I was eight years old when Mama bought me a transistor radio, and that little wonder of wonders took me places. I could listen to rock and roll from Chicago on WLS. More importantly, I could listen to St. Louis Cardinals games on KMOX in St. Louis.
After bedtime and “lights out,” I’d hide that radio under the covers and turn the volume down to where only I could hear it. When the Cardinals played on the West Coast, there were some sleepy mornings at school the next day. Stan “The Man” Musial, who died yesterday, was far and away my favorite Cardinal. He could ever more hit a baseball. I can’t tell you how many hours on how many nights I spent waiting for Musial’s next time at bat.
Listen: In 1962, and at the age of 41 and in his 21st season, Stan the Man hit .330. His lifetime batting average was .331. You want consistency? For his career, he hit safely 1,815 times at home, 1,815 times on the road.
He hit out of a crouch that all of us little leaguers imitated. His was the most unique of stances. You could get a cramp trying to stand at the plate like Musial.
The announcers, Harry Caray and Jack Buck, talked about Musial as if he were not only one of the greatest baseball players, but also one of the nicest people, on earth. That seems to be the consensus from all who knew him, including the great Boo Ferriss, and we’ll get to that.
Leo Durocher famously said that the only way to pitch Stan Musial was “under the plate.”
Ferriss, who faced Musial in the 1946 World Series, found an even more unique way of pitching him.
In Game Three at Fenway Park, Ferriss pitched only the 50th shutout in World Series history, beating the Cardinals 4-0.
“That’s the day I learned how to pitch to Stan Musial,” Ferriss would say 60 years later. “With two out in the first inning I walked him. Stan immediately stole second base. He could really run. But when I went into my stretch with him at second, I noticed that Stan was way, way off base. We picked him off. I ran at him and then threw to Pinkie Higgins at third and Pinky tagged him out.
Ferriss chuckled as he told the story. “I’ve always thought that the best way to pitch to Stan Musial” Ferriss said. “Walk him and then pick him off.”
Years and years later, Ferriss and Musial were together at at an old timers game and the conversation went back to that pickoff play.
“What were you doing? What were you thinking?” Ferriss asked.
Replied Musial, “I don’t know that I was thinking.”
With two out in the ninth inning of that same World Series game, Musial threatened Ferriss’ shutout with a triple to right center field.
Said Ferriss, “A lot of people don’t remember Musial’s speed, but I’ve never seen a guy get from the plate to third base any faster than he did that day. He was a great, great player and a great, great guy.”