For the final chapter of a glorious 22-year career all with the Cardinals Stan Musial suited up for a September 29th contest against the visiting Reds. It was 1963, and the final standings were pretty much determined. St. Louis would finish the campaign with 93 victories, placing them in 2nd place in the Senior Circuit. For Stan the Man, though, this was the end of the line his last Major League game. Here is a ticket stub from that September 29 competition, one that would have provided its patron general seating in Busch Stadium reserved Seats. And so, as a flourish to a career highlighted by 20 All-Star selections, three National League MVP awards and countless hitting crowns, Stan retired upon this games conclusion. He went 2 for 3 (a 14-inning nail-biter, won by St. Louis), and Musial drove in a run - number 1,951 in his career which stood as the National League record until topped by Hank Aaron several years later.
50 years ago today: Stan's last game
A St. Louis baseball public, tickled by the thought of watching Musial play in one more Fall Classic, abruptly gathered to watch his last.
The finale on Sept. 29 was a resplendent Sunday at the asymmetrical ballpark. The sun burned bright, the temperatures warmed into the mid-60s and the sidewalks at Grand and Dodier were flush with early arrivals. The game was a sellout, with reserve seats selling for $2.25. But a ticket-scalping scam kept the final gate under capacity at 27,576.
A large portion arrived to watch Musial take his final batting practice, cheering with each ball he drove.
As his last turn ended, Musial hit one off the right-field screen, then called out to pitcher Lloyd Merritt, for One more. Merritt obliged, and with his last swing, Musial parked one more on the right-field roof. The Man never disappointed.
During pre-game ceremonies, Musial rode around the field in a red convertible and was feted by teammates and dignitaries. He stepped to a bank of microphones, wearing a Cub Scout neckerchief, and thanked the only fans for whom he ever played.
This is a day I will always remember,he said. This is a day of great joy and sorrow, the sorrow which always comes when we have to say goodbye.
Both teams had their hard-throwing best on the mound, Bob Gibson for the Cardinals, Jim Maloney for the Cincinnati Reds. Maloney grew up in Fresno, Calif., where he lives today. During his formative years, the Cardinals were the westernmost team in the big leagues.
Stan Musial was my idol growing up, said Maloney, 73. I wanted to hit like him, you know, with that stance he had. I think I had a couple of No. 6 jerseys as a kid. So when I got to the big leagues in 1960, it was a real thrill to pitch against Musial every time we played St. Louis.
Maloney was at the apex of a blossoming career. He was a 23-year-old imposing combination of power and unpredictability. During that ?63 season, he led the NL in wild pitches (19) and strikeouts per nine innings (9.5). On the final day of the season, he was going for his 24th win.
St. Louis (Post-Dispatch) sportswriter Bob Broeg was standing around at the cage while we were hitting before the game,Maloney recalled. And he asked me if I was going to let Musial get a hit off me.
I said, Absolutely not, Im going for my 24th win and Im going to do my best to get him out.
In the first inning, the ball from Maloneys first-pitch strike to Musial was removed from play and set aside for posterity. His third pitch was a called strike three. Game 3,026 for Musial would be just like Game 1 no gimmes.
When Musial batted again in the fourth, Maloney had struck out six and not allowed a hit in his scoreless duel with Gibson. The retiring No. 6 ended the no-hit nonsense, knocking a single to center.
Keep in mind, and I?m not patting myself on the back or anything, but in 1963 I was on top of my game,Maloney said. I mean, I was right there with Gibson and Koufax and pitchers like that. And Musial was what, 42 years old
HIT NO. 3,630 :D
The game remained scoreless when Musial came up again in the sixth. Curt Flood doubled and stood at second with one out. Given the circumstances, everyone knew plate appearance No. 12,717 for Musial would be the last.
Again, he received a standing ovation from the crowd. The game was simulcast on local television, so many more watched at home. From bleacher seats to dugouts to living rooms, there was a profound sense of appreciation and trepidation. Hearts were in throats.
You would have thought after all the ceremonies he went through in each city, everybody would have been prepared for his last at-bat, said Dal Maxvill, the Cardinals shortstop that day. But I looked around and there were an awful lot of wet eyes in that dugout.
Musial went through his routine stepped in, tapped the plate, ran his hand up the barrel, swirled the bat around the clock and nestled into his stance, that unforgettable crouch from which he sprang. Broadcaster Harry Caray, a narrator for so much of Musials magic, described his final act.
Heres Musial, listen to the crowd again A base hit would give the Cardinals the lead.
Maloney fired and Musial fouled the fastball straight back right on it. Some things never change.
Jim threw really hard,said Johnny Edwards, 75, the Reds catcher that day. Im sure if they had the radar guns on him like they do today, he would hit 100 mph once in a while. But even then, Musial was still quick. Hed come out of that crouch and ...
Maloney stretched, delivered again and Musial laid off a low curve. Caray took the opportunity to add context.
Take a good look, fans, take a good look This might be the last time at bat in the major leagues Remember the stance and the swing ... Youre not likely to see his likes again.
The count went to 2-1, a hitters count, a Musial count. He waved the bat once more. Maloney got the sign, rocked and fired.
The pitch to Musial a hot shot on the ground into right field, a base hit here?s Flood around third no throw the Cardinals lead 1-0 ... Listen to the crowd!
Cardinals manager Johnny Keane sent 23-year-old outfielder Gary Kolb across the infield to pinch run for Musial. The crowd jeered as Kolb made his appointed round. Perhaps the true measure of how dearly one is regarded is how difficult it is to say goodbye.
But the catcalls quickly turned into a roaring ovation as Musial left the base and headed toward the dugout. Passing Kolb on the way, he called out, They love ya, kid.
The run-scoring single was not as dramatic as Ted Williams farewell home run, but it was romantically form-fitting. Musials career was all about consistency and balance. He broke into the majors on Sept. 17, 1942, in the same manner, stroking two hits and leading the Cardinals to a 3-2 win. It would take a Maxvill hit in the 14th inning, but Musial departed by stroking two hits and helping the Cardinals beat the Reds 3-2.
Musials last hit was his 1,815th at home, precisely the same number he collected on the road. He retired with a .331 career batting average, which in 1963 would have won a batting title in both the NL and the AL.
He held 17 major league records, 29 NL records and nine All-Star Game records when he removed the birds on the bat from his chest that late afternoon. He was baseballs career leader in extra base hits (1,377) and total bases (6,134). He led the NL in hits (3,630), doubles (725), RBIs (1,951) and games played. He never led the league in home runs, but he finished with 475 of them.