Cool of the Evening


About Cool of the Evening

About the Author


Buy the Book

Excerpts from the Book

Other Baseball Essays

Where are they now?

Baseball Links

Hall of Fame outfielder Stan Musial played in the major leagues from 1941 to 1963. In 1992, Stan talked with Jim about his peek-a-boo batting stance and negotiating contracts with the Cardinals' owner.

Stan Musial didn't need a batting coach - or an agent

In his early days, long before he retired from 22 seasons of major league ball in 1963, Stan Musial was a slender sort with his own batting stance, one that was described as a guilty kid peeking around a corner. No one taught it to him, unlike today, when batting coaches often put their imprint on a prospect. According to Musial, batting stance and approach should be dictated by a hitters' style and desires, not by a hitting coach.

stan musial autographed saturday evening post cover

"When I came along, I was just trying to cut down the strike zone, so I hunched down a lot and just tried to punch the ball to left field. I wanted to control the plate. It's not so much the stance, so far as the hitter goes, it's coming out of that stance and getting a good swing."

A little lousy pitching didn't hurt a fellow, either.

With today's middle-inning relief specialists and late-inning closers, Musial indicated it might be a little tougher to hit against teams with a couple of good starters and a solid bullpen.

Starters soaked up most of the innings when Musial played, and not every club had a deep, talented pitching staff despite the fact there were fewer teams and baseball had less difficulty attracting young, talented athletes.

But if a man was in a little slump, the schedule might accommodate him and resolve the slide. Musial recalls a hitter could sometimes hope to climb out of a nosedive at the plate by playing the right team.

"I liked going to Boston: Good lobsters and a weak pitching staff."

Had an agent, but not for game

On the business side of the game, Musial said he was ahead of his time. He had an agent as far back as the 1940s. But the man was not hired to negotiate Musial's salary. Musial was widely regarded as an easy-going person and someone who found most salary offers to his liking.

"The agent handled endorsements for me and Ted Williams and Sam Snead. We'd pick up an extra twenty-five to thirty thousand a year from these things."

Musial saw no need for help with the simple process of negotiating his annual salary.

"It seems like everyone is in a business manner today. Too serious. We relaxed and had fun. The means of travel was slower and we spent a lot of time together on trains. I always got along fine in salary discussions with the Cardinals.

"In 1957 they asked me what I wanted and I told them that Ralph Kiner was the highest paid guy in the league at $90,000, so I wanted $91,000. But Gussie Busch wanted me to be the first $100,000-a-year player, so they gave me that."

Today, someone like Chicago Cubs' second baseman Ryne Sandberg makes $7 million annually and some old-time baseball players, and current fans, think these salaries are outrageous. Musial thinks that might not be too far out of line. He bases this on a recent conversation with California Angels' owner Gene Autry, who told Musial -- a career .331 hitter -- that if Stan the Man were playing today he would be making a million dollars a month.

Well, spring training covers March. The regular season comprises six months and creeps into October, fairly deep into October if a team gets to the World Series. That's more than seven months.

At a million per month, that would put Musial's salary today in the neighborhood of $7 million a year. There's little doubt at least one team owner would offer Stan Musial a contract like that today.

Essays index

"I liked going to Boston: Good lobsters and a weak pitching staff."
-- Stan Musial

  © Cool of the Evening 2004 contact us