Stan Musial

May 13, 1958: Stan Musial reaches 3,000 hits

Stan Musial and the Cardinals had planned for his 3,000th career hit to take place in St. Louis. Then baseball, as it so often does, got in the way.

Musial entered the 1958 season with 2,957 hits and quickly closed in on the milestone, opening the season with a 17-game hit streak. That season-opening tear featured 12 multi-hit games, including three hits against the Cubs on April 18, two home runs against the Cubs on April 20, three hits against the Giants on April 24, four hits against the Dodgers on April 25, three hits against the Reds on April 29, and three hits against the Braves on May 7.

Heading into the May 9-11, four-game series against the Cubs that would be followed by two road games in Chicago, Musial found himself just seven hits away from 3,000. The Cubs slowed his momentum by holding him hitless through the first two games at Busch Stadium, but Musial rebounded with five hits in the May 11 double-header to close out the homestand.

“In my younger days, I always tried to get six hits in a doubleheader,” the 37-year-old veteran said that night at a dinner held in his honor at Stan & Biggie’s, the restaurant he co-owned with Biggie Garagnani. “Today I would have liked to have gotten seven – but I was more than happy to settle for five.”[1]

In the May 12 game at Chicago, Musial hit a first-inning double into left field off Glen Hobbie to reach 2,999. On the cusp of history, Musial drew a walk in his next at-bat, then grounded out in his next three appearances.

The following day, with the Cardinals scheduled to return to St. Louis for five games, manager Fred Hutchinson played Joe Cunningham at first base and told Musial and the media that if the game didn’t require him, he would save Musial so that he could collect hit number 3,000 in St. Louis.

It didn’t work out that way.

Sam Jones, a 6-foot-4 right-hander the Cardinals acquired in an eight-player trade with the Cubs prior to the 1957 season, took the mound for the Redbirds. In the first inning, Lee Walls doubled, advanced to third on a wild pitch, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Ernie Banks.

The Cardinals tied the score in the top of the third. Chicago right-hander Moe Drabowsky walked Dick Schofield and consecutive Cub errors loaded the bases for Irv Noren, who hit an RBI single to tie the game, 1-1.

Walls homered in the third and added a sacrifice fly in the fifth to give Chicago a 3-1 lead heading into the top of the sixth. Then the Cardinals began their comeback.

Gene Green led off the inning with a double before Hal Smith grounded out, leaving Green at second base. Hutchinson then called on Musial to pinch hit for Jones. Despite the vacancy at first base, Drabowsky challenged Musial with a curveball that The Man smacked into the left-field gap to score Green.

With the hit, Musial became just the eighth player to reach 3,000 hits, joining Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Honus Wagner, Eddie Collins, Nap Lajoie, Paul Waner, and Cap Anson.

“Ranking with such great hitters helps make this my greatest thrill, even more than my seven batting championships or my Player of the Decade Award,” Musial said.[2]

While the at-bat didn’t go his way, Drabowsky said he was glad he wasn’t asked to walk Musial.

“I wanted to work on him, but I got the curve high instead of low,” he said.[3]

“I’m glad I got it off Drabowsky because he’s always been tough for me,” Musial graciously remarked.[4]

Third-base umpire Frank Dascoli retrieved the ball and returned it to Musial, who rolled it to the Cardinals dugout for safekeeping. Hutchinson, trailed by a swarm of photographers, came out to second base to congratulate his star, pose for photos, and to insert Frank Barnes as a pinch runner. On his way to the clubhouse, Musial paused to speak briefly to his wife Lillian, who rewarded him with a kiss. After the game, a reporter who saw the exchange asked Musial if he knew the woman he had smooched.

“I’d better,” he responded with a laugh. “She’s my wife.”[5]

With Musial’s milestone complete, the game continued. Don Blasingame hit an RBI single to tie the game, Noren pushed the go-ahead run home on a ground ball, and Wally Moon doubled to make the score 5-3.

From there, second-year pitcher Billy Muffett threw four shutout innings, allowing just two hits while striking out two. Jones was credited with the win after allowing three earned runs over five innings.

After the game, the Cardinals took the train back to St. Louis. When they arrived at Union Station at 11:15 that evening, general manager Bing Devine and approximately 750 Cardinals fans were waiting to congratulate Musial, including three young girls who wore a sign that said, “Stan The 3000 Man.”[6]

“I know now how (Charles) Lindbergh must have felt when he returned to St. Louis,” said Musial, to which someone in the crowd responded, “What did he hit?”[7]

Musial returned to St. Louis with an incredible .489 batting average, .558 on-base percentage, and .795 slugging percentage for the season. The headline at the top of the next day’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports section announced, “Musial Eyes .400 Average After Getting 3000 Hits,” but Musial noted that it was still far too early in the season to discuss a .400 batting average for the season.

“I don’t think you seriously talk .400 until about midseason, around the time of the All-Star game, and then I believe, figuring second-half fatigue, you’d have to be close to .450 to make it,” he said.

Musial, who finished the season with a .337 batting average, said he actually was looking forward “optimistically” to eclipsing Wagner’s National League hits record of 3,430.[8]

“If I hadn’t missed that one season (1945, due to military service) when I was good for 220 hits or so a season, I honestly believe I could carry on to 4,000,” he said. “That’s how good I feel.”

Musial would continue playing through 1962, his age-42 season. He finished with 3,630 career hits and currently ranks fourth all-time, trailing only Pete Rose (4,256), Cobb (4,189), and Henry Aaron (3,771).

Interestingly, Stan wasn’t the only Musial to have a good performance that day. As the Post-Dispatch reported in the same edition that celebrated his 3,000th hit, Musial’s son Dick won the 100- and 220-yard dashes and ran on the winning relay team as Christian Brothers College (CBC) High School beat St. Louis University High.[9]

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[1] “350 Honor Musial At ‘3000’ Dinner,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, May 12, 1958.

[2] Bob Broeg, “Musial Eyes .400 Average After Getting 3000 Hits,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 14, 1958.

[3] Jack Herman, “Musial Sets Sights On Wagner’s 3430,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, May 14, 1958.

[4] Jack Herman, “Musial Sets Sights On Wagner’s 3430,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, May 14, 1958.

[5] Jack Herman, “Musial Sets Sights On Wagner’s 3430,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, May 14, 1958.

[6] “Fans Greet Musial On Arrival Here,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, May 14, 1958.

[7] “‘Now I Know How Lindbergh Felt,’” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 14, 1958.

[8] Bob Broeg, “Musial Eyes .400 Average After Getting 3000 Hits,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 14, 1958.

[9] John J. Archibald, “Shelbina Team Nips Hazelwood In State Meet,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 14, 1958.