It was already a rough weekend for baseball fans and MLB with the passing of Earl Weaver on Friday night when news came on Saturday night that the St. Louis Cardinals great, Stan Musial, passed away.
To say Stan Musial was a baseball great and Cardinals icon isn’t enough. He was simply one of the game’s greatest players in history.
When I first started writing about baseball, my first project was to rank all of baseball’s greatest players. In doing research for those articles, I realized just how great Musial was. Looking over his career, I was amazed at what he did.
However, I believe Musial is one of (if not the) most underrated players in baseball history. When he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011, I wrote the following for Bleacher Report:
Quick, name the top five overall position players in baseball history.
Now, name the top ten overall position players in baseball history.
Did Stan Musial’s name appear anywhere in your top ten? For most people, the answer would be no.
Most people will say the top ten overall position players are some order of Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, Willie Mays, Joe Dimaggio, Hank Aaron, Ty Cobb, Pete Rose, Honus Wagner and Rogers Hornsby with maybe Rickey Henderson, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Mickey Mantle and many others thrown in.
Would it surprise you that Stan Musial belongs in the top ten position players of all-time?
How about the top eight or top seven?
What if I told you that an argument could even be made that he belongs in the top six?
Here are five players’ stats; let’s see how you would rank them one through five:
Player A: .305 batting average, .374 OBP, .555 Slugging Percentage, .928 OPS, 155 OPS+
Player B: .327 batting average, .391 OBP, .466 Slugging Percentage, .858 OPS, 150 OPS+
Player C: .331 batting average, .417 OBP, .559 Slugging Percentage, .976 OPS, 159 OPS+
Player D: .302 batting average, .384 OBP, .557 Slugging Percentage, .941 OPS, 155 OPS+,
Player E: .325 batting average, .398 OBP, .579 Slugging Percentage, .977 OPS, 155 OPS+
Without having any further stats or player descriptions to go on, I would rank them in the following order: Player C, Player E, Player A, Player D then Player B.
Who are these players?
Player A is Hank Aaron, Player B is Honus Wagner, Player C is Stan Musial, Player D is Willie Mays and Player E is Joe DiMaggio. Does this mean he’s better than those four other players? Not necessarily, but it does mean he should always be in the discussion and when discussing all-time ranking, he should at least be in the same neighborhood.
Why is Stan Musial seemingly forgotten and underrated everywhere except in St. Louis?
I’m not exactly sure; all he did was put up the following stats in 22 years of playing baseball:
Three MVPs (and six other top-5 finishes), 20 time All-Star, 3026 games, .331 batting average, .417 OBP, .559 Slugging Percentage, .976 OPS, 159 OPS+, 475 HRs, 1951 RBI, 3630 Hits, 1599 BBs and 696 Ks.
Musial was probably the most consistent hitter in baseball history.
If you look at the stats of most hitters in baseball history, you will see a difference (sometimes a huge difference) between hitting at home or hitting on the road, hitting during the day and hitting at night; this is not the case for Stan.
He had 1815 hits at home and 1815 hits on the road, batted .336 at home and .326 on the road, and batted .340 in day games and .320 in night games. He was a power hitter that could hit for average and had a great eye and was average/above average defensively.
The reason I believe Musial is underrated and “forgotten” is he wasn’t flashy. He never led the league in HRs, he wasn’t a speed demon, he wasn’t a wizard with the glove; all he did was everything you want a player to do—do his job well and do it the same everyday, everywhere for his entire career.
Where would I rank Stan Musial all-time?
The top five players (Ruth, Williams, Gehrig, Mays and Cobb) all had one or two parts of their game that were the best ever (power, defense etc) and it makes it hard to rank Musial above them. The only player you could argue Musial was better than in my list would be Dimaggio (I have him sixth) but I think Dimaggio takes a slight edge; but that’s an article for another day.
My hope is that now if you’re asked who the top 10 players of all-time in baseball history, you remember to include Stan “The Man” Musial somewhere in your list.
In looking back over my rankings, I initially had him ranked 7th behind Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, Willie Mays, Ty Cobb and Joe DiMaggio. Now, I believe I would rank him 6th. My thoughts on this change on a daily basis because all the players in the top 10 have an argument to be ranked higher than they are and every person would have a different ranking than anyone else.
Stan “The Man” Musial was to the Cardinals and their fans, what Ruth/DiMaggio/Mantle were to the Yankees and their fans and Mays was to Giants and their fans – a legendary icon.
It is always sad when a baseball great passes, but when that player is also one of the best ever it always seem to be even sadder. Baseball is a sport that is rich in history and when part of that history is no longer with us, all of us are worse for it.
It’s never easy to sum up someone’s life and it’s even harder when it’s someone like Stan Musial. He served our country in the Navy during World War II, he was never involved in any “scandal” off the field – he simply played baseball. However, he didn’t simply play baseball – he excelled at it, at a level that was historic.
Legions of fans are in mourning today – not just St. Louis Cardinals fans, but all fans of baseball. Rest in peace Stan – the memories and your legacy will continue to live on through everyone who were lucky enough to see you play, to their kids and grandchildren who heard the stories and anyone who visits the Hall of Fame. Thank you for everything you did for our country and the great game we call baseball.
Where would you rank Stan Musial all-time among position players? Please vote in the poll below and leave a comment about your memories of The Man.
About the Author: Rich Stowe
Rich Stowe has written for many sports-based websites over the years including Informative Sports.com, Sports Nickel.com, Dugout Report.com and was a Featured Columnist for MLB and the New York Yankees for Bleacher Report. Rich is a Lifetime member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America (IBWAA). He is also a self-published author - his book "From Abused Puppy to Beloved Family Member: The Life Story of Jacob the Rottweiler" can be found for the Kindle and in print through amazon.com. Rich is currently serving as the Managing Editor of Sports Unbiased.com