On this date 67 years ago, St. Louis Cardinals 24-year-old superstar Stan Musial announced that he would report to the U.S. Navy for service in World War Two.
Stan the Man would miss the entire 1945 season while in the service. The defending World Series Champion Cardinals didn't make the post-season after three consecutive Fall Classic appearances and a pair of world championships. But the Birds returned to the World Series and won it when Musial returned in 1946.
While some great athletes left for military service and returned a shadow of what they once were, Musial left a rising star and returned as a complete ballplayer.
While at Bainbridge Naval Training Center in the spring of 1945, Musial played on a team of major leaguers who put on exhibitions to entertain the troops. Trying to impress the sailors in the crowd with a good show, Musial put more emphasis on swinging for power and developed a home run stroke that served him well upon his return to the majors.
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In three full seasons before he left for the Navy, Musial never hit more than 13 homers. When he arrived back in St. Louis in 1946, he belted 28 homers or more eight times over the remainder of his career, launching as many as 39 in a campaign. Musial totaled 475 homers over the course of his 21 major league seasons.
Musial spent the bulk of his Navy career operating a ferry at Pearl Harbor that brought wounded sailors from fighting vessels to the hospital. He was released from service in March of 1946 and returned to the Cardinals in time for spring training.
Stan the man hit .365 with 16 homers, 20 triples and 50 doubles in 1946 to win the National League Most Valuable Player Award, his second of three times to achieve that honor.