Oct. 2019 Items: More on Stan the Man

In my last blog, I covered some aspects of the career of Donora’s Stan Musial. Most of the info came from a St. Louis Cardinals publication and some came from a bio I wrote entitled Stan the Man (Triumph publisher). Here are some additional items:

Over the years I’ve heard different versions as to who was the first MLB player to hit $100,000 for a one-year contract. The Cardinals 2013 Yearbook states Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio reached that plateau in the AL before Stan became the first NL player to earn that much money.

Take what I found to be today’s best paid players and compare their paycheck to that of Stan. Strasburg is said to have made $38.3 this season and he is followed by teammate Scherzer at $37.4 million (those two salaries surpass the entire payroll for the Rays, Marlins, and Bluejays and it’s about the same as the total salaries for the Pirates and the Padres).

Now, take Strasburg’s salary and divide it by, say, his 33 regular season starts and you have him earning $1,160,606 per game–that’s more than 11 1/2 times what superstar Stan made for an entire season. For those who like such stats, Strasburg earned more for one inning of work, at $183,2253, than Stan got for a full season. Even if you throw in his work load for postseason play, the figures are still staggering.

Bonus Trivia Item: Do you know who hit the longest homer in the long history of Forbes Field? Scroll below for answer.

When Ryan Zimmerman hit a game ending home run in the Nats first game in their new ballpark (after leaving RFK Stadium), he tied Musial for the second most walkouts in NL history with 11.

One last money item: in 1947, Stan signed a contract for $31,000. Even though that is chump change nowadays, it marked the most money a Cardinals player had ever earned.

The longest Forbes Field homer belongs to Dick Stuart who once hit 66 home runs in the minors. His blow in Pittsburgh came on June 5, 1959, and it traveled over the center field wall on a pitch from Cubs Glenn Hobbie.

Stuart, who had quite an ego, loved to boast of his slugging. Vernon Law said Stuart took to signing his autograph “Dick Stuart, 66,” and he added a star to go along with it. The “66” was in reference to the number of homers he hit in the minors in 1956 when he became, at 23, the youngest man ever to top the 60 home run plateau.

Stu even bragged that he could have hit 90 homers that year if the Class A pitchers had better control. He said he had to chase many bad pitches just to reach 60 homers. He could have claimed he would have hit many more home runs if Forbes Field wasn’t his home park—in 1960, only eight of his 23 homers came there.

The above info on Stuart comes from the book I’m finishing–to be released next year to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the wildest, most lopsided World Series ever back in 1960. The tentative title for the 2020 book is 1960: When the Pittsburgh Pirates Had ‘Em All the Way. That, as all Pittsburghers know, is a reference to announcer Bob Prince’s famous phrase.

Stan the Man Items

The 2013 St. Louis Cardinals Yearbook dedicated about 150 of its 250 pages to Stan Musial. I’m reading through it and will pass on some noteworthy items in this blog and in a future blog, but one thing is clear: this Man was truly incredible. I knew, of course, how great he was, but reading through the yearbook still resulted in my coming across amazing facts and figures.

At one point Stan was tied for the third fastest time going down the line home to first throughout the entire Major Leagues. He was clocked at 3.4 second–only Mickey Mantle (3.1) and Bobby Thomson (3.3) were faster (around 1953).

In 1958, he was so hot to start the season he wound up hitting a sizzling .528 for the entire month of April.

In 1943, he went 34 straight games without striking out once. That year he struck out 18 times over his 700 total plate appearances. Today some players K that many times in two weeks or so–when Mark Reynolds set the record for the most times striking out in a season, 223, he averaged close to 1 1/2 strikeouts per game!

Stan may not have considered himself a big power hitter, but he did swat 475 HR and tons of extra base hits yet he still managed to make great contact, so he didn’t whiff a lot. In fact, not counting his final two seasons when he was up there in age baseball-wise, he never struck out more than 40 times in a season. Even in his last two years his K totals were 46 and 43.

Trick question: who wore jersey #6 for the Cards in 1945? Answer below.

