|#6 Stan Musial, c. 1942|
It is around time every year in which a long and sometimes monotonous baseball season begins to mean something. As divisional pennant chases are analyzed by the sports media to the point of delirium, it is good to remember those who dug the well from which today's professional athletes, as it were, continually draw the freshest water.
Stan Musial began playing semi-pro baseball in Pennsylvania at age 15. Having initially competed as a pitcher, Musial was converted to the outfield during his time in the minor leagues and developed a unique hitting stance that is perhaps best mirrored today by future Hall of Famer, Ichiro Suzuki.
A three-time World Series champion, three-time MVP, seven-time batting champion and 24-time All-Star selection, "The Man" was enshrined into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility with a .331 batting average and 3,630 career hits (1,815 at home, 1,815 on the road, and only Hank Aaron amassed more total bases). Known for his modesty and class, it is said that fans of the Brooklyn Dodgers gave the St. Louis Cardinal legend the nickname by which he will always be known. Yet it's the standard he established, both on and off the field, that makes this "perfect knight" my baseball hero.
The summer heat may linger, but we know the pleasantness of autumn is near. And with that, a new season of football approaches. But until the titans of the gridiron take the helm, it is baseball -- possibly the most vintage exemplar of Americana -- that holds our attention.
"Baseball is what we were, football is what we have become."
-- Mary McGrory (1918-2004), Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Washington Post