Stan Musial would play “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” on the harmonica at The Hall of Fame induction. An elegant and simple act by the most underappreciated ballplayer of all time.
I remember listening to a New York talk radio duo in 1998 railing about the Sporting News book “Baseball’s 100 Greatest Players.” Musial was listed in the top 10, ahead of Joe DiMaggio, an anti-New York bias they surmised, or perhaps a pro St. Louis tilt by the Sporting News.
They had great nicknames, The Yankee Clipper, The Splendid Splinter, Hammerin’ Hank and the Say Hey Kid. But not Musial, he was simply “The Man.”
The taciturn DiMaggio played under the bright New York City lights and married Marilyn Monroe. Ted Williams was brilliant, yet mercurial, even his home fans had trouble embracing him. Mickey Mantle was the idol of a generation, displaying tremendous power but possessing equally powerful faults. Willie Mays dazzled with blazing speed, raw power and flashy center field glove work.
But with Musial there was none of that. St. Louis, with its midwestern sensibilities was the perfect fit. There were no basket catches, 600 foot home runs, starlets or battles with fans, just 22 years of line drives, extra base hits, humor and class.
Perhaps it was fitting, in his final decade, after many of the other great players of his generation had passed, that Musial’s greatness was finally appreciated. As he had always done, he quietly persevered, when only he was left, the record of the quiet man from Donora, Pennsylvania was examined and its greatness celebrated.
Stan Musial lived his life as a true American original. He achieved baseball immortality, yet in doing so, never allowed himself to be changed by his fame or abilities as many of the truly great are. The understated and humble man was an equal to any man who ever played the game of baseball.