About the only weakness among all his glittering stats is this: the “Donora Greyhound” wasn’t much of a base stealer despite his speed. The most bases he stole in a season was 9 and he was caught seven times that year. Lifetime he swiped 78 bases but was nailed 71 times for a very poor percentage.

On May 27, 1943, Stan stole two bases in a game. What’s noteworthy here is the fact that his two steals gave the Cards a team total of three on the year and that game was their 29th of the season!

As a fellow Donora native I found this to be an interesting coincidence: growing up Stan lived on Marelda Avenue. In 1946 he was living in a hotel at the start of the season but then he, wife Lil, and his young family moved into a furnished rental bungalow on a street with a name much like that of his old home, Mardel Avenue.

In off seasons, he continued to return to Donora and always had strong ties to the place of his roots. In October of 1946, though, he did say he was looking to make St. Louis his new home as he planned on buying a home and sending his son Dickie to school in St. Louis. The next month he attended one of many banquets Donora would hold in his honor. That month also featured him becoming the first man ever to win an MVP Award at two different positions, outfield and first base. At the time of the writing of the 2013 yearbook only two other men, Hank Greenberg and Alex Rodriguez matched that feat.

Trivia answer: In ’45 Stan missed the season due to serving in the Navy. That season his good friend Red Schoendienst wore #6 and even filled in as an outfielder instead of playing his normal spot at second base.

Did You Know: Lucas Giolito

White Sox All-Star pitcher Lucas Giolito has some interesting side stories to his career. First of all, in a strange statistical situation, in 2018, he went 10-13 with a sky high ERA of 6.13 which was the worst among all major league pitchers who qualified for the ERA title (requiring 161 or more innings pitched). He also gave up more walks, 90, and more earned runs than any other A.L. pitcher.

In 2019, he was 11-5 through his first 21 starts, and, as of this writing (on September 12th) he’s at 14 wins with a 3.27 ERA and 216 K’s. He won Pitcher of the Month honors in May when he had six starts and went 5-0 with a tiny ERA of 1.74. He became the first player in MLB history to go from having the league’s worst ERA to making the All-Star squad the next season.

In the Sept./Oct. issue of Baseball Digest, writer John Perrotto mentioned Giolito’s family connection to the world of acting. His grandfather, Warren Frost, played the father of George Costanza’s fiancé, Susan, in the TV show Seinfeld. His mother, Laura Frost, has appeared in several movies such as The Ring and Collateral Damage and she was in several episodes of Frazier, Crossing Jordan, and Bull. His father Rick acted in Who’s the Boss and Hunter and was in the movie Hit the Dutchman. That’s not all. His brother Mark was the co-creator of TV’s Twin Peaks and another brother, Scott, wrote for Twin Peaks and for Andromeda.

Bob Friend Trivia and More

Here’s a sneak peek at some info on Bob Friend from my upcoming book on the 1960 Pirates:

Friend led the league in starts from 1956-1958. He won 22 to top the NL in 1958 then suffered through a frightful season in which he went 8-19 to lead the league in defeats, for a hellacious dip. Back on his game in ’60, he won 60% of his decisions, winning 18 in all to go with a 3.00 ERA.  

Baseball is a peculiar game. Some big name pitchers, often for reasons they have no control over such as a lack of run support and the type of defense they have behind them, actually wind up with lifetime records which are sub-.500.  Some well known pitchers who suffered that ignominy include Friend (197-230), Bobo Newsom, Don Larsen of World Series perfect game fame, Johnny Vander Meer who threw back-to-back no-hitters, and both Leon Cadore and Joe Oeschger, the men who hooked up in and completed the major’s longest game ever in terms of innings, 26, back on May 1, 1920. Imagine their pitch counts! One estimate was between 250-300 for each weary man at the end of the game which was called in 1-1 tie. The game ran a mere 3 hours and 50 minutes.

Upon Friend’s retirement in 1966, he was also one of just 17 pitchers to lose 200 games and one of just a few pitchers to lose that many while finishing a career with a record below .500. That does not mean he wasn’t a quality pitcher because he was. As Roger Craig, who lost 24 games with the 1962 expansion Mets and 22 more the next season, observed, “You’ve got to be a pretty good pitcher to lose that many.” His logic was no manager is going to let a lousy pitcher play long enough to acquire tons of losses. As a trivia note, Friend holds the distinction of giving up Pete Rose’s first big league hit.

