Sunday, January 20, 2013

Earl & The Man

After hearing that on Friday Earl Weaver was ejected from a game for the final time at the age of 82 (appropriately enough while on a Baltimore Orioles fantasy cruise) I began putting together a little post.  Then, this morning I woke to the news that Stan "The Man" Musial had passed away at 92.
59topps-150Stan Musial

Earl and Stan make for quite a contrast.

Earl, the career minor leaguer.  Stan, one of the greatest ballplayers of the past 125 years.

Earl, cantankerous, ornery and opinionated.  Stan, quiet, contained and graceful.

Earl, hated by every umpire and barely tolerated by many of his own players.  Stan, beloved by his teammates and everyone else in the game, including the Brooklyn Dodgers fans who gave him the nickname "The Man" in tribute to his ability to hammer Dodgers pitching.  Musial was once voted by Cubs fans as their favorite ballplayer beating out even Ernie Banks!  Bob Gibson called him "the nicest man in baseball".  Gibson himself was not nice. 

What they had in common was that they were both admired and respected.  Earl, as one of the greatest managers in baseball history with the Baltimore Orioles and Stan for a long career with one team (St Louis Cardinals) during which he performed at a peak of excellence for 15 years, enjoying a 22-year career with the club.

Anyone reading the Bill James Baseball Abstract in the early 1980s would not be surprised by anything they read in Michael Lewis' Moneyball (2003).  Why?  Because James repeatedly told us about Earl Weaver's managerial philosophy which was the same as Billy Beane's with the Oakland Athletics twenty years later.

  • Walks and homers are always good.

  • Bunting and stealing are not good most of the time.

  • It doesn't matter whether someone "looks" like a ballplayer.    

Here's Joe Posnanski on Earl Weaver as a manager.

For your enjoyment here is one of Weaver's classic umpire rants.  An expurgated version of this event was used in Ken Burns' Baseball; this is the real thing.

Today, Stan Musial is not remembered as vividly as his American League contemporary, Ted Williams.  Williams, with his explosive temperament and love of being the center of attention, was always great newspaper copy.  Stan Musial quietly went on with his business.  That business included a fine combination of power (475 homers), speed (lots of doubles and triples), a great batting eye (a .331 lifetime average) and amazing consistency season after season.

After he retired, Stan and his wife, Lillian, stayed in St Louis, becoming an institution in the city.  Lillian passed away last year after 71 years of marriage.
This is my favorite Stan Musial story because it gets to the essence of the man.  During an All-Star game in the 1950s, Stan noticed that the National Leagues' white and black players stayed separate in the clubhouse before the game - in those early years of baseball's desegregation this wasn't unusual.   Stan saw the black ballplayers (including Mays and Aaron) playing poker among themselves and, went over, sat down, and asked to be dealt into the game.  After a couple of hands it was clear to all of them that Musial had never played poker before and had just joined them to make a point to everyone in the clubhouse.

Here's a link to Joe Posnanski which takes you to two beautiful articles on Stan.  He clearly loved The Man.

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