Editor’s note: The following is a story about Stan Musial hitting five home runs in a double-header against the New York Giants on May 2, 1954, written by the late Bob Broeg, former Post-Dispatch Cardinals writer/columnist/sports editor.
About 1 o’clock yesterday afternoon a New York newspaperman, gathering material for a magazine story, asked manager Eddie Stanky a question on the steps of the Cardinals’ dugout at Busch Stadium.
It was phrased carefully by Archibald Gordon (Tiger) Murray, the eminent Princeton alumnus and sporting writer. “Who,” he inquired, “is the best player in baseball? Stan Musial?”
Stanky’s reply wasted as little time as one of Stan the Eighty-Grand Man’s hardest-hit drives reaching the streetcar tracks.
“You,” said manager to writer, “have just asked and answered your own question.”
The Tiger nodded and explained that all other managers had agreed, and certainly a crowd of 28,662 that sat through a seven-hour double-header yesterday wouldn’t voice disapproval.
In fact at about 7:55 p.m. there was an amazing phenomenon of baseball as, just before climbing over one another to get away for warmed-over dinners, spectators applauded Musial for – of all things – hitting a high pop fly to first base.
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They had stayed, you see, not because they had great hopes of the Cardinals sweeping a double-header instead of settling for a split, but because they were fascinated to see if Stan could do it once more.
Incredibly, they wondered whether Musial could add further luster to the greatest day of his brilliant career by hitting a sixth home run in eight official times at bat during the twin bill in which the Redbirds won the opener, 10 to 6, and lost the nightcap, 9-7.
“But,” Stan explained afterward, smiling, “(Larry) Jansen got me out on a bad pitch – a high fast ball inside. Yeah, I was going for one that time.”
Earlier, becoming the first player in major league history to hit five homers in a double-header, Musial had hit at only one bad pitch – a low, inside fast ball by Johnny Antonelli, fast-firing New York southpaw, in the fifth inning of the opener – by holding his arms close to his body, and away it went.
Two innings earlier he lifted one of Antonelli’s slow curves to the roof. Then after singling to right off Jim Hearn in the sixth, he faced the former teammate in the eighth with the score tied 6 to 6. And when he slammed a slider to the roof again for a game-winning three-run homer, it became the first time he ever hit three in one game in the big leagues.
Only once before as a $150-a-month weak-armed Class C outfielder at Springfield, Mo., in 1941 had Musial ever posted three home runs in one game, he and wife Lil remembered, laughing, when Mrs. Musial called him between games yesterday to offer congratulations.
“She didn’t see ‘em that time, either, even though she was in the park,” Stan said, chuckling as he explained that his son, Dickie, then had been a babe in arms whose uncooperative calls of nature had coincided with the innings when his 20-year-old father teed off.
Musial munched on a sandwich between games of yesterday’s double-header, drank a glass of milk and then went out to make it a memorable day of nine RBIs by whacking one of Hoyt Wilhelm’s slow curves onto Grand Avenue in the fifth inning of the second game and then drilling a knuckler even farther down the boulevard toward right-center in the seventh.
Before he popped up in the ninth, the only previous time manly Stanley had been retired was on a third-inning blast to dead center, the only one of his smashes aided by a wind that favored righthanded hitters. That one gave the crowd a thrill, too, because Willie Mays backed onto the gravel path some 410 feet from the plate to catch it.
So it was Musial’s day from beginning to end as he set a record for 21 total bases in a double-header, and it’s likely to become one of his greatest years because, a notoriously slow starter, he’s already hitting .400, has the most RBIs in the majors (21) and is tied with the Cubs’ Hank Sauer for the most homers (8).
The guy was so happy that, as Manager Stanky told it, he not only smiled for the first time trotting around the bases on his fifth homer, but actually laughed for joy.
Still, he retained his wonderful sense of proportions. He told reporters Stanky had helped by playing him steadily through spring training so he’d get into stride earlier. He observed with a true team man’s attitude that the day could have been complete if the Cardinals only had won both games. And then the mighty Musial, though smiling again, shook his head and said:
“I still can’t believe it. You mean real sluggers like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ralph Kiner – men like them – never hit five homers in a double-header?”