1960 Pirates

I’m currently wrapping up a book I hope will come out next year to celebrate the 60th anniversary of what may well be the most stunning upset in World Series play–if it’s not that, it was certainly the most lopsided Series, even if the lopsided scores (and crazy statistics/records) went in favor of the losing team, the Yankees.

If, by any chance, you have a good story or any info about that season, any of the players involved, etc. let me know and I’ll consider using it in the book (although, to give you fair warning, there’s not much room left for such material).

Here’s a quick tidbit that will be in the book from some research and an interview I did with a baseball expert/author:

Rich Westcott said, “A lot of people think Murtaugh should be in the Hall of Fame. Danny was nothing spectacular as a player—he did lead the league in stolen bases one year—but people regard him very highly.” His winning percentage of .540 is higher than 11 of the 22 managers in the Hall and it’s tied with Leo Durocher. It is also better than Casey Stengel’s .508 and way better than Connie Mack’s .486 (only he and Bucky Harris are in Cooperstown with a percentage below .500).

I was surprised to learn that two managers in the Hall lost more games than they won yet got honored for their longevity and/or ability to win some World Series. Harris, who won three championships, won his first as a rookie player/manager while Mack, a man whose teams often were either great or lousy, won five championships. For the record, Murtaugh, who spent four stints with the Pirates (and no other club), won two.

Baseball Items July

Things I came across: Christian Yelich’s great-great grandfather was a running back in the NFL. His name was Fred Gehrke and he is the man who designed the logo for the L.A. Rams.

The son of actors Ryan Phillippe and Reese Witherspoon is named Deacon and that was done to honor a relative of Ryan’s–Deacon Phillippe who was the first pitcher to win three games in a World Series. In fact, he did that in the first modern World Series ever, the 1903 best-of-nine Series won by the Pirates over the Boston Pilgrims.

Coincidentally, 57 years later, a man with the nickname of the Deacon, Vernon Law, came very close to winning three in the Series versus the Yankees. The 1960 World Series was the most lopsided, wildest one ever in the opinion of many. The Bucs lost three games by scores of 16-3, 10-0, and 12-0 (two shutouts by Whitey Ford) but won it all in seven thanks to the famous walkoff homer by Bill Mazeroski. The Yanks’ stats destroyed those of the Pirates which led Gino Cimoli of the Pirates to quip after the deciding contest, “They set all the records and we won the game.”

Al McGuire’s Greatest Players

From a 1984 Inside Sports magazine: Al McGuire picked his “Blue Chippers” teams including his All-Americans. His all-time All-American was Oscar Robertson and his five for the ’84 draft featured just one senior Kevin Magee. He rounded out his picks with Sam Bowie, Terry Cummings, Ralph Sampson, and James Worthy.

His All-Blur team: all-time pick was Calvin Murphy. The ’84 selections included Dwight Anderson and Rocket Foster. How many of the men mentioned so far have you remembered vividly?

All-Radar: all-time best shooter was Rick Mount; others included Trent Tucker, Byron Scott, Quintin Dailey, and Randy Wittman.

All-Slam-Jam-in-Your Face: all-time pick was Bill Russell. Also on the list were Sam Perkins, LaSalle Thompson, and Dominique Wilkins. By the way, McGuire had a rule that no man could be on more than one list.

His all-time power forward was Larry Bird. His ’84 picks included Antoine Carr, Michael Cage, and Clark Kellogg.

All-time take charge guy: Bob Cousy. From ’84–Sleepy Floyd, John Paxson, and Doc Rivers

Best freshman ever was Magic Johnson. From ’84–Pat Ewing and Michael Jordan.

He had some dubious picks for ’84 first-round NBA picks such as Kevin Magee, Fred Roberts, Darren Tillis, Corny Thompson, Rory White, and Alvis Rogers. I’ll be honest, I can’t recall most of those men.