Dimaggio, Duke Snider, Bob Feller, Luke Appling and many others served during World War II. For a complete list of Hall of Fame members that served during WWII, check out this link:
It’s amazing in more than one sense. For one, could you imagine a player today that was a superstar in MLB, or any sport for that matter, joining the military? I would have loved to have been able to spend a day with Pat Tillman and talk about his reasons why he joined, however obvious it is. For more than that though. His actions spoke loudly about who he was. He wasn’t drafted, he gave up the money and life as a professional athlete to do what he thought was right. I don’t think there could ever be enough good things said about the man. The things he gave up to do a truly great thing, well, you just can’t put it into words. The world needs more men like him.
I’m not going to get into the players that entered voluntarily or were drafted. All I can say is that even if there was a draft today, I don’t think MLB players would be asked to serve. Players back then made peanuts compared to today’s player, and the world is just a different place.
So while it’s great to compare some of today’s players against some of these HOF members that served in WWII, it becomes more difficult than it seems. For instance, Stan came into the league in 1941, won the NL MVP Award in 1943, 1946 and 1948. He missed 1945 due to his service during WWII, and hit .347 in 1944 and .365 in 1946. How well would he have done in 1945? It’s very possible he would have won another MVP award; instead the award went to Phil Cavarretta of the Chicago Cubs, who hit .355 with a .449 OBP, yet only had 6 HR’s. Nice stats, but Stan’s 162 game average for his career was:
Add those 194 hits to his 3,630 career hits, and you have to wonder if Stan would have stuck around for an attempt towards 4,000 hits. Would Stan have hit 25 home runs that year, he would have 500 in his career, a list that surely keeps him out of the minds of certain baseball experts when they come out with their greatest players list of all-time, which Stan is often absent from. Another thing about 1945 is that that’s the last time the Cubs went to the World Series, and the Cardinals only finished 3 games back in second place. Back then, you win your division, you go to the World Series. Is it safe to assume that the Cardinals would have run away with the division, and possibly won another World Series in 1945 had Stan Musial not been in the military?
Anyway, it’s questions I’ve wondered. Ted Williams and Joe Dimaggio missed 3 years; Hank Greenberg missed nearly 4 and half seasons, the same as Bob Feller. If you look at Feller’s stats, he was absolutely dominant in the 4 years prior to his entry to the war, and picked right back up when he returned. He is truly one of the greatest underrated pitchers of all time, as he easily would have had 300 wins and 3000 strikeouts.
A different time, a different game, different standards. I guess I wanted to point out that Stan Musial was even greater than his stats suggest, and really give me another excuse to write an article about “The Man”. From all of the quotes I’ve seen from other players and coaches recently about Stan, he was a more than a gentlemen to everyone he ever came in contact with. Happy Birthday Stan, I hope we see you around for many more years. Once again, congratulations on being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.