Stan Musial poses for a picture.
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Bridging the Two-Way Gap: Stan Musial

When people think of Stan Musial they think of an all-time St. Louis Cardinals great. His entry into the National Baseball Hall of Fame is easily remembered, as are the World Series’ he won in 1942, 1944, and 1946 for the Cards. Stan the Man is also easily remembered for his hitting prowess and for being a genuinely decent human being. Musial is a well-known baseball star, but still, most people don’t remember that he spent a couple of seasons as a two-way player.

The Donora Greyhound, a much better moniker than Stan the Man, was a pitcher when he started his professional career in 1938. He dabbled in the position player realm for 6 games, but he mainly pitched. In 1939 Musial transitioned into a full-on two-way player for the Williamson Colts of the Class-D Mountain State League, pitching in 13 games and playing the field in 10. As a pitcher, Musial ended up with an ERA of 4.30 and a WHIP of 1.696 in 92.0 innings pitched. His time in the outfield produced a slash line of .352/Unknown/.521, with 1 home run over 71 at-bats. Looking at those numbers it comes across like Musial had something to offer as a hitter and not much as a pitcher. However, this is 1939 we’re talking about and thus Musial’s record of 9 wins and 2 losses in 12 games started more than likely made his coaches, managers, etc. think he could produce as a pitcher.

In 1940 Musial found himself still in Class-D, but now with the Daytona Beach Islanders of the Florida State League. He made his coaches happy with an 18-5 record over 28 games and 223 innings pitched. He lowered his ERA to 2.62, his WHIP to 1.453, and his BB/9 from 8.3 the previous year to 5.9 in 1940. Musial seemed to have found his footing as a pitcher, though his RA/9 of 4.36 paints the picture of a guy who definitely had some work to do. No work was needed at the plate, in 85 games as an outfielder he slashed .311/Unknown/.410 with 1 home run, 10 triples, and 17 doubles in 405 at-bats. The power still wasn’t there, but in an era that valued bat-to-ball skills, Musial had proven himself to be on track to be great at putting bat on ball.

Clearly, the Cards saw everything they needed to from their young prospect because within a year he’d be up with the big league club and proceed to mash the ball for the following 22 seasons. I don’t need to tell you about that period of the Donora natives career, that’s the part everyone easily remembers after all. Musial would appear as a pitcher only once more in his career. In the final game of the 1952 National League season, Musial switched to the mound for one batter. Frank Baumholtz reached on an error by the third baseman and then Harvey Haddix returned back to pitching as soon as the at-bat was over. 

Stashu, another great nickname, definitely had some potential as a pitcher, but it’s hard to argue with the numbers he put up as a hitter. Musial remains a great what-if of two-way history, but ultimately the shoulder injury may have been for the best. Musial has gone on the record that he wanted to quit pitching even before the injury, and being a dedicated two-way player requires one to want to pitch. Either way, I think Musial’s career ended up all the Cards could have hope for, and then some.

Lead photo courtesy of Neil Leifer – Sports Illustrated

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