If there is a silver lining in losing the greatest ambassador St. Louis ever had, it is that Stan Musial's baseball exploits are finally getting their due consideration as we look back on his life.
Most Cardinals fans alive today have never seen Musial play. His last game in the majors was 50 years ago. And little video remains of his highlights. While he was alive he became known for what a wonderful person he was more than what a great ballplayer.
Some people think Musial’s caliber is as a ballplayers is comparable to Yankees Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio. And to that I say puh-leeeeze.
Not to knock Joltin’ Joe, who was a truly great player. But Stan was better by just about every offensive measure. While DiMaggio lost three seasons to World War II compared to Musial’s one, Stan was a consistent force for two full decades and hit .331 with 475 homers
DiMaggio hit .325 with 361 home runs even though he enjoyed hitting in a much deeper lineup than Musial had surrounding him for most of his career. He managed only 13 years and he struggled terribly to stay healthy the last three before retiring at 36 in 1951.
If Musial would have retired after his 36th birthday season, he would have had a career .340 batting average to dominate Joltin’ Joe in that category -- and he still would have edged out DiMaggio with 381 homers. If DiMaggio would have played longer, his statistical averages wouldn't have been able to hold up.
Ted Williams was known (thanks in large part to his pushing people to refer to him that way) as “the greatest hitter who ever lived.” If that description was accurate, Musial wasn’t far behind. Williams hit .344 with 521 homers in 19 years in the big leagues in hitter friendly Fenway Park.
If Stan played in Boston, I believe he would have done even better than the Splendid Splinter. Williams refused to do anything but pull the ball, so much so that opponents radically shifted their defense to the right side of the field when he came to the plate. Musial used the whole field and probably would have dented the heck out of the Green Monster in short left field with opposite field line drives.
It's very easy to imagine that Musial might have hit 15 points higher and slapped a few more homers to the short right field porch at Yankee Stadium.
Bottom line: It's difficult to find many players who could hit for the combination of average, power and speed that Stan the Man had. He did it all, and not just by the home. Stan the Man led the National League in triples five times and doubles eight times. And he said he would have stolen a lot of bases if he knew the practice would later become so popular. I have no doubt that he could have done it.