I wanted to watch every special I could, tune in to every radio station and listen to stories shared by others until I decided to write about Stan Musial’s death. When high profile athletes die, people normally speak out about what great people they were, whether it was true or not. I’m sure some day many people will say great things about Barry Bonds and Lance Armstrong. I’m sure in some ways, that will be true, but most of it will be complete BS, and the rest of us will know it. I’m not just talking about steroids, I’m talking about the way they ruined other people’s lives to grab the money and the glory.
This is not the case when it comes to Musial. I wish I had my own story to talk about, but I never had the privilege to meet “The Man.” I think we’ve just begun to hear the great stories about one of baseball’s top 10 players of all time, and for the first time in my life, I feel like every story being told about a person in their death is not only accurate, but almost hard to believe, and that’s what makes it so great. From everything I’ve heard, read and talked about with many, it truly does seem that Mr. Musial was one of the greatest human beings alive, and everyone that got even 30 seconds of his time is better for it.
One of the things that really bothers me about the passing of Stan is that he is just now getting the credit he deserves for being one of the best MLB players of all time. If you would have taken the birds on the bat and replaced them with Yankee pinstripes for his career, things would be different. In 1999, Commissioner Bud Selig had to add Musial to the MLB All-Century Team after the fan vote left him off. If Musial had played for the Yankees or Red Sox, there would have been riots in the streets and burning buildings for this omission. This is exactly why fans should never vote for players on anything, ever. Would the fans have gotten it wrong if Stan had worn the pinstripes…yeah, I didn’t think so.
Somewhere, right now, a few people in New York and Boston are saying that Willie Randolph and Mo Vaughn were better players than Stan. In another conversation over clam chowder and a deep dish pizza for dinner, some east coast (which consist entirely of New York and Boston in case you didn’t know), yet more knowledgeable fans in these areas have managed to squeeze Stan into a conversation by placing him in their top 30 Yankee or Red Sox players of all time, just below Bernie Williams and Dwight Evans. If any of you happen to be reading this from the coast, hurry back to the TV so you can watch a 24 marathon of Mark Wahlberg and Alec Baldwin.
Now, I’ve seen a lot of fans from blogs and other forums from these two iconic franchises giving Stan the credit he always deserved. However, I did see some claiming that, without a doubt in their mind, Derek Jeter and Manny Ramirez were better players, and with that, you lose all credibility by association.
So, let’s get to the numbers and see where Stan stacks up all time by using WAR, BA, and everything in between. I’m using Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle for comparisons against Stan as well as listing the all time leader in what I think are the most important top 10 categories. Keep in mind that Musial missed the 1945 season serving in WWII, DiMaggio missed 1943-1945 serving in WWII and Williams missed not only 1943-1945 for WWII, but also the majority of 1952-1953 for the Korean War. At the end of this table, I will try to make sense out of each player’s stats for their time missed serving their country.
Williams went to Korea after playing in only 6 games in 1952. In 1953, he returned and played in 37 games. I think it’s pretty safe to say that Williams is probably the best MLB player of all-time. If you average out his stats without the time missed, he would have 3552 hits, 656 HR’s and 2321 RBI’s based on his 154 game average, which is how many games were played in the AL from 1920-1961. The NL started the 162 game season in 1962. Musial would have hit 500 HR’s exactly if you go by his games played average, but would fall 7 shy if you take his two seasons before and after his WWII average. Musial would have finished his career with 3852 hits. DiMaggio would not have finished his career with neither 500 HR’s nor 3000 hits, instead finishing with 433 and 2772.
Using projected stats is not something I really enjoy doing and by doing so it uses too many uncertainties. We have no idea what the war(s) might have done to each player by either extending or taking years off their career, depending on how it diminished or saved their bodies, but using projected stats isn’t something I invented. Given that Musial only served one year in the USN, it’s a little easier with his stats.
The steroid era has done something not only to the greats of all time and where they rank on the leaderboards, but also to the fans. Many will look back on the 475 HR’s that Stan hit and compare them to the players they’ve seen today. Just ahead of Stan on that list is Gary Sheffield at 509 and Jose Canseco is just below him at 462. Those stats by those players speak for themselves about how great of a player Stan was.
I wanted to tell a story, and since I never met him or saw him play other than on old highlight reels, this is the best way I know how. If anyone ever tries to tell you that Musial is not one of the ten greatest players of all-time, make that person show you the stats of 10 better than he was, and you’ll never hear from them again. Don’t take that person off your Christmas card list though, because Stan wouldn’t have.