|To say the least, No. 6 put up the numbers. (Getty Images)|
If ever a player were about more than his numbers, his on-field bestowals, it was the late Stan Musial. But that's not cause to give short shrift to those numbers, because Musial's numbers are brilliant -- snatch-you-up-by-the-lapels brilliant.
Does he get short shrift because he wasn't as combative as Ted Williams, as afflicted as Mickey Mantle, as graceful as Willie Mays or as resonant as Joe DiMaggio? Probably so. But that's surely a reflection of what draws us to a story, to a life. In other words, if Musial has been overlooked, it's our fault, not his. Because what he authored over a 22-year career in the majors can be ignored only if you're hellbent on doing so.
And, oh, what he authored ...
- Of his 3,630 hits, 1,815 came at home and 1,815 came on the road. Put up fencing in zero gravity, and The Man would've been sliding into third.
- He batted .315 as a 21-year-old, and he batted .330 as a 41-year-old.
- Despite his power and despite that corkscrew swing, Musial never struck out more than 46 times in a season.
- It goes without saying that Musial routinely walked more than he struck out. What's even more noteworthy is that Musial tallied more doubles than strikeouts in each of the first nine seasons of his career. Let that one breathe for a moment.
- Speaking of strikeouts, Musial tallied more career All-Star appearances (20) than he did whiffs in his first MVP season in 1943 (18).
- Wanna talk single-season dominance? In 1948, Musial's finest campaign, he led his league in hits, runs, doubles, triples, batting average, OBP, slugging percentage, OPS+, RBI, WAR and total bases.
- No one thinks of Musial as a burner, but nine times he reached double digits in triples and seven times he led his league or all of baseball in three-baggers. Hustling out of the box seemed like an involuntary reaction to him.
- Musial was a career .305/.387/.506 hitter ... after the age of 35.
- Musial's numbers from age 30 onward? Fathom these: .319/.408/.543; 301 homers; 2,006 hits; 1,136 RBI; 1,029 runs; 947 walks; 150 OPS+, 60.2 bWAR. In other words, Musial could've been a 30-year-old rookie and still cobbled together a strong Hall of Fame case.
- He won three NL MVPs, but he also finished second in the MVP balloting on four occasions. Being narrowly overlooked was sort of his thing.
To me, all these numbers lead me so say one thing: If you ever saw Stan Musial play baseball, then I envy you.