For baseball fans outside of St. Louis and Baltimore, the names Stan Musial and Earl Weaver certainly bring back memories of the game from a different time. Though these are assuredly positive memories, they are just a fraction of what “Stan the Man” and “The Earl of Baltimore” contributed to the game during their Hall of Fame careers.
Both men died on January 19, a day that is the shared anniversary for numerous players being selected to the Hall of Fame by the BBWAA. Ironic to be sure, though there may be some of that fabled “baseball magic” involved as well. The reason is that these were two very special men.
They were personification of their own narratives, straight out of central casting. The beauty of this coincidental occurrence is that they were the yin and yang of a bygone era. Musial was the role model; if you had children, you wanted your son to grow up just like him and your daughter to marry his clone. Weaver was the Commanding General; he was rough around the edges, brash and loud but always got the job done with passion and honor.
Both conducted their lives on and off the field motivated by values and ideals that in today’s society may seem corny. They were children of the “Depression Era,” which meant a person didn’t cut corners to make things easier for himself or herself. If you were going to do a job, you did it right. Values such as integrity, honor and loyalty were standards that surely defined these two men as well as an entire generation.
The numbers are there and they are beyond Hall of Fame worthy for both.
Weaver managed the Orioles for 17 seasons compiling 1480 wins and a .583 winning percentage. He only had one losing season, 1986, which was his last in the majors. He had five 100-win seasons, won the AL East six times, led the Orioles to five pennants and won two World Series. He ranks 22nd all-time in victories, tied for 16th in playoff appearances, ninth in winning percentage and held an average divisional finish of 2.2, which over the course of 17 seasons is incredible.
Musial was a three time MVP and finished second an additional four times. He ranks fourth all-time in hits, tied for 28th in home runs, sixth in RBIs, ninth in runs and was a seven-time NL batting champion. His 1948 season was one of the best all around years a player has ever had: In 611 ABs he had a .376 batting average, 39 home runs, 131 RBIs, .702 slugging percentage and even seven stolen bases. He led the league in 11 offensive categories and had 303 first-place votes for MVP.
The thing about both of them is that they weren’t just two guys who were superstars in their sport; they were good men who happened to play baseball. They were part of their community. They suited up and showed up when needed, not for money or publicity but because it was the right thing to do.
Both came from meager backgrounds, so if they were able to use their celebrity status to help at home, they did. In a 2011 interview with Charlie Rose, Bob Costas summed up Musial’s life with one eloquent statement: “He may have had over 3,000 lifetime hits, but he’s got about three million single acts of decency and kindness.’
Having them pass on the same day comes from the magic if you are so inclined to believe. They certainly would’ve balanced each other though. The great thing is that if there was a disagreement at the “pearly gates,” it’s doubtful that St. Peter would want to get into an argument with Weaver.
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