Over the weekend the baseball world lost two of it’s most precious names in Stan Musial and Earl Weaver. Ten years apart in age these two made names for themselves in different ways, yet were still the pinnacles of their profession at the time.
Stan Musial, age 92 and from Donora, PA., died Saturday evening at the age of 92. Musial played his entire career with the St. Louis Cardinals and was one of the greatest hitters in the history of the game, amassing a lifetime batting average of .331, including 3,630 hits, 475 home runs and 1,951 runs-batted-in. His 725 career doubles, in two fewer years in the big leagues, was one more than Ty Cobb.
Although I never saw it live, Musial had one of the most unique batting stances ever. It was once called an “uncoiling” rather than a swing. He seemed to just uncurl at a pitch, like he was behind a wall and stepping around the corner to hit the ball. It was unparalleled at the time and even now, yet it was successful for him.
The most amazing stat Musial has to his name was he had a total of 1,815 hits at home and 1,815 hits on the road. His consistency was amazing. Musial played 22 season and hit .300 in every year except 4. Three of those 4 years were in the last 5 years of his career, but smack in the middle he hit .330 in 135 games in 1962, one year before he retired.
In 1945 he left baseball to enlist in World War Two. He returned the following season and hit .365, the second highest average in his career. Musial was cursed by playing in St. Louis because at the time, baseball was also dominated by Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio, who played in much more media friendly cities of Boston and New York.
Musial led the Cardinals to three World Series Championships He was elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot in 1969 and afterwards played an integral role in the annual induction ceremonies in Cooperstown. Upon his retirement in 1963, he was honored by the Cardinals by the retiring of his No. 6 and the erection of a statue outside of Busch Stadium.
Musial was one of the kindestplayers in Baseball history and never seemed to have anything bad to say about anyone, as witnessed by the fact he was never ejected from a game in his career.
Meanwhile one of the most entertaining, gruff, cantankerous and successful managers in baseball was Earl Weaver. Weaver passed away Saturday after suffering a heart attack while on a Baltimore Orioles cruise in the Caribbean. He was 82.
Weaver was the winningest manager in Oriole history. In 17 seasons he compiled a 1,480-1,060 record, including five seasons with 100-plus wins. He manages Baltimore to three consecutive seasons of over 100 wins from 1969-1971, winning the World Series in 1970 over the Cincinnati Reds. Weaver had only one losing season as a manager, that being his final season in 1986.
Weaver won six division titles, four American League pennants along with the World Series championship. He believed in pitching, defense and the three-run homer. But he was also able to manage players with huge egos.
Baltimore had some of the best players in the game during Weaver’s tenure, yet he treated them all the same. He managed players of such high caliber like Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken, Jr. All loved playing for Weaver and he never deviated from what made his a great manager. Frank Robinson and Davey Johnson went on to have successful managerial careers after playing under Weaver.
However what Weaver will be remembered for was his abrasive treatment of umpires. He was ejected 91 times, including once in both games of a doubleheader. Stories abound on his ejections and classic arguments, and I had the opportunity to see one.
In 1979, Baltimore visited old Cleveland Stadium to play the Indians. I was attending school in Cleveland at the time and was sitting in the bleachers in left field. A play similar to the 1975 Ed Armbruster bunt happened in this game and immediately Weaver bolted out of the dugout to confront home plate umpire Marty Springstead. After only a ten second disagreement, Weaver went back into the dugout and came right back to home plate. This time with the MLB rulebook in hand. Within seconds Weaver opened the book, pointed to a rule and then proceeded to tear the book into little pieces and threw it I the air. Needless to say Springstead contributed to the total of 91 ejections that day.
Weaver finished his career with a .583 winning percentage, which ranks fifth among managers who served 10 or more seasons in the 20th century. He was inducted into Cooperstown in 1996 by the Veteran’s Committee.
There’s no doubt baseball is in mourning and should be. In their own way both were contributors to it’s history and it’s lore.
Today’s player could learn something from both.
Dave Mitchell co-hosts with Mark Donahue the UST talk show “Ohio Baseball Weekly,” highlighting the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds. The Show return in March, 2013.