Musial was the first player in Cardinals history to have his uniform number retired, and he was a first-ballot Hall of Fame selection in 1969, being named on 93 percent of the ballots. At his retirement ceremony at the end of the 1963 season, Musial was referred to as “baseball’s perfect warrior, baseball’s perfect knight” by Commissioner Ford C. Frick. Frick’s words are inscribed at the base of a bronze statue of Musial that stands outside Busch Stadium. The now iconic statute, which sits on Musial Plaza along Stan Musial Drive, serves as a popular, almost hallowed, gathering spot for generations of Cardinals fans.
A three-time National League MVP (1943, 1946 and 1948) and winner of seven NL batting titles, Musial played in 24 All-Star Games (from 1959-62, Major League Baseball held two All-Star Games each season) and finished his career with a .331 batting average. At the time of his retirement, Musial stood as the National League’s all-time career record holder in games (3,026), runs scored (1,949), hits (3,630), doubles (725) and runs batted in (1,951) among other records, and he was still ranked among the top 10 in those categories in 2012.
Musial, who was born in Donora, Pennsylvania, signed with the Cardinals in 1938 and made his major league debut with the team in 1941. Musial was a member of the Cardinals teams that won the World Series in 1942, 1944 and 1946. He missed the entire 1945 season to serve in the United States Navy during World War II.
Musial was named a Cardinals’ vice president at the end of his playing career in 1963 and he served in that capacity for more than 25 years. In 1967, Stan served as the general manager of the Cardinals team that defeated the Boston Red Sox to win the World Series.
A resident of St. Louis from the beginning of his major league career until his death, Musial was actively engaged in business, civic and charitable work in the St. Louis community. He was co-owner of the popular “Stan Musial and Biggie’s Restaurant” in St. Louis for more than two decades and he was active with numerous charities including the USO, Senior Olympics, the Boy Scouts, the Crippled Society of St. Louis, Covenant House and Cardinals Care. “Stan was a true civic treasure, who did so much for our community,” Dewitt said.
In 2012, the St. Louis Sports Commission announced that National Sportsmanship Awards will be renamed “The Musial Awards” in recognition of his status as an exemplary role model for athletes. During Musial’s entire major league playing career he was never ejected from a game by an umpire – a mark of both extraordinary self-discipline and sportsmanship. Musial served as chair of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports for President Lyndon B. Johnson from 1964-67 and he served as unofficial emissary to Poland and was awarded the Cavalier Cross of the Order of Merit, the Polish government’s highest civilian honor.
In 2010 Musial was named a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, receiving the medal from President Barack Obama at a White House ceremony in 2011. Considered the highest civilian honor bestowed by the U.S. government, the Medal of Freedom recognizes individuals who have made an “especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.” Awarding the Medal to Musial at the 2011 ceremony, President Obama said, “Stan remains to this day an icon untarnished, a beloved pillar of the community, a gentleman you’d want your kids to emulate.”
Musial’s wife of 71 years, the former Lillian “Lil” Labash, passed away in May 2012. Funeral arrangements have not yet been finalized. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Covenant House or charity of the fan’s choice in the name of Stan Musial. The Cardinals have set up a memorial site around the Musial Statute at Gate 3 at Busch Stadium, which will remain in place until a date yet determined. The team has also set up a web page (cardinals.com/stan) to pay tribute to Stan and allow fans to offer condolences to the family.