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Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Retrosimba: Stan Musial avoided pay cut in final season 50 years ago

The reason Musial was heading into his 22nd major-league season in 1963 was because he had produced spectacularly in 1962.

After three consecutive seasons of finishing with batting averages below .290, the seven-time National League batting champion had indicated 1962 would be his last year as a player. He changed his mind, however, after batting .330 with a .416 on-base percentage in 135 games in 1962. Those numbers returned Musial to elite status. He placed third in the league in batting (behind the Dodgers’ Tommy Davis, .346, and the Reds’ Frank Robinson, .342) and first among left-handed batters. Musial also ranked second in the league in on-base percentage (behind Robinson, .421).

Inspired, Musial wanted to return for the 1963 season _ and the Cardinals welcomed him. (General manager Bing Devine and manager Johnny Keane encouraged Musial to return; Branch Rickey, 81, a senior advisor to owner Gussie Busch, said Musial should retire.)

“I felt like I did in the old days,” Musial said to The Sporting News of his 1962 performance. “I knew I was going to hit. I knew I was going to play every day. Yes, my biggest thrill was the overall season. I couldn’t wait for the next game. I really hated to see last season end and I can’t wait for the next one to start.”

Thanks to Gaynor.

Repoz Posted: January 02, 2013 at 06:24 AM | 11 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history

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   1. Hello Rusty Kuntz, Goodbye Rusty Cars Posted: January 02, 2013 at 10:42 AM (#4336758)
   2. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 02, 2013 at 10:48 AM (#4336761)
Branch Rickey, 81, a senior advisor to owner Gussie Busch, said Musial should retire.

Rickey was a bit of an ass, wasn't he?
   3. bjhanke Posted: January 02, 2013 at 02:59 PM (#4337052)
Rickey was, as I suppose you've already figured out, a control freak. He also held the opinion that old players should be traded, and he meant old players like when you turned 30. Stan was way past that.

Back in the 1990s, I got to know Bing Divine reasonably well, and we talked baseball, as you might imagine. Some of the details here are from other sources, but here is Bing's take on the Musial retirement: He thought it was the last big service Stan had done the Cards. By letting Bing know in advance that he had a year to find a new left fielder, Stan alerted Bing that Bing was going to have to look at every left fielder who might be available in a trade, and gave him a year to do that. The team tried a few kids for a while in 1964, but none of them worked out, and pitcher Ernie Broglio's arm was looking like it might be done. So Bing offered Broglio for Lou Brock, which plugged the left field hole up pretty well, I'd say. Bing said that Brock was at or very near the top of his list of left fielders who might be available. He had figured out that the Cubs had no place to play him.

Lou was lefty, so he couldn't play C, 3B, SS, or 2B. He didn't have the arm for RF, and had just spent two years proving that he didn't have the glove for center. That left LF and 1B. Billy Williams. Ernie Banks. The Cubs had no place to play Lou! So the Cards got the Hall of Famer (and deserving, IMO). But it all started with Bing knowing that he had to come up with a LF in 1964, because Stan gave him a year's notice to work up who was who, so he could pull the trigger in quick time if he had to. He had grade-B kid prospects there, and he wanted to try them first, but when that failed, trading for Brock was Plan B.

Bing didn't much care for Branch Rickey. Rickey took his status as "senior advisor" to mean that he outranked the GM and the GM should be told what to do and follow orders. Well, that worked well until Branch got to be 70 or so, but by the time he was 81, his mind wasn't as sharp as it needed to be for him to still be BRANCH RICKEY. He compensated by engaging in office politics. Eventually, he got Bing fired. Bing had made a deal, and had not yet had time to let Gussie Busch (the owner) know what he'd done (this was still the same day as the deal, as I remember). Rickey, sensing opportunity, got hold of Gussie and told him that Bing was holding out information from Gussie, citing the recent move. Gussie, a control freak and a worshipper of Rickey, fired Bing on the spot. This was part of what led Johnny Keane to leave as manager after 1964. He didn't want to spend his time fighting Branch Rickey's internal politics, among other problems he was having with the organization.

So, yeah, Rickey could be a bit of an ass. - Brock Hanke
   4. There are no words... (Met Fan Charlie) Posted: January 02, 2013 at 03:52 PM (#4337094)
For which the Mets turned out to be eternally grateful...
   5. AROM Posted: January 02, 2013 at 03:59 PM (#4337098)
That left LF and 1B. Billy Williams. Ernie Banks.

3 Hall of Famers for 2 positions. Another one at third, and another on the mound. And they still couldn't win anything.
   6. FrankM Posted: January 02, 2013 at 04:09 PM (#4337111)
They could have put Billy Williams in right with Brock in left. He did play over 3,000 innings at the position.

I realize his arm wasn't what you'd like at the position, but come on.
   7. esseff Posted: January 02, 2013 at 04:19 PM (#4337130)
Brock was long gone and Banks past prime before they had a Hall of Famer on the mound (assuming the reference was to Jenkins).
Halberstam had an interesting take on the Devine firing. Dick Groat, who had been called out by Keane for being what was then called a "clubhouse lawyer," took his gripes to his pal Eddie Mathews of the Braves, who was dating Busch's daughter. The daughter told Dad that there was trouble on the team, so he went to Keane and Devine to ask if that was true. Having already dealt with Groat, they said they had things under control, but that only served to convince Busch that they weren't being honest with him, and Devine was fired.
   8. The Yankee Clapper Posted: January 02, 2013 at 04:35 PM (#4337149)
Well, BB-Ref indicates that Musial took a $5,000 pay cut in his last year, although it also lists contrary information from The Sporting News. By either source, Musial seems underpaid over the last decade of his career.
   9. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: January 02, 2013 at 04:44 PM (#4337163)
Those Musial numbers are just nutty, esp. some of the BB/K ratios.
   10. Athletic Supporter can feel the slow rot Posted: January 02, 2013 at 05:05 PM (#4337184)
Thanks for the history, Brock, cool stuff.
   11. Walt Davis Posted: January 02, 2013 at 05:15 PM (#4337197)
3 Hall of Famers for 2 positions.

Once the knee went, Banks was no longer an HoF talent. Williams and Santo and eventually Jenkins I'll grant you but Banks was an HoFer in name only on those teams.

Unfortunately none of those hitters quite peaked at the same time. Banks was really done by the time Williams and Santo had come into their own. Williams was always a good hitter but his massive year was 72 by which time Santo was in decline (although I see he had a very good 72).

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