ST. LOUIS -- There are some names that are synonymous with Cardinals baseball. Bob Gibson. Lou Brock. Stan Musial.
The last one could just be simplified to The Man, and you’d know who we were talking about.
But how did Musial become The Man? One of the most fitting nicknames in baseball, it defined Musial in every sense -- both on and off the field. And yet, it wasn’t even bestowed by his own fans.
In 1946, Musial earned the distinction from Brooklyn Dodgers fans, who were so weary of their team’s inability to get him out that they began chanting, “Here comes the man again,” at Ebbets Field one day. St. Louis Post-Dispatch writer Bob Broeg heard the chant, put it into his next story -- and “the man” became “The Man.”
“It took the baseball-batty borough of Brooklyn, where you’re a crumb-bum if you’re not a Dodger, to supply with begrudging respect the best nickname yet bestowed upon Stanley Frank Musial,” Broeg wrote, according to a clipping of the Post-Dispatch on newspapers.com. “To Brooklyn’s fanatical baseball followers, Musial is simply ‘The Man.’ … the appearance at the plate of the Cardinals’ apple-cheeked first baseman frequently brought from several sections of the Ebbets Field stands a distinct: ‘O-O-h, here comes the man again.’
“Not that man, but THE man. And the nickname so aptly applied to a self-effacing player, one who lacks the color and cantankerous individuality of a Ted Williams, summarized the around-the-league regard for Musial, unquestionably THE man in the Redbirds’ race to the wire against the Dodgers.”
It’s an appropriate nickname for what Musial did on the field. In 22 years as an outfielder and first baseman for the Cardinals, Musial set franchise records in every major offensive category: Hits (3,630), home runs (475), RBIs (1,951), runs (1,949), total bases (6,134) and games played (3,026). He was a three-time MVP Award winner and a three-time World Series champion with St. Louis, the heart of the club and its leader through one of its most successful eras.
And Musial was The Man off of the field, too, always carrying autographed pictures for fans if he ran into them. There are countless people who have been serenaded by Musial and his trusty harmonica. His legacy was just as much forged in a Cardinals uniform as it was as a Cardinals ambassador.
As Musial transitioned from the Cardinals' greatest player to the club’s greatest ambassador and icon of St. Louis, the nickname never wavered. Musial would have been 100 years old on Nov. 21. He’s still The Man.
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